Monday, September 29, 2014

ARE YOUR CHARACTERS SWEARING? BY RITA KARNOPP

I must admit – I’m on the fence about swearing.  It seems more and more people are swearing and I’m seeing it more in books.  So what are the rules – or are there any?

I rarely swear myself (and I never say the ‘F’ word), and if I must swear it seems my Polish flies before I’ll actually cuss in English.  That’s because swearing is offensive.  Yet, our characters must be themselves . . . right?

I think I shocked my family and most likely my readers when I had a female character using the ‘F’ word in No Ordinary Killer.  It wasn’t natural nor was it easy for me to use such words.  But I don’t think we always have a choice.

If our character naturally swears – you have to write it.  Fighting your character’s natural personality just won’t work.
I cringe when I hear the ‘F’ word and as a parent- I hate it even more.  But, if our characters were all perfect, polite, and saintly we’d have a pretty boring book.  You can balance the scales with bad language and refrain from being crude.

If your character swears naturally . . . if it feels natural . . . and in character, I say he should swear.  Use these words sparingly and when he’s making a point.

The bottom line is your readers will accept swearing if your character(s) credibly utter them.


IA agent, Dallas Fortune, is investigating Cooper Reynolds. Although there is more incriminating evidence proving his guilt than innocence, she instinctively believes he is being framed. Together they fight to stay alive while unraveling the clues the killer leaves behind . . . with the hope they'll discover his identity before Cooper is sent to prison for six murders.

3 comments:

Ginger Jones Simpson said...

I read a book a long time ago by a mainstream author, and although I can't recall the title, I'll never forget how many times the hero "muttered an oath." I would much rather have seen "damn, hell, fuck, or any other word after an entire story of muttering oaths. Yes, I know we don't like to swear, but I totally agree, Rita. We have to let out our character's personalities, and not assume they stumble over bad words. *lol*

Kathleen Rice Adams said...

What timing, Rita! I was part of a conversation the other day in which authors said they count swear words in their manuscripts -- not just the total, but by the various words. Call me naive, but I found that an interesting concept. Is there a manual somewhere that lists each swear word along with the maximum number of times it is allowed to appear?

I'm with Ginger: Nothing drives me crazier than characters constantly "muttering oaths." I read one book not too long ago in which every curse word was rendered "d--" or "b--" or whatever. Threw me completely out of the story every time it happened. GAH!

Rita Karnopp said...

Thanks Kathleen and Ginger ... I so agree with you both! I can't imagine my serial killer muttering, 'gosh darn,' under his breath! LOL Rita

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