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Author Topic: Profanity
Member # 2676

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All right, I am writing a story about two soldiers, and as we all know, soldiers are'nt exactly considerate when it comes to using the Lord's name.

So, here is my problem, in the story, the two shout at eachother, and are surprised in some areas. As you can imagine, it is extemely hard to write this kind of story without using the Lord's name. My parents and friends, who are strong Christians (I like to consider myself to be one, as well) usually read my writings, and each time they do, they tell me they wish i didn't have to use such words. You don't know what it was like when my grandfather--also a preacher--shook his head at me when reading the story.

I feel like i am letting them down, and even i feel a twinge of guilt each time I write down one of these spicy words.

Any suggestions?

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Member # 2034

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Try it without using His name in vain.

You would be surprised at what you can come up with if you think about it for a few minutes.

I'm doing a greek fantasy piece so it's easy for my MC or others to blasphem. "By Zeus' thunderbolts!" (ok ok lousy example, but you get my drift.

There are a few of us that reside here on Hatrack that were in the military, myself one of them.

Clean language can be hard to come by in stressful situations.

Just like on a FARP-Forward Arming Refueling Pad.

I remember my dad telling me he 'chewed out' a guy for like 10 minutes and didn't use the same curse word twice. Now that's talent!!!

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Member # 3216

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Sometimes profanity is just necessary. I mean, I'm sometimes it ruins an entire dialogue to say "Darn it!" or "crap!" I don't like saying things and try to avoid them...but at times it is necessary. Of course using the lord's name is a bit more difficult because it has an actual sacred consequence since you're a Christian. But there are ton's of ways to get around it. I used to love Brian Jacques version: "By hell's teeth" or something like that. Still gets the so called "profanity feel" but you don't have to do anything that you believe is wrong...unless of course you have a problem with hell.
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Member # 2565

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Why not just run a find and replace for when your family reads your writing? They aren't offended, but you keep the realism in the draft you'll send to publishers. (Out of curiousity, is it just the Lord's name they don't like? Because the religion-neutral curse words can go a long way if you want them to.)

Or perhaps, if it isn't too late, you could write in a character that does take offense to using the Lord's name in vain. Write what you know--it sounds like you don't like it when the Lord's name is used that way too. It'll add a little perspective that your family would appreciate, if you're keen for their approval.

But in the end, it's telling your story that's important. If writing things differently goes against the grain of that, then keep what's working!

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Member # 2415

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If it's making you feel guilty to blaspheme in your story, then don't do it. There are thousands of different ways to say something, and you have the control on how you're going to do it.

There's nothing wrong with putting in "...they cursed," or "...swore." The reader gets the idea, and frankly, you don't need to use those words to create an emotion. When I get caught up in a story and intense things happen, I don't pay attention to what's not being said, I'm paying attention to the event. But stuff like blasphemy draws attention to itself, and while this may be realistic, is it necessary?

I repeat, if you don't feel good about doing it, don't do it. Nobody'll hold it against you.

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Member # 3247

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I have the same trouble when I write. I desperately do not want to have to resort to using profanity in my writing, and thus far I've done an ok job at it. However, I still have some problems thinking up good substitutes, and sometimes I feel like I'm taking away from my characters' believability by doing so. Another problem I'm having is with a story I am currently writing. In this setting, there is a religious system very much like Catholocism (in fact, I might venture to say that in my storyline they are related) howevever with a few changes that have occurred over time. One is that God no longer resides in heaven but on Earth. Two, Earth is no longer viewed as a planet but a spiritual place (pretty much how we view heaven today). In fact, the inhabitants of my story have long since forgotten that Earth existed as anything but a heavenly realm. Third, Angels are the name given to "Sky Demons" rather than to what we see them as today. This all has historic significance in the story. The problem is, one of my main characters is highly skeptical about this religion, and this comes out very strongly as I write about him. That much I don't mind except that I too come from a very strong christian background (although protestant)and I don't want to come off as bashing my own religion. I think I'm going to keep my character as he is, but I might try to clarify more just to give myself more closure about the issue.
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Member # 3228

