What do you think of bad language in novels?

Discussion in 'Writing' started by pragmatist, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. pragmatist

    pragmatist pragmatist

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    I have just recieved a 1 star rating on 'Goodreads' for my novel ' A Strange Encounter, and a written "review" that states "Bad Language!".

    The novel is 91,076 words, the 'F' word appears in it approximately 50 times, this is the only "bad languge" word used.

    The novel deals with both military and police personnel in stressful situations, and I used what I considered to be realistic language. I really don't think these types of characters are going to say 'Oh, good heavens' in the circumstances they find themselves in, in my novel.

    What do you think?
     
  2. MrBF1V3

    MrBF1V3 aka. Stephen B5 Jones

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    You was robbed. Some people get really uptight about stuff like that. Personally I'm not upset about words here or there in character, though I guess I wouldn't be really comfortable with a triple digit word bomb count per page.

    I tend to avoid most of those words myself, but just for me, not because someone might give me a bad rating.

    All I can suggest is be yourself. You may want to put a "PG warning--language" somewhere in the blurb, for all those uptight people everywhere.

    B5
     
  3. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton Edited for submission

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    Only fifty? Oh dear the reviewer would have trouble with current WIP. The language is colourful to say the least, but as huge part of the WIP is set in a POW camp during WWII, bad language is one of the few ways the men can express how they feel.

    Personally, if the story calls for swearing, violence and sex, then use them it's your story, BUT remember each has to fit the context of the story you are trying to tell.

    You know what I find strange is that folks get uptight about swearing, yet are quite willing to watch or read about someone having their head ripped off. Strange world, no?
     
  4. ericksje

    ericksje New Guy

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    I'd tell you to ignore it. Some people are uptight about the littlest things. A former professor of mine wrote a memoir that focused on struggling with her roles as a mother and a woman. Even though my professor's son is disgustingly well-adjusted, someone took offense to her mothering skills and felt the best outlet for that was to post a scathing review on Amazon.

    Think of yourself as a craftsman; words are your tools. You know what words to use and where they function best in your story. If the criticism isn't constructive, move on. You can give the entire world your story to read, you just can't please everyone with it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  5. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

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    Them's the breaks. You can't control how readers react to your work, but you can warn them as B5 suggested.

    However, for me, if it is not marked Young Adult and/or for children, I expect that my adult fiction might have swear words, violence, and/or sex. If it was done such a way as I didn't like it, well, then I don't like it. I am entitled to my opinion as is that reviewer.

    You are, of course, entitled to ignore them.

    (Note to self: make sure to add more than 50 swear words in book to piss off that reviewer. :D )
     
  6. tennesseemcvay

    tennesseemcvay Fictional Mountain Man

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    challenge to tmso: add two zeros to that number
     
  7. osney

    osney Cowherd, Author

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    This hoary old question rears its head regularly in crime writing circles too. Some people seem determined to take offence and there's just no pleasing them. What amazes me is that someone reads an entire book from start to finish, then complains about the swearing. If you were that offended, why not just stop at the first bad word?

    And as has been said already, it's amazing how you can get away with depictions of violent murder but not the occasional incidence of potty-mouth.

    The only advice I can give is that you be true to the character you're portraying. If they would normally pepper their conversation with expletives, then leaving them out will reduce their believability.
     
  8. txshusker

    txshusker A mere player

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    My wife told me to clean up my language in front of our 3 yr old. So I started using "frak".
    Perhaps my wife wrote that review - I'll check and get it edited if so.

    I would guess that your reviewer isn't watching the cartoon network after 10pm. And think of the reviews you'd get if you used "shucks" or "barnakey" or "heck in a handbasket."

    "Enjoyable read, but the frequent use of PC euphamisms instead of true curses often took me out of the story. Was the author Amish?" (No offense to the Amish, they just don't curse.)
     
  9. kmtolan

    kmtolan KMTolan

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    Of the novels I've produced, the "F" word appears in all its glory in only one novel, and maybe just a couple times and then only at the beginning.

