Monday, April 23, 2012

On swearing in YA



It's funny that I'm posting about this, since it's one of the three things I said I'd never post about. BUT, I was curious to hear your opinions on this topic. I'm not trying to start an argument, just genuinely curious, so please don't bash me or anyone else who comments on this post. I know you are all awesome, so I'm sure I have nothing to worry about. :)

I'm not a big swearer. Never have been. So it comes as no surprise that I don't swear in my books. Yes, occasionally something happens to a character that the only logical word would be a cuss word, but I usually put "he cursed under his breath" or "she swore". Something along those lines. I told myself a long time ago, that my kids would be reading my books someday and I don't need them reading curse words that I've written. They'll hear enough swearing at school that I don't need to write it in my books as well. And I'm not going to say I'll never ever put a curse word in any of my books, since every book is different, but for now, the books I've written don't need them.

To be honest, I don't mind reading books with occasional swearing in them. It doesn't bother me. What DOES bother me is when an author puts swearing into his/her books just for shock factor. And if there is a lot of swearing on every page, I'll usually put the book down and not pick it up again. Yes, I'm probably missing out on some fantastic books, but a lot of swearing really pulls me out of the story. I'm not saying people who swear in their books are bad. I promise I like you all. PROMISE! :) I just prefer cleaner language. Probably because I write lighter stories and prefer reading lighter ones as well. ;)

So, how much swearing is too much? Do you use curse words in your books? Does it bother you when you read a bunch of swear words in YA? And I still promise I won't hate you if you swear! :)

26 comments:

Tobi Summers said...

Hah, I just posted about this on another blog the other day. I swear, and most people I know do as well, so I've never had a problem with cursing in books. Some of my characters do, and some don't. I don't worry too much either way in my adult book, but in my YA book, I'm much more likely to say "ZJ swore," than actually write the word, unless it can't be avoided. I guess in my experience, I've found that most teenagers swear, and I want my characters to be typical teenagers (well, mostly).

I agree with you about being turned off by an overabundance of cursing though. Yeah, I know some people are like that, but it kind of drives me nuts when I hear it out loud too. Curses, like all words, should be used with precision and care, only when they'll be most effective. I just started a WIP (as in, um, two hours ago) where the MC is tough, grew-up-on-the-streets, beats-up-boys-for-a-living kind of chick. So she's going to curse. But I still don't think there's a need for every other word to be a swear.

What bothers me more than cursing, though, is when it's super-obvious that the writer is trying to dodge a curse by using some kind of softer word ("fudge" instead of the f-word, for example). Unless the character saying it is younger than 12, that always seems unrealistic to me.

Kyra Lennon said...

I don't like to read or write too many swear words, but because I write primarily for adults, bad words will sometimes be present.

In YA, I'm not crazy about swearing. The target audience is younger, and so I think more care should probably be taken. I think writing "She cursed," is enough - teens will insert their own word without it having to be written! ;)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Tobi: LOL I can honestly say I've never used "fudge". Ha! Thanks for your comment! :D

@Kyra: I totally agree. Teens can fill in the blanks. ;)

Rachel said...

I'm a pretty bad swearer. I have a sailor's mouth. :-X whoops! I think that it should be in YA if its needed but taken out definitely if its not. I have a lot of swearing in my novel and with the last revision I did I actually took some out because I felt like it was waaay too much (even for my characters).

I'm also stopping by to let you know I tagged you in 11 questions, Chantele :) You can stop by my blog to find them out

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Rachel: LOL! Sailor's mouth. ;) I'll definitely stop by your blog. Thanks for the comment! :D

Angela Cothran said...

I think we are long lost soul sisters Chan. Swearing pulls me out to the story too. I understand that it is totally in character for some characters to swear, but I'm with you--why put it in when you don't have to.

E. Arroyo said...

Unfortunately I am a potty mouth. Swearing was part of my vocabulary growing up (I've since toned down a few notches) so I don't get shocked when I see it in print. I also work with youth and have heard all sorts of combinations. But...I have been told to tone it down by a teen reader. LOL. And sometimes you just have to, especially to market to a more general audience. Reading it in your mind and saying it outloud sounds totally different. But this is a good question to pose and I ask myself that all the time.

Jenna Cooper said...

I think it's all based on personality. I'm a lot like you. I might throw in a "minor" curse word, but I try to avoid them because I don't use them in real life. I'm not going to tell anyone they need to write like me, though, because truthfully, kids swear worse than sailors now (at least two years ago when I graduated high school they did). Kids'll hear worse than what's in books.

Steph Sessa said...

I used to not swear at all, but now it kind of just comes out [quite often... oops]. But I don't put it in my YA stories. Usually it's the "he swore under his breath" type thing. I think it gets it across without having to spell it out. Sometimes I'll use "crap" but that's pretty much it.

