Characterisation, Grammar and Punctuation, Planning, Style & Voice, Writing:

Getting it Right

I wrote this for the Writers Email Group and thought I’d put it here too.

I don’t swear…no, that’s not right, I rarely swear. If I do, people know I’m seriously angry…and run. Yet I know lots and lots of people, including women (and children), who swear on a daily basis (no matter what their emotional state). I work with all men, they swear…a lot. They try to control it when I’m around, but I hear much more than they think I do. In other words, I’m used to hearing swear words. And I’ll say now, that I don’t think less of a person if they do swear. It’s a part of life. A huge percentage of people swear in one form or another every, single day.

Right, what’s this got to do with “getting it right”.

I’m a reader. I read several genres. When I read horror, I expect to see some swearing because it’s part of the genre (as long as there isn’t too much), but with other genres (especially fantasy) I don’t like seeing swear words. I’ll put up with three or four times during the whole novel, but if it’s on every page or two then it annoys me. If it’s every paragraph, I’ll put the book down and will never read that author again.

Yet, swearing is a firm part of life and if a writer is “getting it right” doesn’t it mean that every sentence of dialogue will have a swear word in it? I accept it in life, but I don’t accept it in books.

I’m a writer, and it’s drummed into me to get the facts right, make it realistic. Yet, a manuscript filled with swear words will have a very narrow market. A young adult manuscript with the same number of swear words will find itselt out of the market altogether because part of the publisher’s marketing is to try and sell the book to schools. This brings them a huge revenue, so, if they think the book is not suitable for this market, this will make them look for a manuscript that does fit their requirements. Remember, it’s all about money.

This means that “getting it right” is only true when it suits the publishers and/or the critics, which leaves the writer in a bind, because it’s up to the writer to decide how much “getting it right” is the right thing to do.

Personally, although I know swearing is a normal part of our lives, I would prefer to escape from it in my reading adventures. Using those words when it’s appropriate is one thing, but I think showing your character’s anger without the use of certain words is the way a true writer gets the message across.

What do you think?

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