Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to Insult Your Readers

Okay, I'll confess right now. I'm a devote Christian. I write in Christian fiction genres. I read non-Christian genres with no problem. Not Horror or witches and stuff like that. More personal preference than anything else. I'm not even opposed to swear words in the stories if it's not gratuitous and advances the story. People talk that way.

There are a few things I notice that do bother me which I think authors should take into consideration when they choose to use curse words in their writing.

1. Just because it's common in spoken language doesn't mean it's necessary to use it in your writing.
  •  It being common in your circle of acquaintances doesn't mean it's common in that of your readers. 
2. Make sure it truly adds to the character development rather than just adding it because you can.
  • There are people who use a swear word for just about every other word they speak. It doesn't demonstrate their intelligence, but rather the inability to get their point across. Be aware of this. Rather than throwing swear words everywhere, spoken by everyone, be sure to demonstrate the need for their use. They will make much more effective.
3.  The situation or circumstance when they are used needs to warrant the use of swear words.
  • Judicious use of a swear word will increase tension where you need it or give relief or release of it if they are not poured out on every page in every bit of dialog. 
  • Over use gives them much less impact.
4. The use of Jesus, Jesus Christ, God, etc. as swear words is inconsiderate of your readers who love and worship Him.
  • I assume you want as many readers as possible to buy and enjoy your books so they will buy more of your work in the future. Being inconsiderate to your readers by using the name of someone they love dearly can and does alienate Christian readers. Think of it this way. Think of someone you love deeply; a spouse, child, grandchild, etc. Now substitute that person's name for the use of Jesus, Jesus Christ, God where it is used as a curse word in your novels or novels that you read. Is this something that you like or want to read?
  • Ask yourself, why didn't you use us Allah or Buddha as the swear word? 
Frequent use of swear words isn't tight writing and does nothing to enhance your characters or develop the story. What does it truly add to your characters or plot? Does it draw readers to your work or away?

Is having your characters show their lack of communication skills as well as the inconsideration for readers who may be turned off by the use of swearing and their Lord's name being used as a curse word worth turning away readers? If it is, fine. Go for it. Just remember you've turned off many possible sales.
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  1. Excellent post, Sophie! I've often felt that using swear words in writing does nothing to enhance a story and for me, I will put the book down and not read it if there is language that offends me. Thanks again for a thought provoking post.

  2. Well stated, Sophie. And I could not agree more. The same goes for movies, and it is so obvious when the swear words are unnecessary to the character or plot. One instance when it was understandable to use a foul word was in "The King's Speech" when the protagonist was trying to overcome his stutter. It was a somewhat laughable moment and it "fit." Most of the time it is not necessary and keeps me from ever recommending a book or movie.