Saturday, November 01, 2008


Some writers like to curse. I'm one of them. There's probably not been a day in my adult life where I've not said "damn" at the very least.

And some writers like to curse in their writing. I'm generally not one of those, though I won't shy away from it if I feel it's important to a character and/or the story.

But why not throw in lots of F bombs in your stories? Doesn't it make it sound more realistic? Doesn't it make it sound more gritty?

Um, no. It generally makes the writer look pretty silly and immature.

Now, there can be a place and time for cursing in fiction, sometimes even a good amount of it. But it shouldn't be overdone. Why? Because even just a little cursing in writing can go a long way.

There are real-life situations where there could easily be a lot of cursing. I'm sure soldiers in the field don't worry about their language being salty. Heck, spend some time at an adult sporting venue, and you're going to hear all kinds of stuff.

But, again, in fiction, a little goes a long way. If you don't believe me, go read a book or story by an author who is known to use salty language from time to time. Stephen King, for example. Yes, King uses some curse words, but not as many as you might think. He doesn't need to. Why? Because that F word on page 113 is strong enough to remain in your subconscious for at least another 20 or 30 pages. If every single page had strong language, it would grow silly and eventually stale.

Also, for you short story writers, it's quite difficult to sell your tales to magazines if those tales have lots of strong terms. There are some magazines who don't care if you use curse words, most of those being smaller publications and quite often the darkest of horror mags (at least in my experience). But most zines and such aren't going to publish your story if it's got all kinds of strong language, mainly because they don't want to drive away any readers, but also because some editors feel strong language shows a lack of maturity in the writer.

So, I'm suggesting cutting back on the curse words in your fiction. I'm not saying to never use them, but to use them sparingly and only when appropriate. And, for you fantasy or history writers, if you have to use curse words, at least make them sound appropriate to the time and place of which you are writing; Conan didn't go around spewing F bombs. It would've sounded stupid.


cindy said...

haha! i used to cuss like a sailor too, before the bubs arrived. in my writing, i make up some funny curse phrases--being in ancient china-like kingdom and all. =D

Clark said...

Sometimes it works the other way though. I remember my first impression when I read The Left Behind books that there was no way someone wouldn't drop an F-Bomb or some other choice words during the end of the world.

"You mean half the town has disappeared and planes are falling from the sky .... Gosh!!!"

It ruined the books for me. Seriously.

- Clark