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Profanity in books : Swingers Discussion 223270
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TOPIC: Profanity in books
Created by: Robert_Hil
Original Starting post for this thread:
I am editing my third book and for my own amusement I decided to open the word search and type a number if profain words into the search bar. I understand that some people dont like to read profanity and to be honest, it like TandA only cheapens the story.

So out of what I have written so far, I found that I use the words bastard, shit, damn (different spellings), bitch and fuck 34 times. (2, 9, 15, 3, 5 = 34) in the 54,000 words of the book that i've written so far.

Is this excessive? I don't think so, but I figured that I migh as well ask others who might see the trees through the forest. After all, I have been standing inside the forest for a long while now.

The book takes place at the ending of a three year siege (losing side) for a useless planet (part of a larger objective) the moral of the troops is low, supplies are lower and their cut off from support, without any understanding as to why the enemy allows them to live and cause problems for the enemy occupying the planet. (the humans can't disrupt the enemy on any large scale at this point)

I have found that my lead character uses bitch three times (only times the word appears in the book so far) this character only uses it in relation to one specific person (who caused this character emmense pain and suffering in her early childhood.) I would think the use if bitch in this case is character development and not shock value.

Shit and damn (all spellings which apply for damn) make up the bulk of the profanity spoken in the book and almost all of it is said by enlisted personal who are between E1 and E3 pay grades. (private 1, 2 and private first class.) To me this sounds about right for young, mostly uneducated persons.

A Sargent will use the word bastards in reference to the possibility that his lieutenant (who is wounded, but will return in a day or so) might lose her command and the platoon (now half strength) might be broken up. (this sergeant had just lost 8 of his 15 man squadron, they survived two prior reassignments together.)

The second reference to bastard is used by an admiral (explaining what the armies part has been in the grander plan) in a low level briefing in which the platoon lieutenants are given their individual objectives for what everyone thinks is their final stand. The admiral explains how the enemy (the bastards) still do not know that their running into a trap which has been carefully laid out and that they only need to hold a little longer for reinforcements to take the planets orbitals (orbit over the planet) again.

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Profanity for the sake of profanity cheapens things.

Knowing when to use profanity for effect is a very fucking useful skill.

Chesapeake VA
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I'm curious why any writer would say profanity or sex "only cheapens the story". I would think most writers would understand that it entirely depends upon the story. A character-based story about life should include all aspects of life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Why should that mean any reduction in reality of life?

I get not including sex or profanity just for the sake of itself, but sometimes it makes sense to the plot or character development to include such details.

(I will say Stephen King included a lot of both for no apparent reason, which is why I stopped reading his work.)

Robert_Hill, I'd recommend you look into things like writer's groups (even online ones) and start posting bits and pieces to get feedback. I used to post in several fiction writer's forums and still do on very rare occasions and the things I learned over the years have improved my writing tremendously... at least my fiction. :)

Or find a couple people you trust (even here) who you'd like advice from regarding how something reads and ask them. Even if they aren't professional editors people can give you a fair amount of insight into whether or not the book "flows" properly.

I wholeheartedly agree with the reading out loud. It's a remarkably effective exercise.

As far as "fuck" (or any other profanity) being out of place in a sci-fi story, I disagree. Again, it depends upon the story--any story with soldiers (even space soldiers) it's completely within context and won't stand out as "wrong". Reading some Heinlein (who didn't use a lot of profanity, from my recollection, but did include a lot of sex) might show just how "real" sci-fi can be. The human condition is the human condition, after all- it doesn't change in space.

Also, if you make your aliens "too alien" people can't relate to them (unless you treat them strictly as the antagonist) and you lose readers again.

Herndon VA
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Writing a book is not an easy task to undertake and this is not just the grammar issues one finds in the book. The process is quite involved and if the connection between what you want it to be and what it turns out to be is not the there, it will not be picked up for publishing nor purchased by the readers.

On a more personal note, many writers view their work similar to their children. They want what is best for them and may or may not be able to see them objectively. They need help to ensure they develop properly.

Writers are also very insecure about their work even if they think it is a great piece. Anyone who presents anything to the others with the possibility of rejection has fears, real live fears.

I have nothing against profanity in books as long as it make sense. If you use profanity too much and not in the context of the characters and story line, the story makes no sense. The reader disengages from the story and puts the book down or reads a review and never purchases a book.

Whether one thinks the world of Robert or dislikes him greatly, him asking what he has makes a lot of sense and many writers seek advice from potential readers. It is part of the story development. It is a part of editing. It is a part of the business of writing, publishing, and marketing books.

Just saying,

Sophia

Hendersonville NC
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Who fucking cares what kind of shit, crap, or boobs, tits, cunt, ass words that some asshole writes in a fucking book?

Couldn't resist...

Sanford NC
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Robert, if one of your major characters is a sergeant, please spell that one correctly. I'm also a freelance copy-editor and like to do it the old-fashioned way, by printing it out hard copy and going over it with my little red pen (not to be confused with Carrie's little "friend."). I take notes, make comments, do corrections, suggest alternate tense usage or sentence structure, and ask questions for clarity in writing. (things such as, "would your character really say this?") It's something that I find fun and easy, and I'm quick at it, so it rarely feels like a "job." Only the most tedious sci-fi compels me to read things twice, otherwise I skate right through.

As for the profanity usage, try reading your pages out loud. I suggest this all the time. If it sounds unnatural or forced to you, it most certainly will to your reader.

Gina

San Antonio TX
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"In bed"

Operative word!

Allenhurst NJ
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FWIW- I had no one in mind when I posted that.

Robert did say the moral of the troops was low, I figured cunt is a word used by people of low moral standards. You know, like people here. :-D

Please, note the LMAO face...

Brooklyn Park MN
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Yup but a LOL or smiling face might let us know your were teasing her friendly like lol

Out of context is sounded mean.

Mrs Sav

Anniston AL
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Guess you guys missed the post Sed made about liking it when you call her a cunt in bed.

T

Danville PA
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Politico and grudges are in the other fora please. Not trying to be a fora cop or anything, but would love to keep garbage in the dump, money in the bank and helpful edit advice right here.

please?

Blythe GA
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TOPIC: Profanity in books