Tuesday, July 10, 2012
To Swear or Not to Swear
By Jill Williamson
I’m not a fan of swearing in novels, even if it’s realistic. Why? First because it can be cliché. And second, because it’s unnecessary and it alienates a whole host of readers and publishers. A good writer can do so much better, in my opinion. And less is always more. So if you are going to use a curse word, save it for the perfect time when it will have the biggest impact. If you use them on every page, you’ll just turn people off.
That said, I still don’t use them. My preference. But my characters still curse every now and then. Fantasy is fabulous for this because you can create your own swear words or expressions, which helps make your storyworld more realistic. Here are some of mine from my medieval fantasy Blood of Kings trilogy.
For pretty much any swear word, my main character often yelled or muttered, “Pig snout!” No other characters used, “Pig snout!” That was strictly Achan’s catch phrase.
One of my knights who was from a desert land used the curse, “Fire and ash!” when he was angry.
Common phrase: “For goodness’ sake!” (or God or Christ) My phrase: “For Lightness’ sake!” (My land is half cursed in Darkness.) Or “For Cetheria’s hand!” (Cetheria is the goddess of protection.) And some of the knights used the phrase “Eben’s breath!” in the same way or as a general curse. (An Eben is an ugly giant.)
Common phrase: “I’ll be dam*ed.” My phrase: “I’ll be stormed” or “I’ll be ransomed.” (In my storyworld “storming” is to be lost in a telepathic battle, and “ransomed” is to be saved by God.
For a “Thank goodness!” or “Thank God!” my female lead character used, “Joyful heart!” “Merciful heart!” or “Mercy!” Then men used "Thank Arman!" (Arman is the father god in my books.)
Some other phrases I used:
“I don’t give a pig’s eye about…”
“What in flames?”
In my current work in progress, a contemporary story, I have a teen guy who gets in trouble for swearing, so he’s trying to quit. Someone gives him the tip of making up his own swear words. So he starts using “Figs and jam!” and “Mother puss bucket!” Not sure if my publisher will let me get away with that or not… LOL (This just in: My husband tells me that I got "Mother puss bucket" from Ghostbusters. The subconscious is deep, my friends. Who knew?)
Here are some other curse words that you might recognize from books, TV, or movies. Can you guess the references? Click here for the answers.
sweet mother of Artemis
son of a hamster
oh, my prophetic soul
And how about you? Ever make up your own oaths for your novels?