1/18/10

Revisiting Swearing

This question was in the comments for this post:

I do have a question, though, about swearing in LDS fiction. Maybe it's because I now live in Australia where many members use the "milder" swear words, or maybe it's that I've seen some of those words in a few books I bought from or seen sold in Deseret. But I'm curious as what words (if any) would pass the LDS censor?

I'm about 85% finished with my first novel and am hoping to market it to the LDS market as well, so I'd love to figure this one out.

I can't really answer that because there is no "LDS censor"—at least, no single individual or committee or even guidelines. It will vary from publisher to publisher, and some publishers have different standards depending on the type or genre of book, or the imprint the book is published under.

I can live with the words used in the Bible (d—, h—) used judiciously and sparingly. If you have a few of those in your novel, and the publisher doesn't approve, they'll strike them out. (As I did with one of the stories in Stolen Christmas—it wasn't really a swear word, but use of the name of deity in a way I felt would offend our target reader.)

My advice is do your research and read through what your publisher of choice is currently putting out. Are there any swear words in their latest releases? If so, feel free to use those words in your book. If not, clean it up. Or follow the adage, "when in doubt, leave it out."

Personally and professionally, I like the suggestion of having your character "curse under his breath" or even something like, "she threw a string of curse words at me that would have made a sailor blush" or whatever. You get the idea.

(And to whichever Anon out there who wants me to be perfect. . . I know my example of the blushing sailor is cliché and I should come up with something really clever and unique but, y'know, I'm in a hurry and I do this for free and I'm behind on a deadline. Sorry.)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blushing sailors are cliche. But a blushing construction worker? Now there's an example for even the most hurried of LDS-Publishers. You get a pass Miss hurry. But I'm watching you. One more misguided example and you'll hear about it. Right here on your very own blog!

David J. West said...

Blushing construction workers happen-at least in Utah.

Hi said...
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Anonymous said...

One of the reasons that LDS authors have a difficult time writing believeable fiction is that they don't get irony when they read it. Tongue-in-cheek goes right over their head. They are far to literal and rarely read the message between the lines. Do you Mormons not get satire? Even just a little bit?

Nearly all of these anonymous posts have a certain flair for irony, a jaded bit of gotcha, some funny bone jabs, and a little common sense thrown in for good measure and then Miss HI comes along to defend the unattacked, to stand up for the sitting down, to say we love you to the already overly-adored.

Come on. You're not giving up on the gospel if you enjoy a snippet of irony now and then. And getting "it" will make you a better writer. I hope.

LDS_Publisher said...

What about a blushing garbage collector? high school football team? I know, I know. I should have been more creative. :)

Anonymous said...

One of the funniest, ironic, made-me-laugh-out-loud comments was actually about the topic of using profanity in writing. I'll leave out the actual swear word, even though the actual writing of the wretched curse was what made the advice so dog-gone funny, but that's what I mean when I say that too many Mormon writers on this blog are too easily offended by their own inability to read understand irony or appreciate satire.

It went something like this:

There was a time when your characters were worldly and streewise if they swore a lot. But profanity has been so overused in past years that nowadays it's just a sign of a small vocabulary. Of course, if prfanity is appropriate to your character, then have your character swear. But if you include a lot of prfanity for the sake of sophisitication or shock value, it's likely to do nothing more than turn your readers off. And think about how much power a single expletive can have it its the only one in the whole *%^$#! book.

I lauged, and I'd never use profanity in real life of my fictional writing life. It was, however, an ironic placement for a vulgarity.

So please, all you up a coming writers, develop a sense of humor, an eye for the ironic, and use it in your writing. Including the irony of profanity....though you will NEVER use it, you need to appreciate it.

LDS_Publisher said...

And although Anon did not offend me (I got the sarcasm, really, and was dishing it right back), Miss Hi can adore me all she wants! I like the view from my pedestal.

Anonymous said...

...or rather, I meant to write:

you'll never use it (a profanity) in you're writing or in your real-life, but you need to appreciate the USE OF IT.

In other words, you need to apprecaite why other writers may choose to use a profanity. They're trying to characterize their gritty, uneducated, streetwise character. If you understand that part of the use of profanity, they you'll be that much more able to characterize your own gritty, uneducated, streetwise charactere, but you'll do it without actually using any profanities or vulgarities.

So don't jump on my with any pious comments. What I mean about appreciating swearing, is that you develop an understanding of why an author out there in the non-Mormon writing world uses profanity. Its about characterization. And then you're just that much more understanding of the need to characters without, of course, any swear words.

Profanity in writing is just one manifestation of the hard job of characterizing your characters. One manifestation that you will choose not to use, but you should at least appreciate its use.

David J. West said...

I'm just glad that all the Nephite curse words I use in my novel don't offend present day Saints, but whoo boy-back in 321 A.D. I'da been censored by Bountiful Book and Desolation Industries.

Wm Morris said...

I don't know what the Teancum you're talking about Brother West.

Hi said...
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KarenG said...

Bountiful Book and Desolation Industries?? Okay, now I am ROFL David.

One of the funniest things ever in Misery by Stephen King (I just read it and it's fresh on my mind) is that his psychotic character Annie Wilkes thinks nothing of an axe murder now and then, but refuses to swear. So she things like "dirty birdie" or "cockadoodie" in place of swear words. It's pretty hilarious. Wish we could get by with that lol!

Kristine Princevalle just wrote a post "Nice isn't for Books" which is why this issue is such a problem for LDS authors. Because too nice is just as much a turnoff for readers as too vulgur.