The Swears

There's chitchat over on Forever Young Adult this morning about swearing in Young Adult books.

The WILFAIR books have what I've called "light" swearing -- a few craps and hells and damns. But nothing harder. I made this choice for a few reasons.

1. The story is set in the "now" but it is a vaguely old-fashioned, heightened reality now. Our main character Fair Finley is a professional and a representative of her family business. So are her two guy neighbors. So. Unleashing strings of colorful expletives wouldn't work, both for the world and the main character's job.

2. The main character's friend, Sutton Von Hunt, does swear, but because she also works in a public capacity, she has been asked by her grandmother to watch her language. She finds a few ways to do so. The swears are no longer there but you can feel Sutton's hot-tempered meaning when she says she "sparkles rainbows unicorns doesn't like something." Or at least I hope you can.

3. I'm not anti-swearing and I do speak freely at home; an "ouchie!' isn't going to cut it with a stubbed toe or a surprise bill. But does my stomach squidge a tiny bit when I see people getting incredibly sweary in front of strangers in public? Yes. I guess that's pretty much my main beef with swearing. Just be aware of others.

Actually, "be aware of others" is one of my main beefs with many things. :)

4. Monty Overbove makes the point in REDWOODIAN that we've all become inured to a lot of the sweariest swears. I agree with him; what can be intended to shock often leaves the listener stifling a yawn. Maybe we all need some really juicy new bad words. Word inventors of the world, please come up with some. Make 'em zingy. Thank you.

5. None of this applies to innuendo, which I like to think of as the craftier third cousin to swearing. How I do enjoy when a character says something a bit filthy or a bit wrong but veils it in such a way that it skims the heads of those it wasn't intended for but still delivers an exciting pow to those characters who get it. Innuendo is my writing boyfriend.

Lovely readers, what do you think? Are you comfortable with the lack of swearing and/or the swear substitutes you've read in the books? Do you find them realistic to the WILFAIR world or do they seem a bit fusty and old-fashioned? I'd love to hear.

9 comments:

Erika said...

I enjoy the swear substitutes. I am a nanny so swearing is off limits to me at work and I am forced to get creative. I tend towards Spanish words, like ¡Miercoles!, which means 'Wednesday' but is satisfying to say in the place of a swear. I will admit to having adopted 'unicorn' and 'cupcake'. I will also admit that I swear more than I should when away from the child. I am trying to curb the habit.

I think that the swear substitutes add to the charm in the books. I love the old timey feel and think that harsh swearing wouldn't fit with Fair's personality. That's just how I perceive her though. I also feel like when swears are deliberately withheld it makes them have a greater impact when they are eventually used.

Wilfair Book said...

Erika -- all great food for thought. Thank you! Oh, and I love ¡Miercoles! My grandmother spoke Spanish but her curse words were a bit saltier than that. I think I might try out ¡Miercoles! and see if it is a fit.

A dance teacher of mine yells "Mother of Pearl!" a lot, which is cute. I find myself saying it.

Carly said...

While I don't mind swearing in books, I love that the Wilfair books use substitutes. I find it funnier. Anything harsher would seem out of place in the world you've created for Fair. I think you've got a good balance going.

I'm LDS and attended BYU for a year. We tend to be a conservative bunch, by and large, but that study aggravated me. I don't want to get on a soapbox, though. I just...warning labels on books?! NO! Just...no.

I love the innuendo in the Wilfair books - I love that my boyfriend, Monty, uses it so frequently and so well:)

Wilfair Book said...

Thank you, Carly! Your reply makes me think of another post I want to do. :) This is great to know and I appreciate your candor. And I'm incredibly charmed you'd call Monty your boyfriend. He so is.

bess said...

I usually use acronyms at work but not as elaborate as Sutton's. I'm a big fan of the occasinal "what the f?!" or "that's g.d. irritating." some folks I work with are more conservative so that's my get-around.

I like your substitutes, Erika, the kids must think you're magical yelling out unicorn occasionally! I've got a friend that uses "cheese and rice" instead of "Jesus Christ".

Carly, Monty would be an awesomely fun boyfriend, i think!

Wilfair Book said...

Cheese and rice, I love that response so much. (I was trying out "cheese and rice" there -- it is a keeper.)

Chiara said...

I'm sorry for the all the comments to somewhat older posts but that's what you get when you do a search for Sutton, hehe.

I absolutely don't mind swearing in books when it suits the book, its characters and the world it's set in, however I do find it annoying when you notice that the swearing is put in there trying to make it look cool. The non-swearing in the Wilfair books are definitely part of their charm and I couldn't imagine Fair's world otherwise! Heavy swearing just wouldn't fit at all.

One last thing about innuendo, that I love as well. Good innuendo is the best!

Wilfair Book said...

Chiara: Thanks for weighing in. Exactly. If swearing suits a story, that is one thing. I'm a fan of a couple of films that are riddled with hard-edged words, but those hard-edged words fit the situations. I wouldn't want those works diluted at all.

The Wilfair world? It's softer, though Sutton is pretty feisty. I don't want to dull her temperament in any way or make her compromise who she is. Nor do I want her need to say things how she sees them to be watered down.

Hooray innuendo! Lots ahead.

I'm glad you like Sutton. I mentioned in another post that I like "playing" Gomery the best when I write, but Sutton is up there, because I get to work out some general frustrations. :)

Chiara said...

I like how you kept Sutton real yet have her swearing fit the Wilfair world :)

Looking forward to all the innuendo!

Haha, I can imagine Sutton is good to work out frustrations!

 
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