If you have been around the car scene, you may have seen this sticker on some cars in varying versions, but there is a word missing here, and if you aren’t familiar with it, it starts with an F. Yes, and this has me furrowing my brow. How, please tell me, is saying that classy? What an oxymoron, and to me literature is much the same.
There has been a lot of debate on the topic of swearing, cursing, cussing and anything else one would like to call it in literature. It seems to be a hot button in the particular area of young adult fiction. The question is whether or not it is really okay to use in a book. Yes, most teenagers swear,but not all of them, and even so:
- Is it needed to make the dialogue realistic?
- What swears are acceptable?
- What swears aren’t acceptable?
- What to do instead of swearing?
So, it is needed to make dialogue realistic? No, I don’t feel it is. I’ll be honest with you, I swore when I was a teenager (not so long ago), and I even swear as an adult, but those circumstances are far and few between. When I do swear I can tell you that something really really bad has to have happened for me to use the F word. So, in turn my characters do not ever use that language. I can say my characters do occasionally call people a***s, say s***t, damn or hell. These are swears that I find to be fine in YA literature, but I don’t think they should be used every five seconds. For me, when a person swears it is harsh on my ears, and therefore when I read swears it makes me stop reading. I usually continue, but I know for a fact if a character started dropping the F bomb every five seconds I would throw the book against the wall. I’ll own to this being my opinion. You can tell which swears I think are less acceptable by the fact that I ** them out. That means I use them very sparingly. In fact this is the tally for each of those swears from:
In Between Seasons (49,000 words total)
Hell-33 (in some contexts this was not used as a swear. As in “I knew I was going to Hell.”)
Walking in the Shadows (58,000 words total)
OH, and there were 2 instances of the B word in this novel–ah, well!
That means that in either novel the percentage of swears is way less than 1%.
So, I think that you can see that the F word to me, is not something to use in YA. Teenagers pretty much call everyone the B word, but there’s ways around this, like calling someone a TOOL. That one works fine, but only if not overused. In the case of my novel, it didn’t work, so I did opt for the B word. Anything that you can think of that is worse than the F word you will not see it in any of my novels, or anything I read.
What does an author do then, when not using swears? I’ve seen some say that you can only use hokey words like H-E-Double hockey sticks. No, this is not needed, please do not do this–it’s worse than the swear itself! It draws even more unneeded attention to the words. Honestly, just omit the swear completely, and you pretty much are good to go. There are some times a character will swear, but as you have seen it needs to be pertinent to the situation in my writing.
In the end it’s a personal choice for a person to swear, and therefore it is also a personal choice for an author to decide what amount of swearing and which swears to employ in their writing. I personally try to keep a wide range of readers in mind, and some of those readers might find offense to those words. I don’t know as I have never asked, but I don’t think readers are offended when there isn’t swears…That is unless you use the hokey pokey “Oh, fudgesicles” then your book might end as a hole in the wall too.
Back to the car scene, I like this saying…so I changed it around a bit for the sticker on my pinked out car. It’s the same for my writing.
What do you think? To swear or not to swear?