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If you have to use a swear, don't use the same one repeatedly. The other day I mentioned the novel "Confederates," by Thomas Keneally. A very fine work in many ways, it is made tiresome by the use of the same profanity throughout. Without me even typing it, just look at almost any page of the book and you'll probably see which one.
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Member # 3231

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I am also a christian and I know what it is like when you feel like you need to swear. So I say do it but don't use the Lords name. Instead make something else. Say for instance in your story one day when they characters are out on the field or something that is biblical like a rainbow over a flock of sheep or something. You know something that would make any church going christian think of some biblical referance without being overly religious. But in the middle of the flock could be something all the sheep are gathered around, something random like a big bunch of bananas, or a dead animal. Then for the rest of the story the characters could have been so impacted by that one event that instead of yelling out God or whatever they could say Holy Bananas. I don't know you could probably think of something creative.
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Member # 2267

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Obviously, if Storygiver believes it's morally wrong to have bad words in the story, he mustn't.

But I don't think that's what you're saying, Storygiver. There's social pressure, and there's also a feeling of guilt. I see different options:

Don't show the story to people who will be upset by it.

Have soldiers who don't curse.

Let them curse, but hide it. As in: "Sergeant says we gotta bug out," Jones said, with a curse.

Give them idiosyncratic curses that don't seem as rough. I used "freakin'" for you-know-what in one story, for one character. (I couldn't have done it for all of them, or it would have been unbelievable.)

Bite the bullet.

What other people already said.

...Good luck.

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Robert Nowall
Member # 2764

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So long as every other word isn't one of the Seven Dirty Words---even though I know plenty of people who really do talk that way---you should be all right. I always thought frequent and heavy use deprives them of any force...
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Member # 213

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I'll just drop in that young preachers and soldiers can be about the same when it comes to using harsh language.

In other words, claiming that your characters must use profane language simply because they are soldiers is unrealistic and rather offensive (at least, it offends me). If you're going to have a soldier that swears a lot, you should have at least one soldier who never swears.

As for how your family reacts to your writing, that's entirely different. If you want to write this, then do it. If you're doing it to fit the demands of a social group outside your family, then recognize that you have to make a choice as to which one you actually value.

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Member # 1343

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I agree with Survivor to a certain extent. Soldiers swearing is a stereotype, however I’ve never met enough (and I live in the Norfolk, VA area a known military town) who don’t to make this an untrue stereotype.

Do you soldiers have to swear? No. You can get away with “tagging it.”

He swore through gritted teeth.

Also, don’t forget about rationalization. You’re not blaspheming. You’re characters are. I personally don’t use G.D., but sometimes my characters “talk” to me, and tell me they would.

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Member # 3156

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The saying that best describes the situation is "war is hell."

Maybe you do not even need to mention that they swear, maybe it's implied in theyre speech. Just as you would not forcibly write a cajun accident into a persons dialogue, because its implied, maybe the same goes for soldiers?

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Member # 9240

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You can write dialog that sounds like soldiers are talking without crossing that line. However, I don't write for somebody reading over my shoulder. I put whatever word needs to go on the page, and whatever ideas need to go on the page. If my parents don't like it, they don't have to read it.
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Member # 1766

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I think that if you have to think about it, you shouldn't do it, because it is probably going to sound forced.
The reason why I say that is this. After lamenting about should "I" swear or not, you've forgotten about your character. That is the person you need to worry about regarding your story.
We all know, (including your parents most likely) that you wouldn't swear or curse. But does your character? Have you really mapped out his thought pattern to the point that you know he would or would not swear? When he gets pissed, does he let loose with the explanitives? Or does he hold back and worry what everyone will think of him? Either could work, if it is true to your character.

