Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday's Word: Curses

Today’s word is curses. Not the kind you chant by the light of the full moon but the ones yelled out the window when another car cuts you off. I like to call these 'word bullets'.

I admire those of you that never curse but I also wish you could know the satisfaction of saying something truly foul, of using your mouth as a gun, pulling that hammer back slowly, and squeezing the trigger, letting that nasty little word bullet fly.

There are times when a single shot is sufficient, a sniper’s careful aim hitting a still target. Then others when the Uzi effect takes place and your mouth is fully automatic, sending a spray of curses randomly ricocheting throughout the room. Those times should be reserved for extreme moments of pain only.

The silencer is also a great tool for when your child or others are present. If your mother is like mine, that maternal look of disappointment is whole other kind of bullet, aimed straight at your heart. Growing up she taught me that even darn, shoot, and crap were not acceptable. These were deemed By-Words, as in just getting by without cursing. They were considered a sign of ignorance and less than average vocabulary skills. I teach my son the same thing, and hope he doesn’t overhear my lapses.

It is your choice whether or not to use curses in your writing, and depends on the characters and almost certainly on the age/genre of your novel. I think YA may be shaky ground when it comes to this because the conflict is that children will be reading what we write, so do we go for what IS reality or what SHOULD be?

The answer is up to you. So keep your gun polished, take it out when the situation calls for it, and use it when you have too…but remember curses are bullets.

Aim carefully.

And that, my friends, is the Word.


  1. Excellent topic! I've always been conflicted on whether or not to use curse words in my manuscripts. I write adult, not YA, but my family (especially hubby's family) is conservative, and I've been afraid of offending them if they read my work. But I realized that there are situations where "darn" and "heck" just don't cut it. In order to give my characters realistic voices, I had to have them swear.

  2. I, myself, am not a cusser. Unless I'm really mad then you better watch out. LOL. Not that I have anything against it, I just think it sounds funny coming from me. But my characters on the other hand, well, they cuss. LOL. And my hubby finds it so funny that they cuss and I don't.

    I'm weird, I know. lol :) Great topic!!

  3. Great post!

    I use curse words (in New England we call them swear words)in my wip because it works for my MC, but I use them sparingly, at least, I think so.

  4. I have no problems with swearing in YA because it's believable. But it should be there for a reason. Often it isn't necessary, but it depends on the story and the characters. It's my guys who tend to swear, not the girls. ;)

  5. Oh my gosh, I love this post! I agree with your YA insights. My daughter is ten and participating in the Battle of the Books (or B.O.B.) reading challenge at her school. She has to read a certain number of BOB books from the school-provided list. The one she's currently reading has the "H" word and the "D" word. I asked her how she felt about it. She shrugged and then said, "I don't say them in my head, I just skim over as I read."

    You have a wonderful blog -- looking forward to reading more!

  6. Great post! I love how you set it up, and I must say that you're right I think it's great of those people who don't use foul language, however it feels so good to let that anger or frustration out sometimes!

  7. I literally used to be afraid to swear. If I accidentally let one slip I would be mortified, go beet red, sweat, feel sick, etc. It was excessive. Then I dated a guy who cursed like a fisherman because, well, he was a fisherman. I have learned to be okay with swearing and even accepted the fact that I find a well-placed f-bomb is just downright funny.

    But it's always a conflict in my writing. I think it should be sparsely used for greatest effect. Even though adolescents often replace a large part of their vocabulary with variations of the f-word or "and shit," that doesn't mean we need to show that in a story; you can be honest without being a potty mouth, and parents will like you, too!

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  9. I love your writing. Especially Wednesday's Word. You need to have a column somewhere.

  10. What a great post. This is true. Words can do so much damage, especially hurtful words. I rarely curse, and my characters don't do much of it either. But when they out. The words really are like bullets.

  11. You know, some people say uneducated people curse, but I disagree. I think every now and then, a carefully placed profanity actually spices up a conversation. It adds personality to what you're saying! It's just when someone overdoes it that it gets annoying.


It helps to know I'm not just talking to myself.