Author Topic: Swearing and culture changes.  (Read 2344 times)

Offline ma100

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Swearing and culture changes.
« on: October 14, 2014, 06:18:58 PM »
Okay, I'm as old as Medusa, but I really am thinking about the swearing or cursing my characters should use.

In this day and age swearing seems to be the norm in the 18 to 30's. Even more so with people in the public eye, age not relevant, who look sweet and wholesome on a favourite programme and curse like a navvy . Also the "upper classes" up to 40's. When they drop a F*** you think, blimey did they really say that because it sounds so out of place. :o And they don't seem to have any worries about who's listening.

People between 50's and 70's use swear words, but are careful in company.

The working class seems to have calmed their tongues and , in the main, uses milder curse words unless angered.

Teenagers seem to use it every 5th word. :P

Film gangsters and soldiers seem to over use it beyond reason and I've ended up turning it off, not cos I'm offended, but it's just getting on my nerves. Even some of the rom-coms seem to be bringing in more and more swearing.

So how do you decide what your characters swearing/cursing should be to stop them sounding like a soft sap or foul mouthed terror.

Offline Inseriousity.

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2014, 06:26:08 PM »
I don't think you can really generalise either way. In fact, there seems to be this myth amongst the older generation that the younger generation swear all the time and I don't really think that's true. Being 22, I can't really say what it was like back in the day and by all accounts, swearing wasn't really a social norm especially in front of women and things are more relaxed now so I'm sure it's not a total myth per se but funnily enough, the people I know that swear the most is my 65 year old nanas (the Nan character that Catherine Tate does, they're a slightly milder version than that lol).

TLDR: Writing-wise, it might not be wise to pigeonhole certain character traits to age-brackets.

Okay sorry rant over lol back to writing, my characters swear only if the situation requires it. Swearing can be funny when spoken, added for emphasis in a joke or something but written down, I don't think it has the same impact. Then again, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" has to be the best line in the Harry Potter series so I wouldn't rule using it out completely!

Offline ma100

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2014, 06:41:57 PM »
No I don't generalise so much as what I listen too. My husband is the worst and he's 62. ::)

I don't pigeon hole characters, these are just observations, but I do want my characters dialogue to sound true to life, but from some I've listened too not that true to life. :o

There are two occasions where my character would be provoked to use the F word, but in the main the odd milder curses come out all through. However, one reader couldn't understand why he would turn into a foul mouth when he never used the words all through so I am confused as to when you should use the flippin' things.

Offline Inseriousity.

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2014, 07:03:40 PM »
You could put it down to 'rogue feedback' where the views of this particular person re: swearing aren't necessarily representative of general public. It'd be impossible to listen to all feedback and you got to go with your gut.

The alternative is that the occasion where you think your character would be provoked actually isn't strong enough and that's why it felt out of place for this character to be foul mouthed?

I mean this is without looking at it but to me it sounds like the former. Just because people don't swear the whole way through and I'd really advise against that anyway doesn't mean they're not allowed to swear at all!

Offline Don

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2014, 08:25:18 PM »
Forget what the general public (age notwithstanding) does. They aren't in your story. The question you have to ask is does the foul language advance the story or add a worthwhile dynamic to the scene?

If the answer is no, then it's not needed. Potty mouth may be the norm at the corner pub but it gets old in a hurry in written form. Just write your story. Vulgarities will appear where they are needed and you will recognize these places when you read aloud.

One or two vulgar phrases from a character are sufficient to tell the reader he/she isn't a prude. Your reader should be far more interested in your story.

Don -
I have a motto: when in doubt, go for the cheap laugh.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2014, 10:01:25 PM »
I'll go along with Don.  Your characters will let you know when they're angry or frustrated enough to swear.

Frances uses the F word once.  Neither of them realise it until then but she's been inadvertently 'drugged up', (there's a phrase which shows my age, and isn't used in the tale).  But it alerts John to the fact something is very wrong.

But nowhere else has she ever shown any signs of needing anything stronger than 'bloody'.

I have other characters who would swear like navvies, but I rein them in.  It doesn't particularly 'add realism'.  Some people will tell you it's okay  because modern readers won't notice it.  To which I say, if they won't notice it, why put it on the page?

Their are times when it's a temptation to use it as comic relief in the middle of a serious sequence.  For example, let's say we have a bunch of soldiers escaping from a situation and their vehicle suddenly stops.

The driver leaps out and lifts the bonnet/hood, releasing a cloud of steam/smoke..  "Oh, f***.  The f***ing f***er's f***ing f***ed to f***ing F***ery."

And the sergeant replies, as only sergeants can, "Well, you'd better unf*** it then, Lad."

Used to excess for effect.  But if it carried on any longer it would just be boring.

Gyppo


« Last Edit: October 15, 2014, 05:28:41 AM by Gyppo »
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Offline Mrs N

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2014, 03:43:58 AM »
I agree with Don and Gyppo. One well placed swear word would be more effective than the page littered with them, unless, of course, your character has teurets. Tourettes. Correct spelling, thanks to Gyppo.

Go with your gut instinct, Ma. It serves you well. ;)
« Last Edit: October 15, 2014, 05:37:51 PM by Mrs N »

Offline ma100

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2014, 03:50:57 AM »
Thanks guys. :)

Pale Writer

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2014, 09:01:55 AM »
Swearing, like anything in writing a story, has to be there for the story, whether it is for the character, movement, etc. I always like to say if it is something; for example, unusual for your character to say, the reader should know the character enough to detect that without explaining. So if they never swore before, and suddenly they yell out the F word. That word should perk the ears up of both those around the character(book people) and also the reader. The same can be said for when a bad-man shows an act of kindness - they are important moments, so they tell a lot in a short time - this has to do with having a history with the character.

I guess I'm drifting, but its Wednesday, so why not let me go :)

This all can be said for anything you wish to stand out. You need everyone to give a damn, to notice that change. It is often said that a reader should participate with your story, and you as the writer, should guide but never lead. But there is a lot of grey areas between. Times when you need to pull the reader closer, or others where you need to let their imagination be your tool. Developing as a writer lets you handle the balances better and better.

Though you need to become your characters, the tricky part is not influencing them. Bad people are called bad for a reason, some people do bad things for good reasons. You don't have to be your characters, they have to be.

I rambled too damn long :(

trust your characters, dont' use yourself as a filter for your character's character

seriously, I'm shutting up now

:P

Nice topic
 

JewelAS53

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2014, 09:48:13 AM »
When I consider buying a book from an author I haven't yet read, I scan the first few pages. If there's a lot of swearing in them, I'll move to the middle, if the same applies, I'll take another random sweep. if the 3rd check is the same, I'll put the book back on the shelf.

Keeping my buying strategy, in mind, I don't write anything that I would not read.

I guess that keeps it very simple for me.

Jo Bannister

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Re: Swearing and culture changes.
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2014, 03:48:57 AM »
Not for the first time, I'm with Gyppo here.  The problem with wall-to-wall swearing is not that it's offensive, it's that it's so boring.  You wouldn't repeat any other word ad nauseam, so why this?  Unless you've a really good reason, and even then, be sparing - if the intent is to shock, you'll lose impact with every repetition.

I'm sorry, but when people start talking about "what the character demands", it just sounds amateurish.  They are not real.  They are figments of our imagination.  They will do what we tell them, not the other way round.

As with most dilemmas writers face, the solution is usually in better, more skilful writing.  You can say someone went to lunch without describing everything on his plate.  And you can say that he had a mouth like a sewer without describing everything that came out of it.