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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Four Letter Words in Clean Romance

Clean romance typically doesn't have strong cursing in the pages of the story. When I first started out, it was something I didn't realize. My books didn't have language in them simply because we don't talk that way in our home, so why write that way? 

Since the release of Matter of Choice, I've had some tell me, why not put this expletive here or that one there - it'll raise the intensity of the situation. I shrug those kind of comments off. Over the years, I've had arguments without the use of those words that were plenty heated. In fact, a scene isn't dictated by the words alone, but by the emotions, actions, and body language fueling the scene. No colorful language needed. 

The only time I ever have struggles with writing without the use of swearing are for characters who would likely use them in real life. That can be a challenge - how to stay true to a characterization while censoring how they say things? But the truth is, it still can be done. Substituting words for others, and showing menacing gestures, etc. still achieves the same needed effect. 

Do I stand firm on my decision of what words are used in my books. Absolutely. 

What about you, my fellow clean authors? And what about you, our valued readers? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. 

1 comment:

  1. I write historical romance specifically set during the Regency in England; my stories are of lords and ladies. I occasionally use terms of dialect from that time period - known as Cant - that could loosely be considered swearing (or at least be termed vulgar, as in common or uneducated). Cant was that time period's slang, and would have likely been used as we use slang today - to be seen as "in the know" on current events, to be popular, to get a laugh. I have also thrown in the occasional "blast" or "bloody h---" that are considered mild expletives.

    Like you mentioned above, my characters have only sworn when they would have likely said it in "real life," and I also stand firm in my word selections. Each use fit the scene, portraying the character's feelings or the desperate emotion at the time - almost the lack of coherent thought past using a vulgarity. The slang further illustrates the period historically.

    I can honestly say, however, that I've never read a scene in another's book that just lacked for swearing. I've never wondered why a character didn't curse at a particular moment. I have even been pulled out of a story when the author chose words that I thought too "blue" for the time period or situation, almost as if the author thought by inserting a particular curse it would make the scene much more sinister or heartfelt. Swearing can hurt a scene or character's voice if it feels forced or just a throw-away word. Like all the rest of the words in a novel, a curse must be typical of the character.

    I think it all depends on what the author hears in her/his head as the scene unfolds into the written word. You know your character and what they would say in each specific situation. Don't make them say something unnatural or uncharacteristic.