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Expressing anger without swearing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Gryphos, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I'm trying to (somewhat) tone down the language of my characters in my current story, but I'm having trouble finding another way to convey base rage and frustration.

    Here's a small extract to illustrate. Contains swearing (obviously). Context: Fletcher's mother died earlier that evening and now she's undressing for bed while her lover, Erwin, watches on.

    What I was trying to convey was a sense that Fletcher can't contain her frustration, and so is letting it out in the simplest way she can.

    But as I said, I don't think I want to go too overboard with the swearing. Or maybe I do, actually, but nonetheless, how could I convey this kind of raw anger without resorting to curses?
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    "We have no cream for the coffee in the morning," she said completely out of nowhere as she tossed the tunic across the room. "And you forgot to put the garbage out again. So now I'm going to have to do it in the morning and I already have too many things to take care of with this stupid funeral and trying to figure out where Aunt Margaret can stay with her dogs. What kind of lonely idiot has more than one dog?"

    Erwin’s brow furrowed and he turned around to the sight of a half-undressed Fletcher bouncing around graceful as a landed salmon, trying to get out of her trousers while reminding him of every other violation he had made in regards to his husbandly duties.

    "And I told you twenty times about the permission form for Lucy's field trip and guess what I found in her bag today? How could you possibly forget something like that? I feel like sometimes you just do stuff like that to piss me off or prove some sort of stupid point. And oh my God I hate these bloody pants!"

    "She loved you." Erwin said, still laying back in the bed. "She loved you and you are just like her." Fletcher paused, one leg still trapped in the offending trousers. Wet blue eyes met his and he found himself suddenly up and catching her before she collapsed to the floor.

    "I need her," Fletcher gasped. Her hot tears soaked through his thin cotton nightshirt but he refused to let her go. "I still need..." But she had no time between sobs for words.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
    arboriad, Penpilot, Letharg and 2 others like this.
  3. JeiC

    JeiC Acolyte

    I like Heliotrope's post.

    As for me, where I have a MC that doesn't like to talk much, I rely on physical actions to demonstrate her level of frustration (or whatever else I'm trying to convey).
  4. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    Punch a hole in the wall, busting up her knuckles in the process.
  5. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    While a great little scene, I feel as though this isn't quite the same type of anger as I'm trying to portray. Fletcher isn't trying to distract herself from her anger or anything like that. I just need a way of having her plainly, but not melodramatically, express her anger, such as is achieved with the word 'f*ck'.
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I think the point of Helio's example is that anger is often mis-targeted. I know that, for myself, when I'm very angry I let myself (or, unknowingly) lash out at the world in general. The tiniest things are suddenly BIG irritations. I've even pointedly told the people I work with, on more than one occasion, "90% of the time I'm storming around, it's NOT about you." As a kind of preemptive warning, because I'm generally not very good at containing my frustration and anger.

    So one way to display anger is to display irrational attacks.

    Edit: BTW, "F*ck" is a type of irrational attack; at least, it's focusing the anger on a target that is undefined. Same with punching a wall: an irrational, mis-targeted attack.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
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  7. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    The way you articulate words says a lot. Hissing, spitting, snapping, shouting, and screaming are all effective verbs to convey anger.
  8. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    Physical action, tone, sharp verbs, all good suggestions. I've nothing against appropriate swearing in books, but using f*ck seven times is kind of repetitive. You could be saying more there; you could have plot-forwarding dialogue, or Fletcher-specific dialogue, or something. All we learn here is that she likes to swear. Her mother just died! There are a million ways she could respond to that, that you could bury in this sudden reaction. Here's an attempt at rewriting:

    Obviously, this depends an awful lot on context and character, so that's a stab in the dark. But it's definitely not necessary to swear to convey a whole lot of anger.
    Gryphos likes this.
  9. Take out a weapon and just start destroying the immediate surroundings.
  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Thanks Fifthview… I call this the It's a Wonderful Life angry dialogue strategy. Remember in the film when his uncle loses ALL the money and they are going to lose the Bailey Building and Loan to the Big Bank? And George Bailey could have just cursed all the way home… but he was madder then that. He was madder and more afraid then simply cursing. He came home and insulted his wife, insulted his kids, told his daughter her music was lousy and made her cry, wondered why they had so many damn kids anyway, tore the post off the staircase, insulted his house, yelled at the teacher on the phone and made her cry and then yelled at the teacher's husband. He was angry at everything and everyone and he just couldn't control himself. I love that scene.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
    arboriad and FifthView like this.
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I'm down with anything that evokes George Bailey. It seems old hat now, but brilliant story telling.
    Heliotrope likes this.
  12. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    In Four Wedding and a Funeral the first scene is someone [two people?] running late and shouting variations of F... eleven times [? a lot anyway...]
    It is one of the most comic moments of the film because of the repartition.
    Use anything to much and you can pretty much guarantee it will end up having the opposite effect to the one you want.
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator


    ^ This is where your body sends you energy when you're angry. You can see it's all over the upper body. This is why people get violent, or often hit the gym to work out their anger, or take to manual labor such cleaning or gardening. Somebody who is extremely angry is going to feel it and show it in their face, their chest, their arms. That means clenched fists, twisted faces, throwing their hands in the air. A more subdued person might take a few minutes to hold their hand to their chest. Another person may slam doors, punch walls, hell even breaking a pencil can be therapeutic, in that it helps you do something with that upper body energy. Your voice also comes from the upper body, so shouting or grunting or crying out would also be appropriate.

    My take is that in life each of us has something of an arc for how we cope with each of our emotions. Some people complete some of their arcs as children, and others still struggle into old age. How much anger this person has faced in life, and how much they've tried to take control of it, would be the biggest factors in how they respond. Someone who's faced a lot of anger in their life but has tried to take control of it grunt a lot without saying anything and go straight to the gym or the garden to try to push out the energy. Another person who hasn't faced that much anger since they were a child might throw tantrums and hit walls, but be mature enough not to do anything that lasts. Someone who's had a lot of anger all their lives, and never took control of it . . . . well, that's anger for you.
    KC Trae Becker and WooHooMan like this.
  14. tbgg

    tbgg Sage

    I'm not sure of the setting for your story, but what about trying to generate some creative insults in keeping with the setting and, if applicable, who's being yelled at?

    "Frazzlicking son of a succubus!" - (note here, 'frazzlicking' is a word I made up.) This could work as a general curse in a world where there are demons.

    "Slime-addled bat-brained hex-abuser!" insult here for a witch

    "Uncouth muscle-brained sword-swinger!" - insult here for a brainless barbarian type

    There's a Shakespearean insult generator here and I think I saw an app for Android called the Fantasy Insult Generator if you need some help getting started.
  15. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I would make up a curse of some kind, but it would only end up laughable. The reason I like to use real curse words is that they have an impact for the reader.

    And as a brief not to the setting, this is a pretty standard medieval-esque fantasy setting, but as a writer I've never liked the idea of trying to emulate ye olde vernacular, so so long as it's not anachronistic, I tend to use modern dialogue.

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