I recently read a novel, a thriller co-authored by a retired army colonel who apparently thought it necessary for reality’s sake to sprinkle the book with swear words—to the point that when the heroine visits her brothers, they are taken aback by her foul mouth.
My hero in Chasing the Music, The Three Sixes and the upcoming Jeremiah’s Jar is black-ops veteran Max Braxton and, guess what? He hasn’t sworn in three whole books.
Others around him have “cursed,” they’ve “sworn,” they’ve “spewed words that would shame a sailor.” They’ve said lots of words without actually saying those things.
What disturbs me, what makes me question why on earth an author, or screenwriter, or journalist makes the decision to use shocking language and when they’ know the words will offend and turn off a segment of their potential readers or audience.
Many people I know simply turn off the TV set when actors curse. I’m sure they leave a book unread when characters swear. I’ve been disappointed in doing so myself and missing out on reading several books to which I’ve looked forward. I’ve repented for continuing to read the colonel’s aforementioned novel.
Writers may think dropping F-bombs, G-bombs, J-bombs and assorted other missiles are necessary because some people in real life are foul-mouthed creatures.
My take? They’re lazy writers.
There are options to get around taking the Lord’s name in vain or denigrating a character.
One of my favorite comments from Max is his description of the Dean of Students at Yale University in The Three Sixes. Max calls him a supercilious popinjay. Supercilioius: full of contempt and arrogance. Popinjay: a vain and conceited person.
No need for a writer to pen curse words. Rather:
He swore under his breath and flicked on the safety. He was going to get paid with or without the hit, but his baby wanted to be fired. More importantly, he wanted this hit. How many could claim to have taken out the leader of the free world?
Or something like this:
The imam used a word Max didn’t know but it was uttered like a curse. “How did it happen?”
Do you have any ideas to avoid using the swear words?