People use foul language every day without a second thought but in mainstream modern crime fiction there is often very little bad language and what there is tends to be there to create effect. A character who uses “Oh no”, “Oh dear” or other such tame expressions can convey the increased seriousness of a situation by saying “Oh fuck”.
But as a counter balance it has to be inkeeping with the character and their personality.
Expletives have their place in literature as they have their place in everyday dialogue. Soldiers, emergency forces and certain professions are rife with foul language and a true depiction of characters in this environment would have to include the sweary bits.
I have in the past criticised an author for his heavy dialogue and had to tone my own down. This is not because I am a shrinking violet. Quite the opposite in fact, I can swear with the best of them. (Especially once beer has been sampled)
However when writing as with life there are time we all choose to swear or not swear.
Hit your thumb with a hammer, stubbed your toe or caught your beloved in the wrong bed? Fine swear all you want.Lunch with the in-laws, job interviews and first dates are times when you wouldn’t choose to swear in real life so characters shouldn’t swear, unless you are making a fool of them. Or arse of them perhaps?
I try to find the balance in my writing as to where profanity is relevant, character driven and is not there purely for shock value.
One area I do like to use great big sweary words is when I have a lengthy piece of dialogue and I want to use the minimum amount of dialogue tags. Having a curser and a polite character gives a great voice to each character and defines their speech patterns to create their identity. Hell you can even have the characters ask the question “Do you have to swear so much?” to spice things up.
One thing I do draw the line at though is the use of the C word although I have noticed it is becoming increasingly used both in crime fiction and TV shows.
Having read many mainstream and successful authors one thing I have noticed is that very few of the really big sellers litter their books with Fucks, Bastards or Bloody’s.
Please feel free to comment on your own boundaries and thoughts on the topic of swearing in books.
In other news I have a story in the forthcoming anthology Off the Record 2. All monies go to charity so grab a copy when it comes out later this week.
I am honoured to have my story included in this anthology for both altruistic and selfish reasons. Altruistic because all the monies raised go the charity.
Selfish because of the fantastic lineup of my peers.