Friday, March 11, 2011

What the F---

What the Freak it's Friday. Gotcha, didn't I? I know you were thinking of another word. I've been thinking about bad language in YA. One of the books I recently read had some, and it didn't bother me too much. I know this is a big deal to some. It's a big deal to me, especially the mother word, but  in in some cases it's realistic. Trust me, I don't want my kids potty mouthing it up, but I have to face reality. The words are out there and they are bound to hear it, most likely in their teen years, from their peers.

I watch what I say (I'm not a natural potty mouth, but sometimes curse in German under my breath. Yes, these were some of the first words taught to me in German by German Exchange students when I was a teenager, my point.) I do watch what my kids watch or hear (which will be until their 18 and they will roll their eyes, but it's for their own good.) But I know these words are spoken. Example, a couple at the grocery store were arguing, using the mother word. Now I didn't make a big deal, because you never know what a 2 1/2 year old will repeat. I did give a slight look to the couple, like-- really must you use that here look, but they didn't seem phased.

Anyway, back to YA. I will watch what my kids read, but I have to understand and hope that if they sneak a book they are not aloud to read that I've taught them to use their best judgement and good moral values. Basically, I will hold my breath and hope I've raised good kids. I can only do so much.

Like I said, I have to be real. I tend to like the book better if it's not used, especially the mother word, but what are you going to do. I think the key is not to overuse it. It has to fit the character, otherwise it will stand out and slow the reader down or have the reader make a sour face and put the book down. I don't like it when the F word is thrown across every page and it's not needed other than for shock factor (this also goes for sex scenes.)

Personally, if it's not in there, I'm happy, but I know it's out there and used. I haven't thrown the mother word in anything I've written, and don't think I will, at least not yet. Call it an inexperienced writer or whatever. My characters just haven't needed to use that word. Maybe I'm like a mom and hoping my kiddo MCs are good kids. Who knows?

What are your thoughts on this?

Do you use language (the mother word) in your YA?

Have a great weekend!


  1. I do it in my novels, but the mother word comes from the guys and it works for the moment (they're visible upset about something). They don't say at all the time. That would diminish it's impact. But for them not to swear at all would be unrealistic.

    My 11 yo swears (grrr). He gets it from his peers. They think it makes them sound cool and more adult like. And of course my 8 yo son picks it up from him.

  2. It really depends on the character and the amount of times it's used. I have lived with the language of the Military for years, so the mother word amongst others was just a part of their lingo. So I'm not against the word itself, but it has an off putting effect in some work and in some characters. I would say that most authors do a good job without using any language and I don't even notice. I know that teenagers are bound to swear but I think about books where the MC's were in extreme circumstances but they didn't react with any four letter bombs. Then you take a look at something like Going Bovine and well, it's a bit littered. However it did fit the character and the setting. It really just depends but I tend to agree if it's used to much it can be off putting. I'm not sure it's that it's because of the word itself but it usually resides in the attitude of the character and that can turn me off quicker than anything. A whiney, swearing, jerk of a character never grabs my attention.
    I personally stay away from it, not because I am above it in my own life, but it doesn't fit my characters. The occasional "damn" slips out but if they do swear it just adds to the tension because it's unexpected and can add depth to the situation.
    Haha, not that I've thought about this much or anything ;)

  3. Depends on the scenario. But... the only character in my WiP badass enough to pull off those words without coming across as anything but badass... is in fact more likely to just clock someone out before he cursed.

    So... no... mostly not.


  4. Well, I don't write YA, but as a reader, I don't like it. But I don't like it in adult books either. I don't mind casual swears, but I don't think the "mother" word is ever justified--unless your character is in prison. LOL Then it might make the scene "real". :)

  5. I don't mind it if it really fits with the character and the moment. And usually, it's done well. I'm pretty sure I'll never use it. Not the F word. It is def. a part of the teen culture though.

    I can't even begin to keep up with all my daughter reads. i used to. Thankfully she's into the classics and adult murder mysteries, so I'm pretty safe. Welll, not so much with the classics. LoL

  6. My characters use the same language I hear my teenagers' friends use (and my teenagers probably use when I'm not around). There's not excess of swearing, but it's there, and they use it so casually, it's not meant for shock value as the words aren't shocking to them. I've never used the mother word because I don't use it, and I've never heard any of the teenagers I'm around use it. I know my characters wouldn't use it, so it'd be silly to put it in there for no reason.

  7. I don't think the mother word really fits teens, but then again I haven't been a teen in a thousand years. The F*bomb is usually dropped in books I read and it doesn't bother me. I have a bad potty mouth, sorry, but I don't ever swear in public, or generally in front of people. Although, like you, I know quite a few curses in French and Russian and have been known to let those fly in the backyard yelling at the dogs. My neighbors think I'm crazy.

  8. I haven't use 'that' word (lol). I think a story can be told without overdoing slang or the occasional vulgarity that eekes from a teen's mouth. With that being said, there are some characters (but they must be so distinct, the character would become invisible without them) where that fits. There must be purpose to that language. It must define something deep within the character. I shy away from using wordage too offensive.

