How should you use profanity in books? Does it put you off as a reader?
You see – to me, it really depends on the type of book that you’re writing, or reading. If the book is a high impact thriller and the emotional tension in the book calls for it – then I say yes. Drop in some colourful language. Why not? If it’s used effectively, or to reinforce characteristics, then I really don’t see what the problem is. People swear – and to help make our characters more believable in the situations that they face – then I think swearing is okay.
If the swearing is completely misplaced and out of character or really not for the audience you’re aiming your book at – just don’t do it. I find that as a reader and as a writer, if I’m reading something, and cussing is out of place with the character, then it makes me want to stop reading the book. I think to myself that the writer really isn’t understanding their character, or that their writer’s toolbox is lacking a little.
As a human, I probably drop the F-bomb a fair bit. In saying that, rightly placed profanity can be terribly effective. I believe that is so for books too.
The Wall Street Journal did an interesting article about using colourful language in the professional world. I can tell you – I have worked with some people where it was perfectly natural to swear your head off in the work place. It was a highly stressful and political arena that we were working in, and rightly placed swearing was very common place.
The Journal article stated: “Deployed at the right moment and in the right setting, a well-chosen curse word can motivate a team, dissolve tension or win over an audience.”
It would be really interesting to get everyone else’s take on this… does well-placed swearing put you off reading a book? Or does it just it just solidify the character more?