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Swearing in writing.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Aidan of the tavern, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. Ayaka Di'rutia

    Ayaka Di'rutia Troubadour

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    I find explicit swearing used in the real world and put into a fictional setting to be distracting, crude, and vulgar. I also find it as a writer to be distasteful in presenting a story to the reader (especially the F-bomb and be-otch). If a book has too much swearing of that sort in it, I'll put it down, if not throw it away.

    I do use non-explicit swearing to humanize characters (they cursed, swore, etc.), and I will make up curses that are relative to the world they live in, but never do I use "our" swearing or misuse deity names sacred to me in my fiction. Like I said, it's distracting and annoying, especially in a fantasy setting.
     
  2. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    In my work I use the standard ones, f*ck, shit and so on. But I try to keep it fairly minimal, just so it has a but more impact when it is used.

    On a related note, I've found that you can basically come up with any insult just by combining a noun with an already rude word or concept. For example: toss-bucket, wank-canvas, dragon-cunt. (Although, usually these do work better with 'f*cking' inserted on the front). The possibilities are endless!
     
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  3. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    How many times has this topic been discussed?

    Two things interest me about swearing - why is it that people think that writing a **** is somehow gentler than writing ****? You instantly recognise it for what it really is, so what's the difference?

    The other is this - it's always seemed to me that there is an intra generational conspiracy happening re swearing. In my experience, most kids swear, but are really careful to hide it from adults. At the same time, most adults swear, but are really careful to hide it from kids. Fascinating! The only time you see adults and kids swearing freely in front of each other seems to be in really dysfunctional communities. In more civilised communities, the conspiracy is strictly observed by both generations.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2015
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  4. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    I note my post has been censored, which possibly explains the proliferation of ***** on this site.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2015
  5. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    This sounds right.

    Especially when a character who doesnt usually swear does.
     
  6. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yup. Trust me, anytime it won't get censored, I always spell it ****
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2015
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    In regard to censoring:

    Keep in mind, Mythic Scribes is a family friendly site. There are minors who are members.

    An easy approach is thinking of a thread like a PG-13 movie. A word like we're discussing won't usually be censored if there's one or two within a thread. However, too many uses of bad language would raise the rating to R. In that case, your post will be censored to drop it back to PG-13.

    If you were to post an excerpt of writing, and don't want it censored, inform the potential reader of any explicit language or action before the prose begins.

    I hope that helps your understanding.

    Directly from the site guidelines (They may be found under News & Announcements):
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
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  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Note there are interesting cultural differences in cursing. I remember this from one of Harry Turtledove's novels. He has a French Canadian observe that while Americans use bodily functions (including sex) as primary cursing, the French prefer to use the deity (the whole Trinity) and saints. Given that observation, I do try to pay some attention to how swearing works between fantasy races. Using the same vernacular for all of them feels to easy.

    Our very terms are interesting. Cursing? But rarely are we actually placing a curse on someone. Swearing? Not as in swearing an oath. We need a verb form for "obscene" to get closer to how we actually use those words.
     
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  9. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    Huh, I noticed that difference as well, among my Irish and German relatives. The Irish side of the family uses religious curses, while the German side uses the usual body-oriented swearing. Perhaps it's because a lot of our modern English swear words came from the Angle-Saxons?
     
  10. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    I would beg you not to do what Julian May did in otherwise wonderful Golden Torc series: use for the strongest profanity "fewking." Either go big or go home, I thought. What she did was fewking lame.

    I love the idea of cultural based obscenity because of how deftly it could tell you about a culture. I'm reading "The Three-Body Problem" and there an f-word in there and it just sounded weird. Do the Chinese really use the f-word? I really wanted to know if the original was different and the f-word is just the closest English equivalent. (Just wrote him via Twitter. He couldn't remember exactly, but thought it was probably the equivalent.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    My Chinese isn't that great, but I know there is a Chinese expression that literally translates to F-U. But it's not uncommon for literal translations to be really weird or not work at all. For example, the act of oral sex, if literally translated, is "to hit a plane". I'm sure there's probably an older expression/word for it, but that's the word I've most commonly heard.

    Edit: To add a little more, I came across this wiki article on Cantonese swearing. Cantonese profanity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
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  12. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    I am totally working these words and phrases secretly into stories.

    The "Outstanding Five in Cantonese" would be a great name for a band.
     
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Either that or the Chinese Knock-off version of Big Hero 6 :p
     
  14. Helen

    Helen Inkling

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    I don't believe in writing scared, so swearing is OK in my book.

    Then again, I personally try to avoid it, and think of better ways to express it. Also, I think too much swearing lessens the impact, so I'll try to use it sparsely.
     
  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I've now had two of my beta readers pass the section of my book in which the F word appears (it only appears once in the entire story (150k words)). One of them didn't mention it at all. The other one was REALLY bothered by it.

    She wasn't bothered by the word in itself. I know her well and she swears worse than a sailor in real life. Still, she reacted strongly to it. This may be because it jolted her out of the story, or because it simply didn't fit. She did devote a fair few sentences of commentary trying to figure out why though.
    In this case, I'm convinced it's not the F word in itself that's the problem, but rather than it just doesn't fit in with the story.
     
  16. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

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    What I find is that in general with books I don't have problems with reading profanities. Sometimes they fit and sometimes they don't. I think it is a good way to try to make up a word in a language that simply entered constant use so we can grasp the point of the 'swearing' but without an actual swear word. "Shtako" from the sci-fi show 'Defiance' comes to mind which was used instead of s*it. There were some other examples that I can't currently remember.
    In my own writing I tend to keep it simple and void of use of heavy swearing. S*it is okay in my book, but general intercourse-depicting phrases are a bit too much for me. I also remembered Terry Goodkind's use of 'bags' instead of one word swears which I found hilarious. And there is always those mild ones, usually insulting a character's intelligence which are fairly common and bland in our world. For some more intelligent or high-born characters I will probably make use of their broader vocabulary thus making them insult with big, confusing, scary words that a simpler character might not understand. And sarcasm is always an easy way to go.
     
  17. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    swearing speaks to a character, a situation, and a setting. I use it whenever I feel like it's deserved and try not to throw random words anywhere, whether harmless or curses.
     
  18. Clinton Seeber

    Clinton Seeber Banned

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    My epic fantasy series that I am writing has a hero from modern-day California that is a guitar player and a drug addict(a hero called to another like in Stephen R. Donaldson's TC books). He says "shit" once late in the first book and "bitch" a couple of times. Early in the book, he even says "Holy crap!". I also have another character use the word "whore" at one point.
     
  19. I really dig that train of thought. I often feel a compulsion to alter my writing in accordance with what I think would be more popular, rather than what I personally would like. I try to suppress that urge, since I figure it probably doesn't make for the best writing.

    That said, my characters swear exactly as much as I believe is appropriate for their character. Usually this ends up not being a whole lot, since I find bursting into profanity a rather annoying trait for a person to have.
     
  20. Scalvi

    Scalvi Scribe

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    I make up my own expletives from time to time, just as a worldbuilding excersize most of the time. I will add them because people curse but I don't think I've ever used all of them.

    I love making up language and I frequently write fantasy or occasionally sci-fi so there is leeway to make up stuff in accordance with a shift in culture.
     
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