On the one hand I am super proud of that title because it has a nice sound to it but on the other hand, also, I am a little shameful because when I say it out loud I sound like I am in the middle of a Downton Abbey special because I have this brilliantly British accent and isn’t that just a little bit droll and weird and, well,
Anyway, enough from the dowager countess, what we’ve all convened in this rather small but comfy space of the internet is not only to cry over characters, or muse over fabulous book covers, but also to be hard hitting (we can of course be fabulous at the same time while we are doing this)(I am sure the dowager countess would agree to this stipulation)(ps still writing this in a posh British accent so I hope you are reading it in one). What’s more hard hitting than the swears? I mean, actually, like, well, a lead weight probably is, and when you hit your toe on a door frame that’s reasonably to very hard hitting…. but stop distracting me! Cursing is in at least the top 100 things to talk about with regards to writing and that is good enough for me.
I read a lot of things about swearing in books and whether it’s bad or good or terrible or some weird mixture of those three words, but I prefer not to think of it as something with a moral standpoint but as something that has a purpose. And it can be beautiful to some. And it can be not that to others. But is has a purpose. And when things have a reason to exist I will always stand for them. Or, at least, in the case of dropping the swears in books I will always stand up for your right to choose. Nobody should take that away, and I think it should always be up to you (and not, like, your cat who is wholly unreliable and why are you asking him plot related questions again this has gone too far you know what happened when you put him in charge of lunch) whether or not a swear appears in your book, or indeed in your life.
I think it should be up to you because it is your book and your car and your hand and your plant pot and your tea, and if anyone has the right to swear it’s the person strapped onto the front of the train they’ll call ‘your life’ whether you think you’re in charge or not. If anyone has the right to feel so much, and so fast, that a curse word is the only thing that will do it’s you. If anyone has the right to do what they want to with their words, it’s you. Speak how you speak and the rest of the world be damned.
That’s not to say that swearing is trivial. It’s not to say that I don’t think in books there is probably a time and a place for these things and we must consider carefully the facts whenever we drop swears. We must consider that some kids grow up on books, and so need books to show them not only an escape but what the world is truly like too. Some kids might need a reflection that is powerful, and gritty, because it means that they are no longer alone. Sometimes not being alone is the difference between the edge of one side of the line and the other. Life and death. Sometimes they swing in the balance too. We must consider those unlike ourselves too, those who seek comfort in words and not the betrayal of a swear. Those who don’t like it. Those who aren’t allowed. Swearing is important, but it must be approached sideways I think, because importance often holds hands with controversy. Why is it controversial? Why do we care? Well that’s psychology, and let me tell you one thing I have more faith in than any other fact in the universe (from all the years of typing, and staring at brain scans):
words have power.
Real, unequivocal, power. Words are real not only in our hearts, and on the pages, they’re real in our minds too. They’re real in a way unlike any other thing I’ve ever seen. The right word can cause physiological changes in the body, did you know that? The right word can physically reduce pain, and the right word can be the difference between a life worth having and a life not. Swear words are, as you might understand deep down, some of the most powerful words you have in your pocket. They’re not like adverbs, which are useful but honestly sometimes get in the way. And they’re not like definite articles. Fast and vital, but neutral in their tone. Swear words we most often save, for the times when there isn’t a word, and for raw emotion intertwined with pure pain. We use swear words like a drug, because for some of us they can trigger relief. We use swear words to sound braver than we are, when the lives of others are in our hands. And we use swear words in books, because they truly have power. One word, four little letters, and something within us responds. If that isn’t some kind of weird magic, I don’t know what is. I don’t think it matters, one way or the other, whether you swear in life or in your writing. I don’t think anyone has the right to make that call but you. But I do think we need to remember that swear words have real power. I do think we need to remember that we are all custodians of that power, and isn’t that just a little bit awesome?
|If I am half the woman the dowager countess is when I’m older you can all come to tea while I say hilariously witty things at you and offer you cake.|
What do you think of the cussing?