Thursday, December 3, 2009

Can I Get a Rating Over Here?

One thing I'm noticing as I work on Miss Snitch is that there's cussing in this book. This is a change for me. A lot of my previous stuff was swear-free, or at least, our-kind-of-swearing-free. I haven't changed the age group, just the setting. Though my other stuff has been YA as well, this is contemporary .

Now, at least 98% of the teens I know cuss a bit. Maybe they don't all do it loads -- though I know people who have used a cuss word in every verb tense you can name -- but teens pretty much all curse a little bit. So it makes sense to me that there'd be some swearing in the book. There's just more than I expected.

Oddly enough, the character doing the most of it is my MC. Most of my major characters in previous work didn't swear, usually because it wasn't appropriate. But teen girls these days swear sometimes, in their heads, even if not aloud. Maybe that's why I've so much cursing now, so much internal time. It's easier to cuss loads in your head, because people don't rag on that.

I'm careful with it. I try not to do any of it gratuitously, and for the most part it's all pretty moderate. There's no use of the dreaded f-word, but a certain word beginning with B makes numerous appearances in most of its parts of speech forms (noun, verbs, some adjective, though not adverbially, thankfully).

If it came down to it, I'm probably circling a PG-13 rating, though I couldn't find any more specific guidance on the interweb, dash it all. All I know is that I still have both my f-words left before I have to be an R.

Now I'm beginning to worry that it's just a bit too much. I know I curse too much, less than some but certainly more than I'd like to. And, I think, maybe it's that the swearing has become enough of my vocabulary so that it just doesn't sound weird to me.

How do you feel about swearing in books? How much is too much?


  1. I don't mind swearing in books as long as it's used to represent a character trait or a time or a place. Whenever I feel like curse words are in a manuscript just to be cool, it gets annoying to me. I never find it offensive, just unoriginal in some cases.

  2. Davin -- Well, I certainly hope I'm not having my MC curse just to be cool. I have a feeling swearing doesn't help much in that department. But the originality of that type of language is a fair point of concern.

  3. This is a timely post. My first draft had zero curse words. As I've been rewriting, I've added some in. Nothing terrible and not too much, but I think it makes the dialogue more believable. I've had the same questions about this as you. I'd have to say that swearing in books doesn't bother me, but I don't think it should ever be gratuitous.

  4. I admit, my books have quite a bit of cussing in their dialogue, but only when the characters are in a high emotional state--and I don't tend to think about it much because it usually fits the scenes.

    When I'm reading, if every other word is a cuss word, yeah it gets majorly annoying. But if it works in the scene, then I'm okay with it.

  5. Susan -- I agree, there are times that the swearing makes the scenes more believable. I think it's the fine line to walk.

    Mireyah -- I have to agree, that if a book seems really heavy on the cussing, that can get annoying. I think it's a question of how people really talk, for me at least, because most people don't punctuate every sentence with a few swear words, so too much swearing causes a loss of credibility.