M.J. Fifield said...

I have a propensity for swearing but my father's a sailor so I think it's genetic.

In writing though, it doesn't bother me if it fits the character and the situation. It's the same philosophy I have in my own writing. I never use it for shock value.

Miss Cole said...

I think if it really adds something to the story, use it. But do so sparingly, otherwise it loses its power to shock.

Jessie Humphries said...

I don't mind some of the milder curse words, I use those all the time. Hello, I call myself the B-Word! But the F word, the C word, Mother of F word...never okay. Its really jarring on the page, and I don't like it at all.

Jenny S. Morris said...

In my first MS I didn't use any at all. Then in my second I used the other word for Donkey because, hey, it's in the bible. But the one I'm writing now has some mild words in it. The S-word (which to my kids is shut up) and the donkey word. Um, I might have the D word to. But nothing stronger than that. I think teenagers are going to hear it, but I don't have to fill my book with it. Just strategically placed words that fit the character.

Brooke R. Busse said...

This is one of those topics I feel weird about. I think it has to do with the fact that I am a teen and will continue to be so for the next four years. ;) I think it may also have to do with the fact that I forget there is a "swear word hierarchy."

Personally, I don't notice when books don't have them or do have them. It all seems natural to me. But, as Tobi says, I don't like it when someone tries to dodge it obviously (though I did go through a phase where I said "fudge" when I was fourteen).

The truth is teens swear. Maybe not non-stop and maybe not in front of their parents, but they do. I do it though usually when something has gone wrong. But it doesn't have to be a major something.

It's just another one of those things where it depends on the author, the audience, the character and who the character is around, and your story.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I don't write YA, so it's a non-issue for me. I've used things similar to "he cursed." As far as what I think is okay-- I don't mind an occasional d-word or h-word. In fact, with certain characters, I love it, because it's so fitting! I have very little tolerance for the f-word. I think it's lazy storytelling. Yes, it's a way to instantly get across a lot of info. Yes, it is loaded with shock value. But it's not like that's the only way to get it across! Yes, another way is harder. But out of respect for the varied audience you have, I really think an author should try.

Wow. That was more of a rant than I thought I'd get into!

Leslie Rose said...

I think swearing is fine if it organically comes out of the character. I use it sparingly, but boy if you really listen to teens they are dropping "bombs" every other word.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Thank you for all of your comments! This subject really is fascinating to me.

I think Brooke said it best... "It's just another one of those things where it depends on the author, the audience, the character and who the character is around, and your story."

And Peggy, I have very little tolerance for that certain word as well. :P

JEFritz said...

"s/he cursed" or something like that usually works for me. It's more fun to gloss over the actual swearing and then describing the reaction to it or something. Or instead, using swear replacements. If I can work "monkeytrumpets" into a sentence in one of my books, I will die happy.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

LOL! Monkeytrumpets? HILARIOUS! :)

Jolene Perry said...

You've read my books, lol.

I almost always start with more than I need, and I find, in the end, that I don't need much, but I write about heavy topics in YA Contemp, and there are times when a "dang it" just won't work.

I'm SO with you on the swearing too much thing. There's nothing that turns me off more than when it feels forced.

And yes, we're sort of (ish) on the same wavelength today.

S.P. Bowers said...

Language can and does bother me. I can read books with a lot of language but if it's there for shock value or as author intrusion then I don't. In my writing might say "he cursed" or "she was shocked at what came out of his mouth" but I've never found a place where the words itself were better. I don't think I will.

elizabeth seckman said...

I have a potty mouth in real life. I blame my previous life in social work...talk about a bunch of cigarette smoking, curse word throwing, old car driving group of people!
In YA...for my preteens, I prefer not to see it. As for teen fiction, if it suits the situation, I'm all right with it. Most of my teens read adult genre anyhow.
I'm more worried about society's relaxing attitude toward drug use than I am curse words!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I worked very hard when I was in the Army not to picture that uncultured foul language I heard so much around me. I rarely swear but my characters do. However, I have them do like you do: he swore. However, there are times when the situation needs the word. It fits and has more power IF you haven't been heavy handed with other words. Many times swear words come across as just filler words. They are irriating to me but they have no power anymore because they are overused.

Leigh Covington said...

I think this is an interesting topic. Very subjectional, that's for sure. I don't mind one or two swear words as long as it's not the "F" word. But there is definitely a thing as "too much!"

Nicole said...

I don't mind occasional swearing that is well-merited, but it really turns me off when it's repeatedly used as a shock factor.

Melanie Stanford said...

This has been on my mind lately because the WIP I'm starting now is a lot darker than I usually do- involving gang members and drugs... and I'm thinking, if the characters don't swear, will they be authentic? And yet, I don't want to put swearing in my books either. I don't know how I'm going to work this out.