Skip to Content

Cussing Characters

When I first literally put pen to paper and launched Fate's Apology, it was intended only to be a fun Star Wars fanfic; one that was taking place long before the days of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It's a universe with which I am familiar and dearly love, so when that first scene burst into my brain, it was only obvious that the story's seedling be planted in that fertile little piece of scifi soil. But as the tale grew longer and the characters made themselves known to me, I realized they could not remain in this often violent but otherwise squeaky-clean environment.
 
Why?

Well, one of the reasons is that no one in the Star Wars universe swears.
 
Cuss buttonSince I began writing, I've read several articles about the use of profanity in literature. Usually, the advice is against it. Personally, I believe that using it wisely can help bring a story to life. It just depends on the type of story, which characters are using it, and why. For a while I toyed with the idea of creating my own obscenities, especially when I found it difficult to drop religion-based blasphemies without leaving myself short of expletives. But not only is doing this very tricky, it's also been done before. Sometimes fraking well, and sometimes frelling miserably, at least in my opinion. I did create some slang and an ethnic slur, but cussing is much more complicated, so I didn't go there.

It would be easy to say that only my villains swear, but that's actually not true. On one hand, not all of them do, and on the other hand, one of my protagonists is fully capable of using colorful language. However, I've discovered he's not crude without reason, so when he curses, you know he means business. For the most part though, only a few characters indulge. And if you met them in real life, it would not surprise you to hear them do so. That's who they are, and while I do limit their propensity for dropping all but the occasional F-bomb - some of which may still get the axe later on - I don't limit their cussing to the point where they sound like frustrated four-year-olds. In the Fate's Apology universe, "geez", "darn", and "oh my goodness" just don't cut it.
 
While some readers may not care for this bit of gritty reality, I wouldn't be being honest with myself or my characters, and I wouldn't be writing the "kind of story I want to read" if I muzzle my foul-mouthed fiends in order to appeal to a wider audience. Swearing, like the exclamation point (another no-no, or so I'm told), has its place. So, if the character is pissed and cussing is something he does when experiencing that emotion, then by all means, let him or her rip!