What the F^%& Does That Word Mean?
By Lauren Carr, Author of Three Days Long (Mac Faraday Mystery #9)
A few years ago, my husband and I went to see a movie that was very popular at the time. It was an action film that was full of tense scenes, high suspense, great acting, and a thrilling climax. We loved it. It wasn’t until we were leaving the theatre that we both heard a woman say to her husband, “Did you notice that there was not one swear word in that whole movie?”
She was absolutely right. We were enjoying the plot, action, and drama so much that we never noticed the absence of swear words.
Did the audience rebel upon the absence of cuss words? No.
Did people throw up their arms, stand up, and storm out of the theater demanding their money back because there were no f-bombs? Nope.
Did any of the reviews for this hit money declare it unrealistic due to the lack of profanity? I never saw any.
Contrary to what Hollywood, publishers, and others in the publishing and entertainment industry may say, there is a big audience of movie-goers and readers (my audience) who just want a great plotline minus the vulgar stuff.
When a reader is enthralled by intriguing characters, a great plotline, wonderful writing, suspense and twists that leave him or her breathless, they aren’t going to notice there aren’t any cuss words, dismembered body parts, or play by play description of sex because they’re too wrapped up in the book.
Take a book with a great plot and high suspense, fill it up with vulgar, cuss-filled dialogue, and then many readers will find themselves so distracted by the language that they can’t concentrate on the story.
To many people, curse words are like sending an email filled with caps. A great percentage people are offended by curse words. Maybe they can take a few well-chosen words if they are necessary to the scene, but if you hit them with a hell, damn, shit, crap, or f-word on every page, then they start thinking about using that book to line the kitty box.
In my second book A Reunion to Die For, I had an earthy character who did swear a lot. He was killed early on, but for the first couple chapters of that book, his dialogue was cuss filled. One reader let me know that she was quite unhappy about the inclusion of those words. However, it was necessary because that character would not speak without using those types of words.
Keeping this reader’s objection and my audience in mind, when I was writing Twelve to Murder, which included a foul-mouthed comedian named Lenny Frost, I opted not to include the actual swear words and found ways to work around them. In one scene, instead of having the using the f-word, I have Lenny mockingly say “f-word.”
Another author I know recently released a book that included a motor-cycle gang as the antagonists. Those characters would swear heavily, so she had to include it in their dialogue. But, those words were not used in dialogue between the other characters, which included her protagonists. I completely enjoyed her book and no, I did not cringe at the use of those words because she did not use them excessively and they did fit with her characters in those scenes.
However, if curse words are used purely for shock value and used excessively, then many readers will toss the book aside and cross the author off our list. A lot of readers and reviewers view casual use of swear words as a sign of low-class, lack of intelligence, and lack of self-control/discipline. “You can’t even control your mouth.”
Here’s a dose of reality about how curse words are really viewed by readers and reviewers.
Cursing adds realism. Depends on who you hang out with. I have traveled in Europe and have socialized with people from all walks of life: from the homeless to multi-millionaires. Most people do not use profanity and view those who use it as unintelligent because they aren’t smart enough or too lazy to think of more descriptive and polite words to express themselves.
Swearing adds emphasis—tells readers how tense the scene is. Good writers can show the reader how stressful the situation is without inserting profanity into their characters’ mouths.
This excuse makes me laugh. Say you’re a police officer who does not swear in his normal every day life. Suddenly, a bullet flies over his head. What is his first reaction? “Hey a bullet just flew over my head! Now I have a license to say the f-word!” If your characters don’t usually swear, they aren’t suddenly going to break into a string of profanity just because they are stressed. Curse words and swearing is not part of their normal make-up.
My target audience will expect and want curse words. Most authors don’t want to confine themselves to a small section of potential readers. Take a look at the books of hugely famous authors who are on best-sellers lists. Most of them do not use excessive swearing. They use curse words sparingly and only when absolutely needed.
When it comes to searing, authors need to remind themselves of this:
Words are important. Words have meaning.
Every word has a meaning and a value attached to it. A tightly written book does not use words that have no meaning. It will come across as lazy.
For example: When a writer uses a line like this in the narrative: “What the hell was going to happen to her?” or something to that affect. What does “the hell” mean? Think about it. We know the definition of “What, was going, happen, to, her.” What meaning and value does “the hell” have in that sentence? They are just words that drag down the potential image of the characters and takes the author down a notch in respect.
I urge new writers to look up the most common curse words in the dictionary to learn their real meanings—especially the f-word. Then, when tempted to use them casually when writing, stop to consider the meaning of that word. Take the time to ask, “How many potential readers do I risk not adding to my fan base if I use this word?”
Recently, I suggested this exercise to a young writer. He was shocked when he ended up deleting practically all of the swear words from his manuscript.
So, I offer this exercise to budding authors striving to go down in history as a literary master, and not a lazy amateurish writer: When in doubt about a cuss word, delete it. Believe me, if your book has a strong plot, characters, and everything else, your readers will never miss it.
About the Author
Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Three Days to Forever is the ninth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.
In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.
Three Days to Forever introduces Lauren Carr’s latest series
detectives, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday in the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Look for the first installment in this series in Spring 2015.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
For More Information
- Visit Lauren Carr’s website.
- Visit Lauren’s Goodreads page to find out more about her books.
- Visit Lauren’s blog.
- Contact Lauren.
About the Book
Title: Three Days to Forever
Author: Lauren Carr
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
In this latest Mac Faraday Mystery from best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr, readers will embark on a rollercoaster adventure with old friends (including the Lovers in Crime team of Prosecutor Joshua Thornton and Homicide Detective Cameron Gates), but also meet new ones as Mac Faraday’s daughter Jessica Faraday and Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy Thornton join the team in the race to get the love birds to the altar!
With three days left to the year, Deep Creek Lake is hopping with holiday vacationers and wedding guests pouring into the Spencer Inn for Mac Faraday and Archie Monday’s huge wedding ceremony which is being touted as the social event of the year.
But droopy flowers and guests who failed to RSVP are the least of Mac’s and Archie’s problems when a professional hit squad hits Spencer Manor to send the groom, Joshua Thornton, Archie’s mother, and Gnarly running for their lives.
With time running out to the big day, Mac Faraday and Spencer’s small police force have to sort through the clues to figure out not only who has been targeted for assassination, but also who is determined to stop everything … FOREVER!
“Lauren Carr’s mystery novels are indeed one of my go-tos when I’m looking for a good whodunit.” –Reviewer: Shana Benedict, ABookVacation Book Reviews.
“Lauren Carr does a good job of moving the quirky storyline along nicely with an abundance of witty dialogue. And you have no idea who the good guys are and who the bad guys are until the end." - Reviewer: Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- Three Days to Forever is available at Amazon.
- Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.