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Currently I'm reading a horror novel written by a master. The atmosphere that he creates is claustrophobic and paranoid and fits the story perfectly. He has a wonderful storytelling ability that makes you care for and identify with the characters.

The only problem? If it wasn't for the "f-word" the book would probably be reduced 10% in length.

Now, I'm no prude, but dropping multiple f-bombs on every page you write is an exercise in bad writing and I'm taking a literary position here, not moral.

When your own work is dripping with vulgarities, three things happen:

  1. The words lose their shock value, and
  2. They then become adjectives (and very stupid ones at that)
And what's the third?

Let's actually use a vulgarity to make my point even though it's rather exaggerated:

Old Man Marsh walked into the d*mn door because some d*mn fool forgot to keep it open. "D*mn!" Old Man Marsh shouted. "Some d*mn fool forgot to open the d*mn door, d*mn his d*mn eyes!"

Now, things aren't as bad as this in the book I'm presently reading, but sadly close enough for my illustration . Reading that many expletives in one space, they lose their shock value and become actually ludicrous. And at that instance, the only point they serve is to serve as adjectives, and adjectives used to excess are bad writing.

And very badly used adjectives on top of that. Doors and eyes are not in danger of eternal perdition, though fools may or may not be.

In the above illustration, change out the word for an f-bomb.

I don't know about you, but I've never seen a door have sex.

Bottom line: Use vulgarities rarely if at all. There are still a lot of people on this planet that go throughout the day not feeling a need to use vulgar language and I submit to you they are the better communicators because they feel no need to manipulate their hearer's emotions or prove their "edginess."


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
I would point out, though, that "cursing a lot" can be a valid attribute for characterization.
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, but some people know how to use profanity for dramatic effect and some don't. If you're one of the latter, then it's better to avoid using it. Oodles of vulgarity does not make a work 'mature' or 'sophisticated' (please note I'm not accusing you of saying this, but I have seen that argument be used to defend poorly-written schlock), especially if you or your characters come off like teenagers trying to sound badass.
Feb. 28th, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)
And you really don't even need vulgarity to seem hardcore. Check out the Sword of Truth series to see what I mean.
Feb. 25th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
Personaly, I completely agree. Just as in movies, I've seen many, many movies that the whole storyline and even the characters' personalities could have easily been presented without the vulgarities. Again, personaly, that's one of the things that honestly bugs me to no end ... all the language in books and movies now days. Used to be the points that these words are now defended in using were easily and, I'd have to say, much more eloquently established while leaving the "details" to the reader's imagination. A "good" writer can do this. And in so, allows himself to reach a much broader audience ... when I see/hear vulgarities used over and over again in any work, it distracts me from enjoying the true piece of art. The vulgarness rides in the back of my mind throughout the piece. And the whole work just becomes "another one of those cheap pieces to fill the air" instead of my being able to truly sit, enjoy and appreciate the artistic talent. In truth, I more often that not will end up putting the book down (or turning the movie or program off) and leaving it very earlier on.
Feb. 26th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
Sounds like the guy learned to write in Internet chat rooms. (Or watched Deadwood and fanboyed on the wrong part of the dialogue.)

Back in the days of Usenet, I had a standard comeback:

"There are 50,000 words in English besides "(F)" and "You". You might want to expand your vocabulary."
Feb. 26th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
It's everywhere now, sad to say. :(

imnsho crude speech or blasphemy is a marker of either depravity, or talking-without-thinking, or an absence of self-control.
Feb. 26th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. But a brief perusal of many recent adult book titles reveals another problem: random sordid sex scenes. While perhaps not quite as prevalent as foul language, this too represents needless padding in my mind.
Mar. 5th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, I find it numbs my brain to read a book or watch a movie with excessive foul language. My parents, both of whom cuss like the proverbial sailor, even have objections to it.

After watching Good Will Hunting with my dad once, he turned to my mom, who had just walked in and asked her if she had ever seen "Good F***ing Will F***ing Hunting."

He made a good point.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )