Pages

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Random Ramblings—Am I alone in this?




I will readily admit I’m not a big swearer. Maybe a “heck” or a “darn” if I chopped off my finger (or I’m in labor). But I must be alone in this because the amount of swearing I’m coming across in YA books is leaving me a little baffled.

And these aren’t babies these are monster swear words. Eff this and eff that and effing effity eff! I hate it! Reading a fantastic book and getting hit in the face with the F- word is like eating a luscious piece of chocolate cake and breaking my tooth on a rock five bites in.

One of the things I hate most about it, is that dropping the F-bomb IMMEDIATELY jolts me out of POV—Every. Single. Time.  I’m not saying that the people who write these books aren’t good authors. In fact most of the time they are fabulous authors, that's why the vulgarity is so ugly. It stands out in sharp contrast to the beautiful writing.

You can tell me “It’s realistic” or “It’s in character” or “It’s appropriate when you’re mad” or any of the other reasons I hear. But I’m sorry I just don’t care about those reasons. I read PLEANTY of stuff that is realistic, in character, where they have every reason to swear and DON’T.

I just need to throw in a tiny experience. I got a book from the library that people were RAVING about, and what do I find? Swearing. LOTS of swearing. But someone before me had inked out all the swear words. The pages looked like a dalmatian dog. And do you know what? I didn't miss one single thing. I got the plot. I got the characterization. I got the emotion. And I just kept thinking, "Why all the swearing?"

Have I read books with questionable language? Of course. Are some of them good—even great? Of course. But they will never be my favorites. Sorry.

Now, you can judge me. That’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m feeling feisty today :)

-Angie

 (Before anyone starts swearing at me in the comments, notice this post is tagged as opinion)

33 comments:

Cristina said...

I think I'm with you on this one. one or two swear words are okay with me.. but if a book is filled with them, it's too much. and honestly, in real life when every other word out of someone's mouth is a swear word.. I probably wouldn't be having long conversations with them.. so why would I want to read about someone that can't communicate without constant swearing? I

Weissdorn said...

Little amusing story: To get over my apprehension in writing love scenes, I found an eloquent playwright, who had a strange penchant for sex-chat. I explained my predicament. So we agreed we would engage in typing role-playing scenes live on the computer screen about 3 times week. We also agreed no webcams and no telephone calls. And I said, "I have one more stipulation."
"What?" he wanted to know.
"You can't use that f-word."
He LOL-ed me and asked, "Oh, dear! Are you that prude?"
I said, "Heavens no. If I were that prude, I wouldn't be writing you. It's just that I hate this word with a passion, because it's so ambiguous. In America it's the universal noun, gerund, adjective, verb, adverb and interjection for everything. It just smacks of stupidity; of people who cannot express themselves; of people who are too lazy to learn words; of people who don't care what they say; of sheeple who say it all the time, because everybody else says it. It's the degeneration of language. At the rate they're going in America, the dictionary is soon to have but one single word, where one can only guess what people are talking about. My greatest challenge is when you write f-you, I never really know exactly what you mean."
This was parodied very well by one of the most popular German comedians at the moment, Michael Mittermeier. This video is in German, but I think you get the gist of it. He's making fun of going to New York City, where he as a tourist was under the impression that "F-You!" is something like "Greet You!" as everyone says that to each other as often as they can. Then when he came back to Germany, he confronted with reverse culture clash, when he realised how incredibly stupid he sounds when he uses that word in German. "Fluchen", by the way, means "to curse".
.
http://youtu.be/cU2_3mAghLY

Sarah McCabe said...

I wholeheartedly agree. And I love your anecdote.

I'm not one who thinks there's something inherently evil about swearing, though I was raised in a family who does and so I simply developed the habit of not doing it. (I tend to say "curses" when other people would say stronger words.) But like you I think swearing is, most of the time, just ugly. And swear words are almost always destructive. There is nothing constructive or uplifting about them. They are most often used to tear down someone or something. While I won't say they are inherently bad, they are certainly not good either.

Furthermore, its my opinion that swear words too often become easy stand-ins for real thought. People throw them around instead of thinking about what they are saying. Chances are if you are someone who swears a lot I'm not going to want to associate with you and certainly not read about you. I'd rather befriend/read about someone with less ugly and more constructive thoughts in their head.

