There, I said it.
But should I say it? That’s the question on my mind today. At what point does cursing go from being part of a story to unnecessary vulgarity?
My generation has become saturated in cursing everywhere we go. We hear it in everyday life; our peers are always yelling things like “holy shit!” or “douche bag”. Television, movies, and video games have all come to include one form of obscenity or another. I dare you to find a movie (not Disney or its affiliates) that doesn’t at least say “damn” or “shit” at some point. Plenty of people and organizations complain about this, pushing for more censorship. So far, books do not seem to have anyone lobbying to put a rating on the cover, or at least not to my knowledge. Thank fucking god!
I’m not so sure that cursing should be written out of everything. One group of writers I have had this discussion with have repeatedly wanted to censure all of the writing we have come across. When reading a piece out loud, they will replace the word “fuck” with just an “f”, and then the review of the piece almost always includes commentary encouraging removal of such language.
I wonder how much of that advice actually has to do with the content, and how much has to do with the need for pleasantness. Not that I blame them, that’s how most of our society behaves. Most interesting stories contain at least one element that isn’t pleasant. That’s kind of what makes a story worth reading. Can you imagine reading a story that had no conflict?
It was a sunny Tuesday morning. The mailman was delivering the mail. He walked up and handed it to me, Said “good morning”, then got in his delivery truck and drove away.
I realize conflict and cursing are not the same thing, but conflict in the real world does include cursing. At least, it does in my world. Try stubbing your toe and not yelling, “son of a bitch!” -Okay, don’t try that. It will hurt. But you see my point, right?
One could argue that a strong writer doesn’t have to use those words to write a good story.
Agreed. But here is a counter to that argument: Aren’t words the tools that writers use to tell a story, make a point, or give a message? So what if I want to tell you that a character is bad? It is very likely that the dialogue from that character will be riddled with hatred, cruelty, and yes, cursing. What If my character is extremely angry or frustrated? Again, cursing. As a writer, it is my job to evoke thought and emotion from you, the reader. “Bad” language is just one of the many tools that I can use to do that, and I don’t think any writer should sacrifice one very useful tool because someone’s delicate sensibilities will be offended.
It all boils down to who you want to read, and/or like, your work. If it is important that everyone in the world reacts positively to your work, the censor away. If you want to say exactly what you mean to say, censors be damned, then you might lose a few readers.