Curse Words?

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Athena
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Curse Words?

Postby Athena » Thu Dec 03, 2015 4:00 am

I don't normally curse, but there's a moment in my story where it feels like the protagonist needs to say a bad word. Something has gone horribly wrong.

Is this sort of thing frowned upon in contest entries? Should I ignore my feelings about my characters reaction to the situation?
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MattDovey
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby MattDovey » Thu Dec 03, 2015 4:55 am

General guidance is that the book should be appropriate to a high school audience, and be PG-13 rated. So you can probably get away with one or two in the heat of the moment, but a proper $%&^ing potty mouthed &$"( of a character £%*(ing and $"&%ing all over the place is likely pushing it too much.
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Randy Hulshizer
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:18 am

MattDovey wrote:General guidance is that the book should be appropriate to a high school audience, and be PG-13 rated. So you can probably get away with one or two in the heat of the moment, but a proper $%&^ing potty mouthed &$"( of a character £%*(ing and $"&%ing all over the place is likely pushing it too much.


Would I assume correctly that, although you might use the occasional 'damn' and 'hell' and the rare 'sh@t', the F word is probably verboten in all cases?
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby MattDovey » Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:53 am

Randy Hulshizer wrote:Would I assume correctly that, although you might use the occasional 'damn' and 'hell' and the rare 'sh@t', the F word is probably verboten in all cases?


Honestly--and this is nothing more than my opinion, as I can't remember if I've ever had cause to use f$%! in a WoTF entry--I suspect that, if used in a characterful and meaningful way, it won't get your entry discounted. I expect Dave knows all these words and will look past it to the story, and then--should the story get placed--would edit them out before publication if it was that much of a problem.

I had a bit of minor British pottiness in my winning story, but we're talking Harry Potter 1 levels here. The level of swearing that raises eyebrows here, because we're British and we know we'd tell our kids off, but means nothing to a US audience and so got through in the script (e.g. "bloody hell!" from Ron to a teacher. Wouldn't happen).
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disgruntledpeony
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby disgruntledpeony » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:03 am

I read in another thread that the F-bomb will get your story downgraded from winning status automatically. I'll see if I can dig it up later.
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:28 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:I read in another thread that the F-bomb will get your story downgraded from winning status automatically. I'll see if I can dig it up later.


That could be true. I remember seeing an interview with DF somewhere (I don't remember where) in which he said that he always aims to write profanity-free stories. Since he's the coordinating judge, it just seems to make sense to keep it down to an absolute minimum.
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby Ishmael » Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:29 am

There are two extremes, it seems to me. I remember my Yorkshire parents being shocked one evening when I took them to a race meeting near Glasgow and they discovered that f*****g is the only known Glaswegian adjective, used as every fifth word and having no more meaning than any other oral place-holder such as 'er' or 'um'. I doubt if US High Schools want their students to read stuff like that.

But there are circumstances where an absence of expletives would be completely unrealistic. Sailors are likely to swear in certain circumstances for example. The following would be so unrealistic as to undermine suspension of disbelief. "I say, what jolly bad luck, you fellows, the old ship seems to have struck an iceberg. Looks as though we'll all drown. Bad show, eh what?"

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Re: Curse Words?

Postby amoskalik » Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:35 am

Unless your story is set in modern day America (and even then if you are creative enough), you can usually introduce strong language that will not be censored. For instance "Frak" on Battlestar Galactica. The true meaning of this word is clear and it is as strong as its English counterpart, yet it is less likely to offend its intended audience.

In other words, use the need for your character to curse as an opportunity to be extra creative.
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby orbivillein » Thu Dec 03, 2015 1:14 pm

Obscene words and their censorable ilk are interjections: emotional utterances -- no more, no less. Think about the contest milieu: kind of sort of like the PG-13 film rating. A thought of whether to use or not use a word deemed obscene in the overall milieu is less a matter of whether or not, rather what else.

I've been around the foulest mouths. Their emotional utterances of an obscene nature soon become empty of any meaning or emphasis. Oh heck and libel, slander and calumny. On the other hand, their quirky utterances are sublime and saved for special circumstances.

What else? Instead of F-to death or even once, any word or phrase will serve if the context is set up and suited to the occasion and of an emotional interjection nature. The steam pipe fitter, a boiler maker, arguably among the more foul mouths of all time, might say, instead of F-ickle this or that, G-D that and this, and S-it to the nth, sheep loving creep or dung beast of a crap hat or backside wipe or chamber pot snipe or rat scat pooper or mother cursed misfit and so on. Colorful and off-color and a characterization feature, obscene but not obscene, poetic like, and fun to write and read.

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Re: Curse Words?

Postby JenD-F » Thu Dec 03, 2015 1:30 pm

Just a data point but my finalists story had quite a bit of cursing including the F-bomb multiple times (I submitted before I knew they aimed for PG-13). So I made it to finalist but not winner, perhaps cursing was part of the reason? I'll never know. :)
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby dstein » Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:00 pm

The first story in the latest collection has quite a few "s--ts" in it, actually in pretty close proximity. It isn't uncommon for there to be some cursing, but for the purposes of the contest keep it down, and yeah avoid anything harsher entirely. We can always save the discussion of misplaced Western priorities vis a vis profanity and violence for another arena :).
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Athena
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby Athena » Fri Dec 04, 2015 10:44 am

Oh, goodness. I was certain I had replied to this, but I think the internet ate it.

Thanks for all of your replies. I think, to be on the safe side, I will work around. It's interesting, though. In my writing group, we critiqued a chapter of a YA piece for a friend of mine. He included the a-word that is a synonym for a donkey and the d-word (not darn). Another fellow there, really took him to task for including that in a piece for a YA audience. I remember how I talked as a young adult/teen, and disagreed, but it was an interesting discussion.
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby s_c_baker » Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:10 am

I am pretty sure, for whatever it's worth, that f-bombs do not equal an auto-rejection. If your story is super fantastic amazeballs and the character just happens to say "fuck," that offending word will just be edited out before publication. (All stories are edited before they are published, but the unedited version is what's used as the basis for judging--both the per-quarter judging and for the golden pen.)

Lesser obscenities don't seem to matter much, but--in the contest as in ALL markets to be honest--use them for a reason, not for shock value. (NK Jemisin's "The Fifth Season" does this pretty well. The first f-bomb in it kind of surprised me, but it totally fit the context.)
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Athena
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby Athena » Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:25 am

s_c_baker wrote:Lesser obscenities don't seem to matter much, but--in the contest as in ALL markets to be honest--use them for a reason, not for shock value. (NK Jemisin's "The Fifth Season" does this pretty well. The first f-bomb in it kind of surprised me, but it totally fit the context.)


I found this to be the case in Lies of Locke Lamora. There was a lot of obscenity, but it worked very well for the novel. Frankly, it surprised me. I wasn't used to so many f-bombs. Somehow, though, it worked.
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Re: Curse Words?

Postby s_c_baker » Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:55 pm

Voice is a powerful normalizer. :)
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