Kyra Lennon said...

I agree. I don't mind a few curse words here and there, but if there is too much, I won't finish reading the book.

One of the characters in my WIP is the type who SHOULD swear all the time, but I think I can highlight the way he is in other ways, so while there will be a few nasty words thrown out, for the most part, I do try to avoid them.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I like what Kyra said about finding other ways to show how who/how the character is than just using swear words. A few curses here and there is just enough - sort of like using dialect. You don't want to overdo either of them but you do want to give your reader a true sense of character, etc.

When I was a kid, one of may aunts used to curse in another language. It took me years to figure out that what she was saying was "a bad word." It sounded so classy. :)

Kelley said...

I don't like people in real life who swear all the time so I don't like them in books either. Too much swearing anywhere is a turn off so the book wouldn't make it very far for me :)

Hildred said...

Apparently, I am a special snowflake in this matter =P

See, I am the exact opposite. I'm more likely to notice a LACK of swearing in modern novels, especially if there are many, many characters. I can buy the main character (or a couple) never swearing or even hating it. S'cool. Lots of people are like that. A whole family? Okay, that's fairly common. But everyone? Eh, I'm not buying it.

Of course, you say you don't mind the lack of realism in this respect, but it is pretty unrealistic. I know a few people who don't swear at all, but most, including my family, my neighbors, most of my friends all swear like sailors~ although I'm trying my best to break everyone from using slurs (gendered, sexual, racial, etc.) which are actually harmful to those they're addressed to, but you can imagine how that's going.

I have a couple of characters who are pretty familiar with the "f" word, and quite a few other crude ones, but they never use slurs (or if they used to in super early drafts, I changed them to other words, because yeah) and that's pretty much where I'm willing to "compromise", I suppose. I also have characters who just would not swear because it's not a part of their nature. Of course I've always known this will probably alienate some readers, but in that case my works are not for them if it bothers them too much. I *do* prefer realism of all forms in my writing and reading (I've never seen it as escapism as any kind) so my characters and situations tend to reflect all the reality I see around me.

The only time I get annoyed with writing curse words is when I have a word limit. Well, darn~ Time for everyone to suddenly get some soap!

Tobi Summers said...

I agree with Hildred. Some people (and therefore some characters) just swear a lot. I have a few friends who can't get through three sentences without dropping an f-bomb. It's something I'm not particularly fond of, but that's just who they are.

Likewise, there are just some characters who swear. JK Rowling said when she was writing some of the later books of Harry Potter, her editor told her she couldn't have any swearing. But Ron, she said, was a boy who swore. So she worked around it, but cutting him off or just saying things like, "Ron swore." Which is, I suppose, one way to do it.

I'd be far more likely to find a work around in my YA book than my adult one, but I've often found teenagers are the worst offenders. Cursing is still new and novel to them, and they like to push the boundaries with it.

Jess Stork said...

I agree with Sara that cursing can be used as a substitute for good character development. The shock value makes readers not scrutinize the characters as much. With that said, it doesn't bother me that much if it's one character that's doing it in a book... But I find it distracting if it's every what other word.

What bothers me is the use of other words in a swear word context. Every time my students would tell each other, "That's Gay" it boiled my blood. Particularly in some cases because the kids didn't understand that they were putting down an entire group of people instead of just one person. No one had ever told them, that that word means other things too.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I don't like the f bombs in YA. In going for realism are we condoning an erosion in language? Who was it who said, profanity is the sign of a weak mind? I think when we are directing sales at kids, unless it comes with a warning, there is a duty to maintain a certain standard of decency.

Emily R. King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily R. King said...

I don't think the F-word has any place in YA. I think writers should get creative and come up with other ways for their characters to express themselves. I, too, am jolted out of POV and I usually don't finish the book.
As someone I know well described it, it's like walking along the street and seeing someone swearing up a storm. I don't like it in public, nor do I like it in books. When someone in REAL LIFE drops the F-bomb, I shake my head. Really, I do. With all the words in the English language, THAT'S the word you choose?
BTW, I feel the same way about graphic sex scenes. Imagine yourself walking along the road and then BAM! Two people are having sex in front of you. Yuck and just as inappropriate.
I actually think books should have warnings on them, like movies and TV shows. That way when I pick a book up I'd know what's in it. But no, writers don't want to be labeled. Pl-ease! What's a writer without readers? What makes them exempt from everyone else in the entertainment industry?

i'm erin. said...

