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Cursing in Books

Something I've been wondering about for a while is the subject of cursing in novels because it often seems to be a different story from cursing in real life. In general, I curse out loud only when under the most extreme of conditions; it's not that I think it's necessarily immoral (although I know some do, and that's a valid position too), but I think it's one of those things that's most effective in moderation. Curse words are those that hold a lot of negative strength but if they're always used to express minor bad things, then that defeats their purpose. Of course, that's my personal stance and I don't judge those who either curse all the time or not at all.

However, novelizations are different because in books, the writing is all in the voice of a character, be it directly through dialogue or in first-person narration. Cursing is sometimes necessary depending on the character - some personality types are just more inclined to curse and an author would be remiss to include that if that's the case. So, most of the time it's fairly clear whether to have a character curse or not and it's also clear why a character who might curse once in a while shouldn't drop an f-bomb every six seconds.

But what about the characters who would, if they were living, breathing people, drop f-bombs every other word? I'm still of the position that cursing should be used in moderation. Just as you don't need to show every single possible detail of a character in excruciating detail for a reader to know him or her, you don't need to have the character curse all the time for the reader to get the idea. Otherwise, it can become numbing and lose its effectiveness, which fits in with my philosophy on cursing in real life.

What do you think about cursing in books?


Stephanie Ingrid Sarah Kristan said...

We're with you on this 100%, both in real life and in books. For fiction, dialogue is supposed to be "life LIKE," but that doesn't mean including every "uh" or "um" or "like." As you said, a little goes a long way, and readers can usually get the gist of a character's speech from just a few lines. Overdoing it is amateur.

Lindsey Sablowski said...

I agree with what you said. In writing especially I don't think your characters need to curse every five seconds even if in real life they might seem to be the kind of person who does that. Characters reflect your voice as a writer, and you can also lose certain audiences if characters are dropping the f-bomb at every instant. I say if it feels right for the character to curse, then it's fine, but never just do it for the sake of doing it.

Jess said...

I haven't really noticed any novels over-doing it. I think in middle school kids seem to curse whenever they can but as you get closer to leaving high school it's just used "sparingly'. I think it's okay for characters to curse but for some reason it stills sets me back.

Jillian said...

I think it's okay if it's in the proper context and if it fits the situation. Books are definitely a different medium compared to movies and TV, so it's hard to say. I think it depends onthe situation. I wouldn't really mind it, but maybe nothing too much.

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