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Saturday, February 25, 2012

To swear or not to swear; the "F" bomb and religious cussing

I've been working on a new anthology containing three novellas, as some of you know. It's a horror anthology and at least one novella contains some cussing and the "F" bomb, as well as a few religious swear words, more common in French speaking Quebec. 

I'm not talking about Jive Hive. I'm talking about a book called Circle of Devils.

I asked around on FB and my author's group, and the consensus is be careful with cuss words as someone might take offense, but most folks won't, and the US doesn't ban books because of swear words. One citizen said the US doesn't ban books, but I know some school boards would, or libraries. So I'm thinking like Solomon Rushkie, who sold more books because of the Islam brouhaha (more than a brouhaha, actually, a threat on his life), but I won't go so far as to knock Islam or Christianity (a lot). It first started as a question about cussing.

You know, we hear things sometimes that give us pause to stop and consider. My book would be much more authentic with some "F" bombs and cuss words in it. Not that I cuss myself (a lot) but the characters are those who do, in one novella in any case. 

My father used to say, "I refuse to let them make me live in fear." Figure that out and you'll see what motivated some great men and women in history. My father could have been a great man and was in many ways, at least to his children, wife and a few select friends.

He was an intelligent man who read a lot, figured things out to make life easier, and played a mandolin and harmonica not particularly well. I never heard him sing but my mother sang a lot. We were raised on a small mixed farm and were not allowed to swear.

I recently found the swear words more authentic to certain characters, particularly as I've found my voice as well.

Any comments would be considered. My young adult book has no swears, as I don't think that would be appropriate to the age range. 
What do you think? To swear or not to swear, that is the question. 


  1. My opinion is, if it's appropriate to the character and done only for effect (not overdone), okay. In the end, your editor might be the right person to decide.

  2. I say let 'er rip.

    If it's right for the character and situation, then go for it.

    Ever hear of "The Sopranos" or "Sons of Anarchy"? If dropping F-bombs could get you banned in the US, these two massive favorites never would have seen the light of day.

  3. I think swearing is fine, after all, it is very authentic. And if you feel those "characters" in your book would (of course) swear and use the F word, then go for it. However, and on the other hand, if you are not comfortable with using those swear words, then be true to yourself, don't use them. Some may be offended by them, but in this day and age, most people are quite used to hearing them.

  4. Thanks so much, Judi, Sue and Judy, I've decided pretty much what you say, a compromise. I've gone through all three novellas with find and replace, and taken out all religious cussin' as I'm not comfortable with that, and as a recent RCIA candidate I don't think it's appropriate. But I left three of the F-bombs where they sound really like the character couldn't have said anything else as an expletive. I replaced a couple of the offensive words (or what might be offensive to a Christian) with sh** or da*n or even h*ll. On looking them over, there aren't a lot of swear words in the three novellas. If I'm not comfortable with them, as Judy said, then I deleted them. And it makes for smoother reading, I think, as cussin' just jumps out of the page at a person if there's too much of it, and the story is clouded.

    Thanks again, I basically followed your advice. Now the rest of it is up to the publisher whether they accept what I've done or want some changes. It's not accepted yet and I'm just spitting in the wind so far. But I want it to be as polished as I can get it before I submit it to a publisher.

    It's called Circle of Devils, for anyone who's interested, and it's 96,300 words long, consisting of three novellas.

    Mortals, Dreams, and Clots of Blood
    Behind You, Satan
    Father of Lies

    I changed the main characters' names in one of them and it's a change for the better, I think. The original names were too unusual and hard to remember.

    It's great to have the feedback I've received. Thanks, Sue, basically I did let 'er rip. And Judy and Judi, I am true to myself. Sometimes if you could hear me here - well, Nellie bar the door, thanks for that, Sue!

  5. Good work, Kenna! I'm sure your changes serve to improve the novellas, and are appropriate to the characters. It'll be fun to see your second published work!