I agree with you that it pulls me out of the reading every time! Especially when it's on the first page, I honestly have to think to myself "Is this book worth it?" Because if I find it in the first page or chapter, it's usually an indication for the rest of the book. And it drives me nuts.

Danielle B. said...

I'm with Hildred. Although I don't think YA should have a ton of swear words because - well - my kids will read them but I'm a huge swearer. I call the F-BOMB a sentence enhancer. Of course I hold back at work and try in public but - you know - it's what I do. And I'm the opposite - I tend to not hang out with people that hate swearing. My first sentence when introducing myself is "btw, I swear like a sailor". But in all honesty... between the ages of 13 - 18 (YA ages) I did my fair share of swearing. So when writing my wip I add my fair share of swearing.
Just saying.
Have a great day all!

ilima said...

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I don't swear, and heavy swearing in books jolts me out of the story, especially when it's the Lord's name in vain. At the same time, when a certain character says darn, and I KNOW that is not the word they would have used, it makes me stop and notice as well.

Melissa Sarno said...

As a reader, I don't like incessant cursing in a book but I barely notice it if it's just here or there. I tend to hear a lot of cursing in my life so it doesn't phase me. In both real life or a book, I can see where using it might be impactful. If someone who never curses suddenly drops an F bomb, you bet I'm listening. I have a friend who is a writer. She curses a lot in both her real life and her writing. Honestly, she has a knack for making it hilarious, to a point where I cry laughing. It is so much a part of her voice and humor, I would never want her to stop using it. But with everything, there is a fine line. As a writer, I think curse words are ugly when there are so many beautiful words to use, so I do not use them unless absolutely necessary. I rarely find it absolutely necessary.

Katie Dodge said...

I agree. Not a fan, and it's always distracting. Thanks for being feisty today! ;)

Cassie Mae said...

I don't like confrontation, lol. Getting anxiety attacks just reading the comment thread though I know it's all just a discussion.

Breathing...

Okay, yes, my characters swear. When I first draft, they swear a lot because I write in the moment. But then I do a search and find on all of them and change half.

Right now I'm writing a character who is bothered by swearing, and she flinches every time the mc spouts one off. Then gradually, he stops swearing, cuz you know... he likes her. She however uses edited swears. Her most recent was "Holy mother of a trash load." :)

Gwen said...

I've never been a fan of swearing in general, I do it so rarely myself that my friends actually laugh when I do it because it's so odd. But I do get that it's an everyday part of life for some people, and for others only when they're emotive. It makes sense for literature to reflect that.

But books filled with it are not the type of books I want to read. I don't mind if it's occasional, and if it's really only one character I can pass if off as characterization. I don't really come across it too much in what I read, though I'll admit I haven't been on the YA bandwagon for a while. My current reads are a dictionary, a non-fition one, and an occult novel (which actually has some really raunchy stuff in it, but very little swearing).

Sarah McCabe said...

To the "real people do swear a lot and so do characters" people. No offense, but that's a cop out. Authors create characters. YOU decide what your characters are like, whether they swear or not. And you are responsible for the characters you create, especially if you are putting them in fiction for young people.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Chad was JUST talking about blogging about this very topic. You beat him to the punch. Nice job! ;)

I was reading a classic story and although there were an occasional 'cowboy' word for the most part the author wrote that 'he cussed', 'he let fly every word in the book', 'he cursed her till she cried' and didn't force me to read all of this guys foul language.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Oh, one of those topics! LOL I totally agree with you. I'm not a big swearer, so I don't put it in my books. I do put "he swore" or "he cursed" if it fits the moment, but I want my kids to read my books when they're older and don't want them to ask a bunch of question about why I swore or what does that mean?
And the F-Bomb pulls me out of the story every time. I hate it. :P I don't look down at people who do swear, it's just not my thing. :)

Aldrea Alien said...

