It’s Sunday, which means there’s a This Week in Misadventures post around the corner as well. I’d say that’ll be fun. Probably. If nothing else, it’ll offset this business of being awake at 4a.m., which is a time of day only birds and overly-caffeinated college students should experience. I still owe a Pokemon post celebrating my 150th and 151st posts on here, too, but I’ll get to that at some point. Probably.
Today’s topic popped into existence earlier. I had to stop by Walmart, and I encountered two of my favorite drivers. The first was the special sort of jackass who drives diagonals through parking spots to get from point A to point. The other one was someone who parked what I rather unkindly refer to as their compensation truck (the kind of truck that was clearly designed for people who wish to actually pack up everything they own and move it, house and all) over the lines that divided up four parking spots. And that brings me to today’s post topic.
Day Five – Curse Words (and I don’t mean the kind from Harry Potter)
I wanted to lead into this with the above examples because they incurred an impressive number of curse words, which aren’t always present in my writing. It’s something I’ve talked to people, both fellow writers and readers lending their time and patience with my drafts alike, and I’ve gotten mixed thoughts on the use of expletives in writing. I’m sure, if someone really sat down and applied science, there could be a hard and fast rule on exactly how many swears, curses, cusses, or whatever you prefer to call them should be in a particular piece of writing (film, art, whatever) for a particular audience.
I’m all for applying science to things, especially when it involves explosions, but I also feel like that would be a fast-track to boring art.
My narrative voice almost always has hints of my speech patterns to it, which is a pretty common thing in writing. It makes for organic writing, that usually is forbidden in academic writing (though there are examples to the contrary, and I feel obligated to point that out so as to avoid being chastised by former professors of mine). I swear a fair bit, and I’m not ashamed of that. As I’ve heard it put, and have said before: I’m an intelligent, relatively respectable person who happens to include conjugations and variations of the word fuck in my day-to-day speech a good deal (note to my family: I’m sorry; since I typed that, I’ll be sure to wash my hands off instead of washing my mouth out with soap). A lot of the time, as hokey as it may sound, the characters lend themselves to the sort of language I should be using. The characters have a lot of say in how a story goes, and though I typically am responsible for those character popping into existence I cannot always take responsibility for the sorts of shenanigans they get into.
Here’s my two examples: Joshua’s Nightmares (book one) compared to The Lodgers (the novel project I mentioned not too long ago and haven’t given much attention to since then).
Joshua’s Nightmares started off as a young adult book, with children’s book leanings, and became more general fiction (fantasy, really). Joshua, Marcus, and Amelia (my keyboard really did not want that Oxford comma in there) are all juniors in high school, and realistically they could be swearing up a storm. I know I certainly had some colorful language by my junior year, but I also had enough sense to use restraint with it by then. There are people who know me who are probably laughing at that last sentence, by the way.
They didn’t feel like kids who’d swear, though. None of them really stood out in my mind as characters willing to curse. Not even Marcus, as much of a rat-bastard as he was throughout the story.
The Lodgers is told through the perspective of a very different character who is far more willing to swear, to the point where the absence of the occasional damn, shit, or other expletive felt off. It was as though I was trying to silence the character’s voice in favor of one that didn’t belong there. That’s not my job as a writer.
Or maybe I’m just a crazy person who is overly picky about swearing in my fiction. That’s always a distinct possibility.
My biggest issue with the addition of swearing in writing is when it feels like it was forced in for no reason of substance. I’ve had suggestions to incorporate more swearing into my writing for various reasons, but’s not really a sentiment I agree with in most cases. Yes, it is more true to how I talk in relaxed conversations, but it’s not something I always feel the need to carry over into my writing.
Really, it all comes down to there being a time and a place for everything, including the occasional damn bastard or shithead in any creative medium. It’s all about figuring out if it’s right for what you’re going for or if it’s just swearing for the sake of swearing, edginess, or whatever. Ninety-five days remaining.