Tuesday, 29 April 2014

To Swear Or Not To Swear? That Is The Effing Question

Swearing is a part of everyday life. While some people may begrudge this fact it is one all the same. Our job as writers is to portray characters realistically and, as such, create an interesting and compelling story. Keeping this in mind, we have to decide on what language is appropriate to our writing and as such how expletive we should be (if we choose to be) to create the right balance.

Before we continue there are various things to consider such as the audience and genre. If you were to write a book aimed at young children, swearing would be considered completely inappropriate yet if you were writing an adult thriller it would be less of an issue.

Image from www.wikihow.com
I personally believe that including swearing for the sake of swearing does nothing but distract from the story and lessen the overall message of the story.

While the decision to include swearing or not is down to each individual writer, I do have some key points which I think it is important to consider.
  • Firstly, swearing can be used to build tension in a situation if the swearing first emerges during a heated argument or during a major event in your story or screenplay. Alternatively, the lack of swearing at a particular point can make a scene stand out and create a solemn tone.
  • Swearing can also break the tension. If you build the tension and tension higher and higher by adding a swear at the end of the scene can help to add comic relief. The shock of the swear can change the tone, allowing the reader to relax slightly and be more susceptible to the changing moods of the plot.
  • Using expletives can help to illustrate a character's personality. If the character is particularly aggressive or bad tempered they are a likely to swear a lot more than someone who is quiet and reserved.
  • It is also important to note that if you have constant swearing throughout your storyline it can make it more difficult to show sharp emotions. For example, if your sentences throughout are made up of "You ****, who do you ******* think you are?" Your audience is less likely to notice when your character is feeling a particularly strong emotion.
On the other hand, if you avoid swearing all together, especially if you are writing a plot in a particularly hostile environment, it can stand out. If you are writing a situation where a dangerous criminal is threatening someone they are less likely to say. "Don't you speak to me like that." in a polite, respectable manner. To make the setting more realistic, swearing is going to be necessary.

It's all about finding the balance. It is important to find the meeting point between making the plot realistic and yet not distracting from the story.

What's your take on it? Let me know in the comments!

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