Writing, page 3: F@$* that s#+%!


Welcome (wherein I introduce the post’s theme)

To another exciting installment. I’m really rockin’ the creative opinions. Today’s theme is cursing; how much is too much in a work (novel, short story, etcetera) and whether you should use it at all. I’ll be honest, I curse a bit, both on the page and in real life. The real life bit, I’m trying to control. On the page, though, I tend to let the four-letter flag fly.

Real world experience (wherein I confess to having done the thing I am writing about)

I already confessed, but I’ll elaborate. The other day, whilst working on the first chapter of the new second book, I sat back in my desk chair and stared at the screen. I’d just typed f***, and I thought it looked a bit familiar. As in, I’d already used it once or twice on that page. I counted. Turns out, nine times. On one page. The thing was, that page wasn’t even full. It was like three paragraphs long. Using my limited math skills, that worked out to three f***s per paragraph. That seemed a bit much. I took all but two out. I was working on a rather violent scene, and things were a bit heated in the fictional alley in the fictional Texas city of Mitchum Bay.

The f***s, at the time, seemed appropriate, and the work was going so damned good I didn’t bother to pause and go back over what I’d written. Next time, I won’t listen to Rev Theory’s “Hell Yeah”. Listen to that song and tell me you don’t feel like punching something. I once made the mistake of playing that song in my car. I had the stereo cranked so loud the side mirrors were vibrating.

Back to it (wherein I go back to the post’s theme)

I read a lot of Stephen King in my formative years. He was the first author I could remember reading that used curse words. When I started writing, I wanted to use the same curse words, but I was afraid my stories would be seen by my parents or teachers, so I held back. Once I got out on my own, once there was no one looking over my shoulder, I let ‘er rip.

I’ll admit, I overuse them at times. But that’s what rewrites are for.

Do I think they’re necessary? Well, no. Neither are adverbs. Wretched little things.

I can think of one novelist right off the bat who doesn’t curse (or if he does, it’s extremely limited) in his books: Brad Metzler. I’ve read a couple of his books, and I liked them . . . sort of. His plots were great, but I couldn’t really get into them that much, and it had to do with the language. Or lack of. Sorry, but if I’m being shot at, I’m not going to say, “Darn, this is awful.”

Actually, I don’t think I’d be saying much.

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