On the recent Star Chamber podcast, I met and chatted with Jorie of JorieLovesAStory, and the subject of profanity and obscenity came up. Now, I don’t seed my books with curse words for specific shock value, but I don’t censor myself, either. If a character would use an expletive, I don’t pull punches and substitute sanitized words. I write the dialogue as I feel is natural.
I did a search in Word to count up each of four four-letter words. I’ll say even I was surprised at the frequency of some words in some of my books:
|Four ’til Late||22||18||9||16|
|Me and the Devil||37||26||20||13|
My books are not YA, they’re not intended for kids. In my books, these four-letter words are almost exclusively used only as expletives or gratuitous curses, not graphic. Or even “cheerful” in the case of Gonzo’s peppering of his speech with the F-word. You can see his influence in the Road Ghosts books (the first three in the table) versus my other works, those are almost all his.
Jorie and I have had an open, honest, and polite discussion on the topic in her blog’s comments. What’s your opinion on cursing in novels? Should it be cleaned up for the more sensitive readers, or should it be honestly vulgar when the story or characterization requires it?
So awesome! Cussing adds to a character’s personality, I think. In dialogue it can be an excellent edition. It is only if it is too frequent or for shock value only that I don’t appreciate cussing. Children’s literature is a no no too. No need to be crass or crude there.
I think it could definitely be overdone. In Gonzo’s case, it’s realism plus maybe a bit of comedic effect, rather than shock, that I was going for.
And yeah, I don’t write children’s literature. If I DID write YA, I’d clean it up.
Also, I like this article on the subject!