Monday, April 8, 2013

Why I don't swear in my books

I don't swear in real life. Seriously.

Well, okay, there was this one time when my 18-month-old daughter was seriously hurt, and we had to take her to the ER and I was frantic. We had to get our oldest daughter from a party and figure out where to send her and her four year old brother (You don't want that many children in the ER). I was going to go to the ER and my husband was going to arrange for the other kids, and then we couldn't find the car keys, (Little children carry them off) and then one car's battery was dead. And right when we finally had overcome all of those things and were ready to go, my husband said, "Just a minute, I need to go to the bathroom first."

I snapped. For a reason that is still not clear to me, a string of swearwords issued forth from my mouth. I didn't even know they were there. They all just came out in between the words: "They have bathrooms at the ER!!! Now get in the car!!!"

Not too long ago I said something to my now teenage son about how I never swear, and he said, "You did once. You swore that time you went to the Emergency Room."

I was surprised he remembered that all these years later.

That's probably how swear words should be. If you use them, they're so rare people will remember them decades later.

I've heard people use the F-bomb so many times in a sentence, it was a noun, adjective, and verb. I always wonder what those people do when they're really mad. I mean, what is left to say? "I double-dog F-bomb you!" or "F-bomb times infinity!"

I've seen the same problem in books. If you have a character swear all the time, it loses potency, and at least to me, comes off crass.

My problem as an author is that I sometimes have characters who would swear in given situations. I still don't include swearwords. (I have used the word h word--don't want to write it here, lest my blog be blocked by some filters--but only to describe the actual place, which I don't consider swearing. Although some younger kids don't seem to realize this difference. I was a Sunday School teacher for 8-year-olds once and had to refer to it as that-place-the-devil-lives because otherwise they gasped every time I said the word. And yes, I did try to explain the difference between swearing and naming a location, but they never seemed to grasp this finer point.)

Anyway, I can't have my characters swear for one simple reason. At my house I long ago instituted the rule that anyone who swears will have to pay five dollars.

I have over a million books in print. I am not that wealthy. I will have to continue to be swear-free.


Mrs. Ohboy said...

I do not swear in my books, either. I've been called out for it, too.... but I don't think my books are lacking because I've decided not to include those words.

I have a teenage son who struggles with bad language, and I can't very well encourage him to choose better words and then spew whatever in my writing. For me, that's a double standard.

But that's just me! Thanks for sharing!

gaylene said...

And that's exactly why I love your books. I can read them to my elementary school age kids and not have to edit for racy or raunchy content. THANK YOU!! <3

Litza said...

I don't swear either, so I love it when I can read a book without having to edit it in my head. Thank you for being so firm in this! It's truly a rare thing.

Melinda said...

And we all LOVE you for it!!!

Janette Rallison said...

Thanks for your support, ladies! It's nice to know there are readers like me out there who can do without the swearwords.

Jessie Clark said...

I love your story about the ER. I don't swear either. Except the one time in college where I found out the guy who'd dumped me a week ago was now going out with my roommate. If you're going to swear it ought to mean something. It cracks me up the way some people use swears today. They obviously don't know what the words mean and need a broader vocabulary. So thanks for keeping your characters swear free! Would your kids be the ones to collect that $5/word?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for not including swearwords in your books. It makes it so much more enjoyable for me. Plus with my blog review content I have to stop and tally the swearwords when they're used. It stops the flow of the read for me. Very annoying! :)
Clean Teen Fiction
Clean Adult Fiction

Andrea said...

I absolutely love this! I wish there were more authors that felt the same way!

Elf said...

THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!! YOu do not know how hard it is to find books without swearing in them for teens today (or maybe you do...). I cannot thank you enough for not using swearwords, and other mature themes in your writing...Slayers is one of my absolute favourite books...I love dragons...and the only reason why it can be put on my favourite list is because it's so amazingly clean.