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What Do You Do With A Foul Mouthed Character?

March 11, 2022

I don’t swear. It’s not a judgement thing. It’s just a choice. I will use the word “crap” if I’m really annoyed, but that’s about as graphic as it gets. If you choose to swear? I’m cool with that. Your choice.

The problem is that I’m also a writer. Not all my characters are like me. (Because that would be a REALLY boring story.) What do you do when you don’t swear but your characters do?

Louis L’Amore, the famous Western writer solved it with inference. He used his narrator role to shield the reade, “Tex swore a blue streak at his mount. The mule, of course, continued to ignore him.”

There’s also the R2-D2 technique. The famous Star Wars droid is described as the most foul-mouthed character in cinema: every single one of his lines was bleeped out. In writing you use special characters. *&%$#!

The other option, and most obvious, is to simply have your character speak the language that you might find offensive. I call this the Mark Twain method. His brilliant work, Huckleberry Finn has often been banned for its use of the n-word. But, Twain was not a racist. Huckleberry Finn was an anti-slavery work.

The most important consideration, of course, is your reader. If you are writing middle grade novels, your language will be cleaner. Even if you are writing a novel for adults, many of the readers might object to harsh language.

It’s easy for me. I tend to write PG language. But, my *&%$# characters keep wanting to swear up a blue streak.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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