Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advice Welcome

Blog Me Maybe: May I Tell You Something About Me?

So here's a random fact about me: I like advice.

I should rephrase that. I like WELCOME advice. Haha.

Here's another random fact: I used to hate asking questions. When I was a teen and someone would talk about something I had no clue about, I would keep my mouth shut because I didn't want to admit I had no clue what they were talking about. I hated to feel stupid.

I don't exactly love feeling stupid now, of course, but I've learned to ASK QUESTIONS. I've realized that if I don't ask, I'll never learn. All I have to do is endure a few moments of surprised/strange looks, or perhaps an exclamation of, "you didn't know that?!?!" and then I will get my answer, then I'll KNOW.

So on that note, I'm breaking some rules today. I'm gonna ask a question. I know, I know, that's tomorrow's Blog Me Maybe. But too bad. Cuz I need help!

This question is more along the lines of advice...

I have this Shiny New Idea. I've been brainstorming it for awhile and there are a few different ways I can spin it. The way that seems most natural, and came to me first, involves gangs, drugs, alcohol, and a lot of darker kinds of stuff than I usually write.

I don't have a problem delving into darker themes or writing about something I don't know much about. My problem is this: I don't swear. And I don't swear in my writing. BUT- I worry that writing about gangs, drugs, etc, without the swearing, won't be AUTHENTIC.

***Please note, this is NOT a post on swearing in YA. I don't need opinions on whether swear words should be used or not. My own short opinion is, you're the author- you choose.***

I worry that without the swear words, I won't be able to do the book justice. For example, I've already had a scene in my head where a gang member threatens my female MC. Swear words seem to be the logical thing this gang member would use. But I'm not gonna. Is there a more clever way to express something, to insult, without using words like pooper? Or should I just NOT GO THERE.

I do have a few other ways I could spin this SNI. It's just that this way seemed the most natural- it just FIT. But if I can't do it...

So. Here's where the advice comes in. I would love to hear your opinions on this matter.


  1. If it feels natural to the character, put it in. You can always take another look and reevaluate during the editing stage.

    Good luck!

  2. I have often seen writers get around directly writing out the swearing but still showing it is used. For example, just having the protagonist say that was a new take on a common swear she had not heard, or just saying the other character went on insulting her, etc. The reader will know the other character is swearing but you don't necessarily have to write out what words they used. I don't know if I explained that very well but I hope it helped :)

  3. I say, just write it how you want and then show it to someone else to see if it's believable. If they say it's not, decide whether you'd prefer to abandon the project or let the characters swear. But at least you will have written it and you'll know. That's probably better than not writing it and wondering if you could have made it work.

  4. I'd say that there are other ways to express the violence of a person without their language. Do they spit? Do they play with their knife? When they insult do they have to use cuss words? I know that in the real world, plenty of those people have a full repertoire of naughty words, but you don't need a word like "ho" to get across how a person feels about another. Cuss words have always been a cheap way to express ourselves in generic words. Make the remarks personal and from each individual character, and you'll find you don't need f%$# S$%&* or any of the others. If you set it up, any word can have the same feel and impact as any of George Carlin's Seven Unforgivable Words.

  5. Many authors seem to use descriptions of the swears: 'he suggested he do something anatomically improbable', 'he suggested the man was overly fond of his mother' (for the m.f. word).

    Perhaps you might write in the swears in the first draft, and then come up with alternatives in the second and see how that works.

    You might also leave one or two swears in for realism and then use alternatives for the rest.

  6. I'd say just write it how you want too and see how it looks. You won't know until you see it.

    Here are a few suggestions you could try too. Try describe how the words felt to the mc.

    The swear words flew out of his mouth faster than...
    His cussing cut deeper than...
    His swearing scared me...

    That's all I got. :)

    I like dark/edgy stuff. Keep me in mind if you looking for a CP or beta when you get going! Good luck.

  7. Maybe there's a middle ground. Keep the tone and the words threatening, but restrain from swearing except for one or two. A few well placed curses can do much better than a whole string of them.

  8. Hmm...honestly I am put off when there isn't swearing in a situation where it seems there should be, but if it was a good enough story I hope I wouldn't even notice. I say write it the way you want to, and once the writing's done (the important bit!) you can think about ways to get around it :)

  9. If you hit the tone of the story, and the characters just right, it's possible you can write the dialog and the reader won't even notice the characters aren't swearing. Veronica Roth managed this very well in DIVERGENT (and INSURGENT for that matter). I wonder if using circumlocutions would serve more to draw attention to the fact that you're avoiding the use of swear words, rather than just not using them. Make them unnecessary by action and attitude. Easier said than done, but an interesting challenge nonetheless, I think. :)

  10. THANK YOU EVERYONE for your great comments. Leaves me all things to think about...