Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh, !#$&**!!: Cussing in YA.

I know, EVERYONE cusses. But that doesn't mean it's okay. I'm pretty devout in my religion, and I grew up knowing cuss words were NOT acceptable. But we all slip from time to time...

My dad used to say "Saying bad words shows lack of intelligence, because people can't think of anything better to say." My mom doesn't cuss. She doesn't even do "Bible Swears." My dad doesn't really cuss, either. Not the big ones, anyway.

So, why did I turn out this way? I LOVE to cuss! Well, Bible swears, and I don't care if it shows a lack of intelligence on my part, but sometimes, situations call for a good old "SH*T" bomb. Granted, I draw the line at the F-word. I just don't say it.

Here's my dilemma. Kids these days swear. And they don't just use polite, bible swears. They drop F-bombs like they're nothing. Especially when they get emotional. That's just the way they talk.

So, I'm writing a YA urban fantasy, and my heroine has grown up with a very religious mother, who doesn't like her to cuss, but she kind of does anyway. So far, she's said "bull***" and "d***" and "b***."
And I actually cringe, when she says these words. But in staying true to the character, she HAS to say these words. I mean, when she gets sucked out of an airplane and is plummeting to her death, "OH, GOLLY DARN GEE WHIZ, I'M ABOUT TO DIE" doesn't exactly cut it, you know?

I've already told her she can't say the F-word. Because I'm the Boss. But I just don't want to cut the swears. Because it sounds...weird when she doesn't cuss. NORMAL PEOPLE CUSS. Even Stephenie Meyer cussed in her books. (Well, in her defense, I think all she had in there were Bible Swears, a.k.a "H***" and "D***.") But she recognized that in order to be plausible, her characters had to cuss--even if it was just a little. But people weren't happy with it. Because people in my church don't cuss. They just DON'T.

So, do I stay true to the character, and let her rip? Or do I stay true to my guilty conscience and censor her language??? Decisions, decisions.


  1. Well, who do you want to impress? God, or Man?

    (don't hate me I couldn't resist!)

  2. I think you need to write it the way it feels right. If she needs to say it, then let her say it. Otherwise, your character won't seem real enough. Just MO :)

  3. Stay true to the character. Otherwise, readers/agents/editors will feel it's forced and reject it.

    My dad always said that it was lazy to use a cuss word instead of another word unless the cuss word had the exact shade of meaning you want. So, yeah, I'm lazy.

    My characters cuss a lot less than I do, though.

    Especially this week. If you use Google Earth over my house, it'll be blue from the cussing, between taxes and putting those @($& Adirondack chairs together! ;)

  4. Have you considered doing something like what Tina Fey does on 30 Rock? She "swears" by saying furniture names from IKEA, you know, those crazy sounding Swedish (?) words. It could be a way of letting your character swear: have her make up her own new words.