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OK, before I even get started, I’m sorry Mom.

This post is inspired by two fantastic posts and an even better discussion on literary agent Mary Kole’s blog (here and here).  On the blog, Mary made the argument that, like all other words in a manuscript, swearing is a choice.  If it fits the character and the situation, she won’t bat an eye at a few four-letter choices.

The flip side of this argument was the teachers/librarians/parents who are trying to protect the children they care for.  They argued that every time a swear word is chosen, there is another word, just as appropriate, that could have been used.  Children should be filling their heads with good, constructive stories, which necessarily does not include swearing.

I understand both sides of this argument. Honestly, I do.  I happen to fall on the pro-swearing side of this argument.  In my last manuscript, my main character was a tough little thing whose parents kept her on a short leash.  The only defiance that she could indulge in was bad language.  She didn’t drip the F-bomb but a very frustrated adult character did.

I stand by this choice.  I think that self-censorship is really distracting in a book or on television.  When a writer makes up a swear word, I think it puts the emphasis on the word, rather than the situation. (I’m looking at you, Battlestar Galactica.  Neither Frack nor Frak are real swears, no matter how much feeling you put behind it.)  Only slightly better is when the characters swear in another language.  In Firefly (also television) Joss Whedon made the decision to have the characters swear in Chinese.  I understand that these are television shows and subject to different standards.  However, even in the HOUSE OF NIGHT series, the main character makes a little speech about how much she dislikes swearing, limiting her four-letter vocabulary to “hell”.  This, from a book where the sexual overtones are so blatant, even I gave up the series after book three!

The only option that remains is to create characters that would not swear.  My main character in my next book is one such character.  Don’t breathe easy, though.  Her friend is a malcontent with a number of “colorful metaphors” in her repertoire.  I just can’t seem to leave it out.  When I was a teen, I swore (Sorry again Mom).  Almost all of my friends did too.  The ones that didn’t were hardly shocked at our language.

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I never realized that there was a whole segment of the population who might not let their kids read my book (should it ever get published) based on the language alone. It makes me question each swear word I use now.  My target audience is the fifteen years up crowd.  Kids of that age (and their parents) should be able to handle a little adult language, right?

So, I’ll pass this one on to you.  What do you think?  Would you allow your child to read a book with a moderate amount of swearing?  Is it harder for you to swallow than a moderate amount of sex or a moderate amount of violence?  What if you’re a writer?  Do you avoid swearing in our books because of potential audience objection?

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