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Cussing
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FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
Cussing  Reply with quote  

How do you balance cussing in writing?

There is having too much of the real stuff like fuck, motherfucker, shit, piss, asshole, bugger, wanker, and variations thereof etc etc, and there is having too many quirky replacements like fiddlesticks, darn, dash, etc etc.

How do you strike a balance between not being too blue and not being too quirky?
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Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:16 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Amigo



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
Posts: 2499
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Wouldn't it be in the same way you balance your characters? If you've established a "potty mouth" early on, then your readers come to expect it from that character, and it doesn't seem out of place when it happens.

In general, however, I would think it best to keep the crude vernacular to a minimum throughout.

The English language is so rich and varied that base crudity should seldom be needed.

Just my opinion, of course.

Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:36 pm   View user's profile Send private message
mllefifi



Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 8964
Location: Deleoware
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I agree with Amigo.

Besides, you need to consider whether you want your work to be chosen for reading on some subversive venue such as Radio Reader or Selected Shorts. Maybe one of the more risque broadcast audio media would work, if you're willing to allow for BLEEPS.

Just don't use words like "dag-gummit," "dag-nabbit," "tarnation," "cryminently," "golly," "geeze," "gee," "gosh," or "zounds." No one utters those phrases today, because they are simply plain gawd-awful. Razz Rolling Eyes Twisted Evil Shocked Very Happy
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Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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I think you use what seems natural. To you and the character. I'm a foul mouth. My characters can also be foul-mouths. I don't even think of some things as "bad language". For instance, I'll say "whoa, he fucked up" and not even be aware that I said a bad word. Because fucked-up doesn't seem like a bad word to me.

Like any dialect or vernacular, don't use profanity when it detracts from the effect of the material. For instance, after a couple of people read the manuscript of Lamb and came back to me saying that it bothered them when Joshua used "the F word", I went back and cut all but two instances of it. Why? It wasn't important to the story or character, but it DID distract from the story. (But I think we can agree that anything but "Blessed are the Dumbfucks" wouldn't have the same effect, so that stayed, along with Biff asking Josh if he really loved all the little children of the world, even green ones, and Josh says, "No, not green. I was just fuckin' with you." Sorry, but "just messin' with you" wouldn't have been nearly as funny. )

Now, there are always going to be some wankers who blanch at any use of profanity, and they can go fuck themselves, but you have to be aware of the effect you're trying to achieve and whether the use of off-color language helps it or hurts it. And you have to be much more careful with profanity in narrative, rather than dialogue. It better really serve a purpose if a third person narrator uses it. (First person is different. )

Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:20 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
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I guess my major worry was that if I wasn't careful, the cussing would either be too bland (all the same) or too flowery (like using all those ways of saying said just to avoid said, I would use lots of poppycock and stuff instead of fuck fuck fuckity fuck).

That's my real concern. But I think that if I just let my characters decide, it should be ok.
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Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:36 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
lisa



Joined: 10 Apr 2004
Posts: 6789
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Oh Wow. Chris!
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Post Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:25 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
zendao42



Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 13570
Location: Somewhere in a galaxy near you
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chris wrote:
Now, there are always going to be some wankers who blanch at any use of profanity, and they can go fuck themselves, but you have to be aware of the effect you're trying to achieve and whether the use of off-color language helps it or hurts it.

Agreed- the folks who sit around counting the number of swear words in a book are going to be offended when they find any, so screw them!
FattyFattyPorkFace wrote:
I guess my major worry was that if I wasn't careful, the cussing would either be too bland (all the same) or too flowery (like using all those ways of saying said just to avoid said, I would use lots of poppycock and stuff instead of fuck fuck fuckity fuck).

That's my real concern. But I think that if I just let my characters decide, it should be ok.

Gotta say that I like fuckity fuck fuck fuck-
but if you can invent your own swear words/phrases, that would be cool...

OBLIGATORY ZEN STORY:
My ex that worked in a sawmill came up with all kinds of colorful ways to curse the troublesome machinery.
The only one I can remember is "cranberry-eatin' bastard"- but you get the idea...

