Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Swearing: Guest Post by Jessica Wolf

So I did a terrible job spacing out these guests posts...but here is another amazing one from the amazing Jessica Wolf.

Jessica Wolf is a striving author who spends the majority her time writing. Through Simple Scribbles, she hopes to meet up with other writers, share tips, and inspire others to begin writing. Check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new posts!

Also, check out my guest post at her blog here.


I am not afraid to curse in my writing, and I am not afraid of reading curse words in a book.

In the past I have run into some push back regarding curse words in novels and my own writing. (And, strangely enough, none of that push back has come from any of my family.) I completely understand a person's sensitivity to cursing. This post, though, is not to tell people how to feel about profanity. It is simply to explain why I curse in my writing and why 
I personally view it as useful.

I curse because people do.

Profanity - whether you like it or not - is a part of every day life. Some people choose to use it in their day-to-day vernacular. Other people, like myself, choose to save their curse words for their writing. But the fact is human-beings curse. They curse at baseball games or when talking about getting their groceries. They curse when getting bad news or when excited. 
Curse words express an emotion that other words aren't capable of expressing.

If all of my characters had squeaky clean mouths, that wouldn't be true to real life. So some of my characters use profanity. It's a part of who they are.

I curse because I want to portray real life.

It is my job as a writer to portray life as realistically as possible. I would be cheating myself if I refused to acknowledge the fact that people curse and keep it out of my writing just because I'm uncomfortable with it. Therefore, because I want to create a world and characters that are true, I cuss. And no, I have yet drop the f-bomb, and I highly doubt I will. Thus far, I've only used two cuss words: damn and hell. (And I'm not entirely sure those are even considered cuss words any more.)

The point of this all is: Cursing for the sake of cursing isn't a good enough reason to drop profanity into your novel. Often times, a cuss word every two or three words not only makes the prose hard to read but hard to take in. Cursing in novels can serve a greater purpose than just trying to be "grown up" or "cool" because it emulates real life and it emulates real people.

Some of my favorite characters are complete potty-mouths. They feel completely real because the author isn't afraid to ruffle some feathers with a few harsh words. And that's the thing - cursing ruffles feathers. It makes people uncomfortable. But that's okay. Isn't literature supposed to stir emotions, good or bad?

In the end, whether or not you curse in your novel is up to you. I'd love to know what your opinions are: Why do you or do you not curse in your novels?


  1. Cursing isn't a part of my every day life. Being a teacher and a mom for a long time now, I prefer not to include them in my writing. As for reading, if there is an occasional few, I skip over them. But if it's chocked full, the book is not for me! :)

    1. I agree--it can be overused. There is definitely a time and place for them, and it is not every other sentence.

  2. I let me characters curse when it's needed and I'm also fine with reading it. Except when the author drops the F bomb in every other sentence. Now that's just too much and I'm put off. But a good better is better with some curse words. ;)

    1. Yeah, I do not like the F bomb...thanks, Chrys!

  3. This is all so true! Whether you like it or not, there are always going to be people who curse, and your character could be one of those people.

  4. I only use cursing in my writing when it seems fitting and natural to my character to do so. If it flows easily within the dialogue, I know it's being used in the right way.

    As for me, I don't cuss. I used to when I was younger, but not anymore.

  5. I just like to see people steer away from the "F-Bombs", that's all. I can be more creative than to lower my characters to gutter lingo.
    As for the rest, I use - what I call minor profanity - it sparingly. Just enough to keep it real.

    1. Nice to see you here, Mr. Lake! And yes, same.

  6. I agree that there are certain characters or times when a character would curse. I work in the oil field and it is part of common everyday work to hear curses. When I worked at a nutracuetical company I rarely every heard a curse. To portray real life you have to do things that are appropriate for the character and the situation. Good post.

  7. I usually don't curse in my manuscripts. But I definitely respect people who use it with a sense of purpose in their writing. They use it to characterize the people. They don't just throw it out there aimlessly. That is good writing.

    In my own writing, I might just say that "he cursed." Also I write fantasy, so occasionally I, uh, make up curse words. Whatever it is I use, I try to make it relevant in a way that it characterizes the person's culture.