Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh frak!

I fall in love with alternate swear words on tv. I freely admit to using Frak, Frell, Dren, and even the more obscure Felgercarb in conversation as if they are socially acceptable substitues for the real things. If I'm out with friends, I'll likely use the real thing. Unless I'm conversation with fellow geeky friends -- then those other words seem to come up as if they are some special code only the cool, geeky people know. That may seem like an oxymoron, I know.

Stubbing my toe often brings forth a string of, 'frak frelling frak!' Somedays my writing resembles a big pile of dren. Forgetting to record a tv show might result in a muttered 'oh felgercarb.'

I get that on tv, we get alternate words because it allows the characters to swear and keeps the censors happy.

In stories, this sort of thing bugs me. Sometimes.

In sci-fi stories, I'd much rather have characters actually swear in familiar terms. Sure, in the future I'm sure we'll come up with new obsenities, but I can relate to the current ones so they work for stories set in current day or the future.

Whereas in fantasy, I'm not fond of the 'f word' but other milder words don't bother me, however alternate world or religon based swearing seems more effective. Using something different helps establish an alternate world or time period feel.

Not all books need to contain this sort of language, but in others it is part of the characterization. I've written stories with and without swearing, both real and made up, it just depends on the character and situation if its called for or not.

I've received enough positive critique comments for using real obsentites in my sci-fi novels that it leads me to believe I'm not alone in my somewhat twisted preferences. Yet, in perusing publishers websites, I've run across a few who refuse to consider any works containing real swear words, though made up ones are acceptable.

Out of curiosity, what do you prefer?


  1. If I were writing a novel in the current era, I would use the modern words, but I would change them if a publisher called for it.

    For Aundes Aura, I would likely write something similar to: "By the Four--"

  2. It really, really depends, like you said, on the type of story. I wouldn't say I prefer anything, but if it adds to the realism of the character and/or builds the world, without being annoying or long (like 'by the god who reigns from on top of a mountain and shoot lightning bolts down,' because no one would take the time to say that). Actually, I like to play around with cursing, like in Reversing Roles, where the orcs want to curse like old times but feel dirty doing it, so they substitute fruit, and say 'you supreme apple!' and 'take that, banana!' ;)

  3. I think swearing is okay as long as it's not overdone. If you have a character that constantly swearing, it can get a bit old. The word should be placed where it'll add to the scene or the character's state of mind. Or to add to humor. That's my two cents!

  4. Well, I use a bit of both.

    Some of my characters occasionally use the "f" word, and Shayla constantly says "shit" and "crap" in her inner voice. I think that's just her way of expressing frustration.

    I'm not keen on completely fictitious alternatives without some reasonable basis in the story, but I have introduced a couple of religion-based exclamations.

    One outstanding example that really worked was Red Dwarf's popularisation of "smeg" as a versatile swear word. Kryten's attempts to call Rimmer a smeghead, contrary to his programming, still crack me up. See here.


  5. I use frak in my blog because I loved Battlestar Gallactica - I will even have my characters use it - if that version is going to be posted in a public forum with minors around.

    Since I don't write for kids - or YA - my characters will swear in manner that is consistant with their personality. Mostly they will drop the 'f' bomb when under great stress, but hell, damn and crap are common.

    However, I am a sucker for a clever turn of phrase. So if I can get some mileage out of a few uses of 'fraking aye' or 'frak me' or even 'got that in one,' I'll use it.


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