A Swearing Character

I tend to avoid (or often, have no need for) foul language in my writing.  With a few judiciously chosen exceptions, I do not have characters curse.  This is usually not hard to do.  My characters often have conversations in my head without my active prodding, so I simply write down what works.  My characters usually have no need for swearing.

That is, until one of my new characters started talking.

She doesn’t have a name yet, and I barely have any story for her.  So far, all that I have is a conversation between two characters and a lead-in to that conversation.  With only that, I already know that the female character has a foul mouth.

I have a few choices here.  This character is for my NaNo novel, so there’s some time to contemplate.  (Because of the NaNo rules, I can’t even start writing anything for the story other than outlines and character development.)  One choice is to just let her be herself and write a story that’s (likely) full of words my mom wouldn’t approve.  Another is to let her swear but using creative, made up “swear words” instead; since she’s of a fantasy race, this might work.  The third possibility is to find a way to get across this interesting and valid character trait without the actual use of language.  No matter what I choose, she’s going to be a crazy character to write.

Anybody else have to deal with a foul-mouthed character?  How did you handle it?


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. noblevalerie
    May 01, 2012 @ 17:35:49

    Interesting problem! I recently attended a writer’s conference & one of the writers in my group had a first chapter laced with swear words. Her writing was lovely, and the swear words were true to the characters she was portraying, however, I felt she was limiting her audience right off the bat. Later, we had the chance to ask a lit agent about this very problem, and her advice was to leave it out. It was a great conversation. I like your idea of making up the swear words.


  2. deshipley
    May 01, 2012 @ 17:52:07

    Oh-h-h, yes. One of the characters in the novel I’m writing now has a filthy mouth on ‘im. Because I dislike strong profanity, I’m always looking for ways to write around that. Fortunately, he also likes to mock people, so when Guy 2 invents a form of not-quite-swearing that substitutes curse words for innocuous others, Guy 1 can just as easily sneer the substitute in an “I’m totally making fun of you” kind of way. That’s one out.
    Not sure exactly how I’m going to play it when we get to the section prior to Guy 2’s appearance… My earlier draft just has a lot of asterisks sprinkled throughout his dialogue, but that looks pretty messy, so I’ll have to come up with something else. Use milder stuff where it feels like he might, and kind of tap dance around the rest, I guess. (Come on, creativity, don’t fail me then…)


  3. YerMom
    May 02, 2012 @ 08:19:32

    I vote for option two or three:)


  4. Craig
    May 02, 2012 @ 10:26:50

    You could always go the route of using made up words similar to the real life versions. A great example of this is from Firefly. (e.g. “There’s no ruttin’ way I’m getting on that gorram ship.”)


  5. Nicole W.
    May 03, 2012 @ 07:24:23

    You could go the implied route, such as She swore under her breath or The next words out of her mouth were the cruder version of equine excrement. Or you could have a character that is greatly offended by her swearing and she tries to temper her language when she is around said character by catching herself mid swear and hastily changing it to another word.


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