I've read that if it's necessary put it in. If it won't hurt the story, take it out. To me excessive would be a character using the F word, or any other profanity, in every sentence. Similar to an Eddie Murphy skit during the 80's. The same with the others.
If you feel that it will hurt your story to take it out leave it in. If it comes back because of too much whatever, try to pare it down. Also don't use made up words to replace profanity. I read a book where the main character used Frog to replace the F word, and he used it in every other sentence and thought. It slowed the pace of the read.
OK, thanks for the advice on excessive. I get it now.
Funny you should mention made up words to replace expletives.
In the TV show 'Farscape' they tend to do that a fair bit, and in a number of Sci-fi novels I've read, the all too common F-word (and a few others) wind up getting replaced.
Why do they do that? Is it because the story takes place inanother galaxy where 'our' expletives never existed, or is it just because of the fact that if they used the 'real' words the show / novel would never be made?
I think it's because if they used the real words the show/novel would never be made. Which to me makes it excessive. I personally feel that it shows a lack of creativity. I mean can't the writer come up with something else other than profanity, even if the POV character uses it in normal conversation?
Posts: 198 | Registered: Feb 2003
Think of this--if a character or an author(and this is a personal pet peeve when an author uses swearing in author voice segments--non conversations) uses one swear word in a whole story--that one word has a huge impact. Over use it and the reader will get that deep sigh feeling and maybe most likely set the book aside.
If it adds nothing to the book take it out--if is has to be leave it in.
That goes for every word you put in a story or book.
The trick is learning to see what should be and what isn't needed. Oh and I too hate the replacement words. If your story is in English then the characters are going to swear in English—it’s how it works. Unless you want to do it for comedy. It can work to say—Tom swore in German. Linda rolled her eyes, she’d heard him do that so often that he might as well have just used the English words he wasn’t fooling anyone. No swear words used but the reader gets “it”.
I think it's important to keep in mind the implications of "excessive." At Leading Edge, the student sf/f mag I volunteer for, our policy is basically "none." That's because it's a BYU (religious school) publication. I'm coming from an extreme background, but I think the principle is still good.
Our stance with language, violence, and sex is that, badly done (i.e. done for the sake of itself) any is just awful. I have found, in my writing, that less is definitely more. You don't need to get graphic most of the time--in these sorts of areas, readers' minds do most of the work anyway.
Also, we have published stories that had some questionable content, based on our standards. We contacted the authors for permission to edit it out, and most of them have said yes. If an author didn't want to do that, we simply didn't publish the work. No harm done; we just weren't right for that particular story. Don't let this sort of warning scare you--at the same time, it is annoying when people send us porn stuff, obviously oblivious to our submission guidelines.
Good editors/agents will tell you when you need to tone something down if the rest of the story is good. If you are told to tone it down, then don't be afraid to ask them what they mean if you don't get it.
I had one chapter that my agent said "tone it down"--violence--not in the form of one against another but in the form of the injuries a character endured. I had to ask just what they wanted taken out---
The road to publication is often paved with compromise. And the story is almost always better for it.
I would just like to point out that just because a character would use the spicier words doesn't mean that you have to write them, or even that you should. After all, there are certain people that do all the things portrayed in pornovids, but when you choose to portray acts like that, you've chosen to make a pornovid (unless you can figure out how to portray them without it being a pornovid). Just because your salty-mouthed character is actually a hard drinking longshoreman or whatever, that doesn't mean putting a lot of profanity in the dialogue is going to be much more acceptable than if you had a character that was a nun or something (a little more acceptable, yes, but not a lot).
If the only thing interesting about your character is how much profanity you can write into the dialogue, then that character probably doesn't belong in your story (same for sex and violence).