  9. Great topic. I'm like you--it has to fit the scene and the character. I think we as adult assume that all teens use language and well, that's not true. So, I don't think it needs to be books because it is realistic. I certainly wasn't a goodie as a teen. I pushed boundaries and stuff but I never used profanity. I didn't grow up hearing it, it was not acceptable language in my home and it just carried over. I probably use a bit more of it as an adult. I haven't really wrote profanity either, and if I do, they aren't as "bad"- they are the more accepted terms that we hear on regular TV. But again, the scene has to call for it and the character.

  10. I did use it once or twice in my last novel. BUT I never spelled it out completely.

    SInce my novel is very edgy, dealing with abuse issues, it called for it. TO use as daily language... no .... not even the f word. It's just not necessary.


  11. I actually went so out of my way to avoid cursing in my latest YA MS, I realized I was straining credulity. So I revised a few cusses back in for the sake of realism. But they're not so bad as curse words go. Generally I try to make my characters use "clever" insults -- or clever-ish anyway -- to get around the issue. I can't help it. I want my kids to be able to read what I write someday. I figure, hey, if you want foul mouths, YA literature is populated with them so you can find what you're looking for elsewhere.

  12. I agree with you, about the words and the sex scenes. I really can't stand the mother word, like, uh, ever. Just had to say it. I mean, there are plenty of other words to say the same thing. Just my opinion though. Thanks for the post :)

  13. Well, I don't write YA, but I don't use that word under any circumstance. Don't use the GD word either. While cursing is real, the strongest word I used in my book is damn. (That and I didn't want to make up a bunch of alien curse words!)

  14. you know, it just depends. I do have some language in my books, but no MFers. It all depends on the character, right? :o) <3

  15. You watch what your kids read? I don't think that's good. Censorship in any form is... uncool. Even if it's just a book, I think that if you give kids (LIKE ME! :D) warnings that certain things are out there, they'll be fine.

    I've never been told what I can and can't read or watch and personally, I think it's made me better. I don't think I'd be the person I am today if I didn't see movies about people getting drunk and having sex with a stranger. I might be the kind of person who thought that was okay. And if you're exposed to some things (in a negative or positive light), you're more aware and generally more cautious.

    The better thing to do is probably discuss the material, because that's what my mom and I do. 'Oh, wasn't it really stupid when she stared drinking Jell-o shots and went off and almost got raped?'

    I don't know if you have a different point of view, but I would totally love to hear it. :D Sorry for the insane essay, but I'm insanely against censorship.

  16. I would also monitor what my children read and watch (if I had any) because that is what being a parent means until the child can develop the level of experience and moral awareness to make their own decisions. When I see film ratings 12 I think 15 and when I see 15 I think 18 because the ratings are much too slack these days. I don't like too much bad langauge in novels, but it is a part of life and there is no getting away from it, so if the character protrayed is to be realistic then some bad language is inevitable. Your children will be aware of what you consider appropriate so maybe rather than stop them reading it, talk to them about why they think it is bad? :O)

  17. I've been BETA-ing a lot of YA lately and the F-bomb is used pretty freely. I was under the impression YA didn't use the F-bomb. Everything else I can see, but not the F-bomb! I know kids are going to hear it from their peers though.

  18. I don't really curse in my writing because I didn't curse as a kid or teenager and don't much as an adult. Throwing it in there to make a book "realistic" seems unnecessary to me. Sure, I read a lot of YA with curses thrown around, and if it fits the character, it doesn't bother me. But I haven't really done it in my own writing - I'm not against it in other works, but I also don't think it's necessary to make a book seem real.

    My 8 yr old daughter is getting into MG and I find that it's more content that I pay attention to. She just did a report on Shakespeare and the word "ass" is used as an insult, and she said to me, "Isn't that a bad word?" I said yes, it's like a curse word now, but it was more just like an insult back then. We talked about it and moved on.

    Content-wise, though... even MG has a lot of heavy stuff in it. I was just looking through the Scholastic school book orders for grades 4/5/6 and a lot of the MCs are dealing with abuse, dead parents, parents who neglect them, etc. My 8 yr old is a very strong reader, but she is more into fantasy than these types of story and quite honestly, I don't think she's ready for them. Most of the MCs are around 12 in these books, but they are labeled "ages 9 to 12". Do I want to shelter her from understanding these situations forever? No. But she is a very innocent 8 and I think she would have a hard time with books like that. I have not ever told her she can't read something, but I do pay attention to content and will have conversations about topics if they come up in her reading. That said, I already can't keep on top of everything she reads - she is a voracious reader.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not a huge fan of bad language although I think by the time kids are reading YA, they can probably sort out on their own whether or not they should be using it - even my 8 year old understands that, although I appreciate that it's not really peppered through her books yet. It's more the content that I try to scope out to determine if she's ready for it or if we need to talk about things as she reads.

  19. Hi Christine :)
    I don't mind mild swearing in books, but I don't feel it's necessary to use swearing in order for a story to be "real". I actually avoid reading and recommending books with too much of it.