Do you sometimes cuss? Might a word your grandmother would have frowned upon escape your lips if you accidentally catch your finger in a closing door? Or maybe you tend to spice up your language with a steady supply of colorful words?
If answering makes you uncomfortable or if your answers are steadfastly negative, then consider another question: Do you know anyone who issues an occasional, mild curse?
I suspect that most of us who get out much have encountered people who use at least mild profanities with such ease that it’s obviously second nature. For better or worse, it helps identify them to a degree.
The question for a writer is whether a cursing character is necessary or beneficial to driving the story.
When I wrote JP Weiscarver’s introductory story, “The Reporter and the Ferret,” I had a couple of the characters who dropped the mildest of cuss words at certain times. I did so because they seemed natural for that person in that setting.
After the story was e-published, a woman wrote and asked if the story was suitable for a younger audience. I said the story line was but advised her about the “language” and further asked for her feedback. I later heard from her that she loved the book, but she did not address the age-appropriateness question.
That got me to thinking. Was the language necessary? Sure, it was appropriate for the story, but was it worth it to have to explain to parents considering the book for young readers?
I went through the book looking at every cuss word – maybe 8-12 in all – and not a one was needed. The decision was made. In my opinion, I can tell a story without the colorful language and all was removed from future editions.
What is your opinion on cursing in a story?