Cuss Words in Fiction: Yes or No?

This is an interesting debate I would love to have with anyone willing to post. I think yes. When used appropriate to the character and situation. If the characters using them a lot, great, flow them through the story. If not at all, spice it up when outbursts are needed. Cuss words are language just like anything other and shouldn’t be vilified. They’re perfectly appropriate, and I think anyone who feels like they’re distracting in fiction (as long as the characters aren’t using sentences like: “Fuck! This fucking fucker’s fucked!”) then it’s all good.

Feelings? Opinions? Comments?


4 thoughts on “Cuss Words in Fiction: Yes or No?

  1. I agree that cuss words can be very useful. It seems to me that in adult fiction it would seem a little strange in certain contexts if no one ever even said damn. It’s a natural flow in our vernacular. It’s also a great expletive with many uses.

    I think it’s similar to the way Zora Neal Hurston uses phonetic spellings in the speech of her characters to portray the illiteracy, poverty, and social status of her characters. That was the way they spoke and she uses it to really place them within that time period, to give it a natural sort of realism that it might lack otherwise. It’s the same thing with cuss words in my opinion. To write a southern character saying “Y’all a bunch of goddamn stubborn bastards. And this shit stops here, ya hear me?” gives it a realism. There is a good chance someone would say that. And when there is realism and relatability within a story it connects with readers and they enjoy it more.

    It also allows the writer a greater freedom of expression. There is such a plethora of connotations to writing “Ho-ly Shit!” that would not be nearly as well captured by saying ‘ “Wow,” he said slowly, disbelieving, agitated.’ Just in writing that I have already lost that tiny bit of excitability that comes with the first phrase. I have also lost the chance for awe that is part of the connotation possibilities. And the first phrase also gives a character the sense of a certain background, culture, socioeconomic status that is just not there in the bland second choice.

    I agree that too many cuss words just makes things vulgar and boring. There or certain points in certain stories where for effect it can be used, but not continually.

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    1. I agree. I think cuss words, when used appropriately for the character, are useful and not at all distracting. I think normal people use various ones both for extreme exclamations and casual vernacular. But some people, a very small percentage, find casual cussing in fiction distracting.

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      1. I saw on DA that someone left you a review that had no issue with violent sex or gore and yet did for cuss words. That surprises me. It makes me wonder if the ‘desensitization’ that people talk about hasn’t started to become specified and abstract. Just what ARE people ignoring as par for the course now-a-days?

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      2. Your guess is as good as mine. Frankly, the review from the IndieReader doesn’t really bother me because the three main issues she had that ended up giving me 3/5 was editing issues (you know what I’m talking about, I ended up emailing the editor with a new file just two weeks after the bad one but it was too late. The reviewer had jumped on the book to review. Which is good the editor said because it had gotten her attention right off. LOL) The other two issues she had were the overuse of cussing by the military, WTF? and the petty, teen-like behavior of the humans scientists? Huh? Apparently scientists would never act petty or juvenile because they’re smarter than that and just know better. *snort* So it’s really only her opinion rather than concrit of the story, and a poorly formed opinion/assumption IMO.

        http://indiereader.com/2012/12/dreams-of-the-queen/

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