Welcome to this week’s blog hop. Today the topic is:
How do you feel about the use of profanity, either in your stories or in what you read?
As my blog description says, I’m a realist. Therefore in some of my books there is going to be profanity if the story warrants it. Personally I’d rather not use profanity, and this takes me all the way back to my childhood. Mum always told me that if people swore then they had a limited vocabulary, but if my father ever heard me using bad language I’d get a smack for being rude. Over a short time I learned it was best not to use swear words at all, although as an adult I do now if I’m on my own and something goes dreadfully wrong! I hardly ever heard my parents swear, but no doubt they did when I wasn’t around. They must have done, because Bombhead the budgie had an embarrassing knack of quoting Dad’s curses verbatim in polite company.
Sam and I never swore in front of our boys. When Leon, then aged 5 (and at his most defiant) came home from school cursing like a sailor afflicted with chronic Tourettes, I gave him a warning that I’d wash his mouth out with washing up liquid if the swearing did not stop. Leon, bless him, carried on effing and blinding in order to push me to the edge and to see what I’d do. I gave him another warning. No good. Another warning had no effect either. He was getting the better of me, and he knew it. Something had to be done.
With a heavy heart I stood him on a stool so that he reached the sink, gave his mouth one squirt of washing up liquid, and told him that I was washing all the dirty words out so that only clean ones could be heard. It worked, but Leon being Leon always had to learn the hard way. After he found to his dismay that he could blow bubbles out of his nose and that his dinner tasted like soap, he never swore again in the house. However, once he started his apprenticeship I think he picked up a veritable lexicon of profanity but he never opened the dictionary at home and never has to this day. Marcus watched his brother and learned very quickly what not to do.
I don’t like reading too much profanity either, and tend to abandon a story if there’s too much swearing for swearing’s sake. I like to read a bit of dry wit rather than a long string of obscenities. The odd curse is fine, just not too much of it in my opinion.
For an example of using profanity where it feels right, in my latest manuscript, Falling, one of my characters, James, is in prison, and his visitor, Olivia, is in a wheelchair. Here’s a little bit of dialogue that proves my point. James starts the conversation off:
“D’you want some tea? There’s a machine over by the far wall. I’ll get one for you if you like.”
“Thanks, but I can get it myself if you move stuff.”
“You’re bloody independent, aren’t you?”
“Well, James, it’s like this… I may be in a wheelchair, but it’s not going to stop me doing things. I decided I could either give in and sit in my bedroom all day, or get out into the world again and see what it has to offer.”
“The room’s full of visitors though. Shall I punch them out of the way then? Let me get the tea, for fuck’s sake.”
Olivia looked over her shoulder and searched in vain for a clear path.
“All right. You don’t have to swear though. Just chill.”
“It’s what living with eight hundred blokes does to you.” James stood up. “I am chilled, so don’t patronise me or I’ll pour the fu… tea over your head.”
As she watched his retreating back she bit back laughter. She had not enjoyed herself so much for ages.
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Apart from a scheduled Friday Spotlight, I think this might just be the last blog until the middle of next week. We’re off to the Isle of Wight Festival, and there’ll be too much going on to sit at the computer in the van. So… see you all soon. x