I much prefer not reading a string of cussing. The occasional word, in context, is fine by me. But I read a lot of fantasy and if I find the f-word in it, especially when the character is not someone from our world, the book goes back. It’s jarring.
While some of the stories have their own mild swears (“blood and ashes” from Wheel of Time and “shards” in the Dragonriders series, to name two) I tend to see a lot of “he/she swore”. To me, that’s far more preferable. I see it like an [insert your favourite swear here] without subjecting everyone to the same profanity.
You can even imagine they said the f-word if you like.

J. A. Bennett said...

You are so not alone! I hate the F-word! In my book my character says Damn once as she watches her father die, that in my mind is justifiable, but all this swearing for teens, I hate it!

Cortney Pearson said...

I love Emily's idea to give books ratings so we know exactly what is in them! I'm not a big swear-er at all, and I try to avoid swearing in my own writing, but then I do know as a 15 year old I swore up a storm! (Although I have since changed my ways, ha ha). I love the Hush, Hush books because I don't think there's any amount of swearing at all and yet it's realistic (and I think Patch is mega-hot *winks*). But at the same time another favorite of mine is Perfect Chemistry which has oodles of F-bombs. So for me I think it has to be the quality of the book, and I just have to look past the swearing because I love the story. Such a tough conundrum!

Angela Brown said...

I'm not the world's biggest swearer, but I swear more now as an adult than I did while I was a kid and a teenager. Maybe because I was a dork and I hardly ever heard my mother swear. Plus, the people I saw swearing when I was younger were people I didn't exactly look up to. So no inspiration to swear there.

It seems that as some things became more acceptable on TV and other media, the swearing for kids either grew, or it was already there and became more noticeable. Given the amount of kids I heard swearing just in passing while I grew up, I wouldn't be surprised if it were the latter.

When it comes to YA, I'm a less is more kind of writer and reader. If I don't have to read a laundry list of curse words, I'd rather not. And I wouldn't want to write it. I've read and written occasions where a curse word is used with a light touch and it doesn't take away from anything having it there. Of course, it can also be argued that it probably doesn't hurt the scene to replace the curse word with an expression just as strong.

Donna K. Weaver said...

My mother was always of the mind that "profanity is the attempt of a weak and feeble mind to express itself forcefully" kind of person. I rarely swear. I even managed to make it through two years in the U.S. Army without swearing. For many people (most?) swear words have become fillers, like "like". There's also the shock value, which is very juvenile. So, no, I'm not impressed either. One thing I appreciate about Tom Clancy is that not all his characters swear. There are tons of F-bombs dropped by the military guys, and I think it fits, because there's a ton of F-bombs dropped in that environment. Believe me.

That bit about the swear words blacked out made me laugh. I have a whiteout tape and I do that in my books, too. Sorry. For those of us who don't hear the word much, when someone does say it, it's like getting hit in face.

Leigh Covington said...

I won't lie. I swear way too much. Mostly the "farmer swear words," as you call them (I think!) I'm working on it though. I don't mind a heck or darn (substitute words as necessary) in a book, once in a blue moon, but I agree about the "F" word and stuff. It's too much. Sometimes my characters through out a farmer word but I always end up editing them out later. It works for me.

Imogen said...

I have never sworn, so any sort of swearing sticks out at me. However I can take mild swearing without a problem. But I hate books that have people swearing constantly. I might be over-sensitive due to not swearing myself, but I have been known to put down books with excessive swearing in them.

RachelMaryBean said...

I figure that if they can keep the F word out of shows like Law and Order and Criminal Minds, which have pretty intense scenes, and not have it seem odd then I ought to be able to keep it out of my YA.

Medeia Sharif said...

Most of my manuscripts have no swears words, but one of them does because it fits the characters. I'm not much of a swearer in real life either (but I do swear).

Ashley Nixon said...

This is how I felt when I began to see a lot of black covers in the YA section...why's it so dark and depressing?

I write about pirates, and they swear (not often...like 4 times over 3 books)but not the F word! I dislike that one.

Brooke said...

Angie - I completely agree with you and "Weissdorn" (comment above). When I was studying English in college, I had to explain to one of my professors that I didn't want to read a certain book because of all the swearing - and that there were PLENTY of great books out there with good language. It went back and forth for a good hour, but I stuck to what I felt was right. And in the end - I did find PLENTY of books with good language. And good plot. And good characters...and so on and so on...

I've often said the same thing as "Weissdorn" - that if all you can do is swear, then your vocabulary is incredibly small.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...