Post Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:20 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
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Ahhh, someone walking on MY side of the street! Smile

The language is too important to use the wrong words. If you mean mother fucker and you don't say mother fucker... that's cheating. If your character talks that way you have to let him. In an early chapter of Mr. Undesirable I let someone read a bit of it and they had a fit over the cussing. I went back and tried to take some of it out to see if the reader was right. He wasn't. There's no such thing as a bad word and I had to use the words that my character would say. Be vulgar if you have to, profane if you must, but honest at all costs.

I read Frank Peretti's book The Oath and had major problems with the dialogue in it. I enjoyed the story, and I realize that he wrote it with a Christian audience in mind, but his replacement of swearing with baby swears was distracting. A villain ordering the wholesale slaughter of an entire town probably wouldn't say, "Golly gosh darn fellas, enough of this baloney! Go down there and cut the heads off of every sonofagun in town." I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of what he wrote.

Besides, when you publish the book and it's out on Amazon it's fun to look in all the book stats and find out that you wrote fuck or a variation of it nearly 1,000 times. And having the Statistically Improbable Phrase (SIP) list having words like cock knob is just that much cooler.
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Post Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:52 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Taco Bob



Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 1201
Location: Palm Falls, Florida
 Reply with quote  

chris wrote:
I think you use what seems natural.

'Zactly! If it don't feel real, don't do it. You got a kindergarten teacher in front of a bunch of kids it ain't likely. Take that same teacher, put her on a barstool in Key West, get a few rumrunners in her, have her talking politics with some shrimpers, and there's likely gonna be cussing.
I think consistency is good too. If there's going to be some grown-up language in the book, let the reader know within the first few pages, and spread it out fairly evenly throughout the story (Boota def does this Wink ). Don't be cussless for half a book, then spring a scene where three bikers walk out of a bar and find a Toyota parked on their scooters. Shocked


Dave Barry - Tricky Business

THIS BOOK CONTAINS SOME BAD WORDS
IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE BAD WORDS
PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. THANK YOU.
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Post Fri Mar 30, 2007 10:26 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
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I just counted, I have 41 "f" bomb variations in my novel. It's 93,000 words (apprx) so does that make 4% of my novel the F word?

Seems like a lot.

(OK, clearly I did the math wrong ... 10% would be 930 words, right? so it must be .4% F bombs.)
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Post Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:00 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Taco Bob



Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 1201
Location: Palm Falls, Florida
 Reply with quote  

knikkki wrote:
I just counted, I have 41 "f" bomb variations in my novel. It's 93,000 words (apprx) so does that make 4% of my novel the F word?

Seems like a lot.

(OK, clearly I did the math wrong ... 10% would be 930 words, right? so it must be .4% F bombs.)


No. Rolling Eyes 10% of 93,000 words is 9,300. So, if you have 41 fucks in your book, then your book is clearly over 40% BAD WORDS! Shocked (almost as much as Boota, but not quite)
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Post Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:18 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
 Reply with quote  

Taco Bob wrote:
knikkki wrote:
I just counted, I have 41 "f" bomb variations in my novel. It's 93,000 words (apprx) so does that make 4% of my novel the F word?

Seems like a lot.

(OK, clearly I did the math wrong ... 10% would be 930 words, right? so it must be .4% F bombs.)


No. Rolling Eyes 10% of 93,000 words is 9,300. So, if you have 41 fucks in your book, then your book is clearly over 40% BAD WORDS! Shocked (almost as much as Boota, but not quite)


It's a good thing we are writers, because clearly we are not mathematicians.
It's about .0005% of my book. I feel better now.
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Post Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:21 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Wonko



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
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 Reply with quote  

Actually it's closer to .044%
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Post Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:41 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
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I don't worry about the math. I just flip to any page in Mr. U and say, "Goddamn! That's a lot of fuckin' cussin'." One of my favorite things ever said in a review about the book was "Carpenter swears more than a Soprano family reunion."
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Post Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:14 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Butch the Vizsla



Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 558
Location: Branford, CT
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knikkki wrote:
I just counted, I have 41 "f" bomb variations in my novel. It's 93,000 words (apprx) so does that make 4% of my novel the F word?


So, everytime we read the word "fuck" in your book, we have to wait another 2,268 words until we see it again? Harldy seems fair...unless you condensed them all into one paragraph.
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Post Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:19 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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