I agree with Survivor about having one guy that refuses to swear. It adds a level of realism to your story. Not all servicemen swear. I think that just about every war related movie I have seen, has a real "god fearing" person in it. He either gets killed, or saves the day, it's a coin toss.

Remember, this is fiction, not real life. If your parents don't get it, then they won't get it, ever. I know that mine really don't, but they don't usually want to read my stuff anyway. If it is necessary for the character and the story, do it. But I will stress that you only do it if you can do it well, and not sound forced or fake. Fake swearing really sucks.

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Member # 213

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I prefer it when he sells out his comrades through either greed or cowardice (as long as he doesn't "redeem" himself, that is).

I usually don't have sympathetic characters who use a lot of modern profanity. Part of that is because I'm naturally unsympathetic to people who use cheap vulgarities as a means of self-expression, part of it is because I don't write a lot of "contemporary" stuff. When I do have a character swear for a "good" reason, I don't like the impact to be watered down already with a lot of meaningless profanity.

What it really comes down to is that I'll never be able to compete with my ever-so-earthy father when it comes to really coarse and shocking profanity uttered with true sincerity. Really, I don't know anyone, living or dead, who could outdo him. So why try?

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Member # 2807

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My suggestion is to weigh whether or not your convictions and your image in the eyes of your loved ones, means more to you than using these words and write accordingly. I personally think you can do it without taking the Lord's name in vain--not all soldiers profane. Just my take.
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Note that I never said to use fake profanity. By using the right tone, you can make the reader get the same sense of vulgarity, then reflect back and say, gee, I guess the character didn't really curse, but it sure felt like he did.

I'm not saying it's easy to pull this off, but it certainly is possible.

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Member # 1680

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I just wrote and sold a story that I've told my parents that I'd rather they did not read. To work, the story has to have the elements that will make my folks uncomfortable. If they ask me for a copy, I'll let them have one but reiterate that they won't like it and then I'll leave the room.

Family pressure is hard, but if the story is one that you want to write then you should trust your instincts. Folks have told you plenty of ways to get around using the Lord's name in vain if you want to, if it will serve the story. Will it? You're the storyteller, and no one else can make that decision.

I will mention one other option though. Write the story with the tag [expletive] everywhere you think your soldiers would curse. Then when it's finished, ask someone who really does "curse like a sailor" to go in and fill those in with the most colorful expressions they can--without using the Lord's name. I have been very impressed by the breadth of curses available to someone who uses them on a regular basis. These are things that would never occur to me, personally, but they will have a greater chance of ringing true than sidestepping.

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Member # 3089

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I agree that tagging can be just as effective as curses and profanity. But don't be afraid to make some up also. If it's a fantasy, or a sci-fi, you have almost unlimited control over this. Robert Jordan (I know, I know) does this well with words like, "flaming", "bloody", "blood and ashes", "burn you", and so on. David Eddings uses the name of "Belar" -- one of the gods in the Belgariad -- in vain. If it's sci-fi, maybe you have a galactic emperor or something. Use his name in vain.

Or, in addition to tagging, show some of this vulgarity in action. Maybe he spits alot. Or shows some other mannerism when he doesn't like something.

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Member # 213

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Oh, some people go a lot farther than just taking the Emperor's name in vain.
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Member # 2442

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You don't have to take the LORD'S name in vain. One of my favorite examples of cursing is how Katherine Kerr handles it in her Deverry series. The characters say things like "By the black hairy ass of the devil himself..." and other colorful expressions. They don't slander the gods, because in that world of magic, to invoke the gods in blasphemy would be foolish indeed. The results would be instantaneous, and catastrophic.

Honestly, if you are uncomfortable using profanity, don't use it. You can convey the essence of what you mean in many other ways. I've always felt that heavy use of profanity is simple laziness... there are far more creative ways to swear than four letter words. Challenge yourself to find some of them.

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