    Like you, I was dealing with an environment (military) where curse words are thrown around with the same casual flare as "****". < LOL!!!! That said, I didn't want to ignore the military culture anymore than I desired to salt my entire novel with curse words. So, to deal with this, I decided to introduce the word enough to say "Hey, this is a legitimate military character who would say this - welcome to the mil-spec culture (grin)" and then I stopped using it. I felt the point was made to the reader, and moved on from there.

    So that's one way to avoid the issue. For any "writing contest" to judge writing purely on moral or religious values is to loose credibility (which is why any religious-sponsored writing contest is complete bullshit for me). You should be judged as a writer and nothing else. Now, this is not to say that you have to watch your writing in regards to the market you're aiming at - you do. That, however, is a business decision.

    My opinion.

    Kerry
     
  10. kissmequick

    kissmequick bingley bingley beep

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    I'd try not to worry - at the worst, if anyone reading the review is put off by bad language, they might not pick up your book. But then the review also tells people who think a bit of swearing adds verisimilitude that this is a book they might like. Which is all you can ask from a review really - does it tell people if this is their sort of book?

    I've had books marked down in reviews for all sorts of things from too much swearing, to being Christian fic (when it wasn't. Heck. I'm not even a Christian!) to being too historically accurate....


    I like to tell myself if I haven't offended anyone, my work must be pretty bland hehehe.

    In all honesty - you'll always have people who don't like your book for reasons that are personal to them rather than the book. Trick is to see it that way - makes it sting less.
     
  11. D.R. Stevenson

    D.R. Stevenson Autistic Madman

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    I always like a hint of realism with my fiction be it fantasy or speculative. Something tells me the people in the future will be swearing just like people today curse. When we encounter new lifeforms we will be using their swear words as well once we get to know them better. Hopefully they share their technology, culture, and art with ours once we meet up. Maybe our two peoples will create newer better swear words durring this exchange. ;) :p
     
  12. pragmatist

    pragmatist pragmatist

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    Wow! Ten responses.
    Thank you B5, Holbrook, Ericksje, Tennesseemcvay, Osney, Txshusker, K.W. Tolan, Kissmequick and D.R. Stevenson.

    Your responses are pretty much what I expected. I thought I would ask the question as, shame to say, I'm not much of a reader, so I didn't know what the normal procedure is.

    Now I do. I am currently writing a sequel to 'A Strange Encounter' and my military and police personnel are using the same same language as they did in the original. I wouldn't change that for the reasons you've given, and going by the majority of your responses I don't need to put a warning on the cover, which is what I would have done if required.

    What I put on my 'Goodreads' Blog was something like, 'there's nothing in it you wouldn't hear in any schoolyard' and that 'the story involves military and police personnel in stressful situations, and I wanted to depict a realistic scenario'.

    It's true too that anyone thinking of picking up the book might be interested enough in the "Bad Language!" review to look at my Blog where its use is explained, this could actually be advantageous.

    There's a picture of the reviewer on the site, and although it's not really the done thing to generalise, she doesn't look like the sort of person I imagined would pick up a copy. it also says she's a newbie, so if she's just started reading action adventure stories involving the military and the police I suspect she's in for a treat.

    As for it being bland if it doesn't offend anyone, yes, that sounds good to me, I couldn't agree more, I hadn't thought of it like that.

    Verisimilitude! I had to get my dictionary out for that one! Very true, that's exactly what I thought.

    With regard "Frack". I first heard this in 'Battlestar Gallactica' and found it annoying, I know their hands were tied because it was made for TV etc, but it still irritated me. Everyone knew what word the military really would be using. My story is set in the UK in 1991, I lived in the UK at that time and I don't recall ever hearing anyone use the word "Frack". It just wouldn't work in my stories.

    Aliens swearing, that's an interesting one. Mine don't, but I suppose any technologically advanced species is going to have gone through wars, an industrial revolution and ever expanding technological development, plenty of areas for the kind of stress required to come up with swear words, so if I had to guess, I would say there's every chance any visiting aliens would swear if things weren't going their way.
     
  13. D.R. Stevenson

    D.R. Stevenson Autistic Madman

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    A few dirty alien phrases left untranslated would add to the story I believe.

    When my father was serving in the US Army durring the Vietnam Conflict he said they enountered viet-cong who lived in the most remote locations of the mountain areas. They never saw a white or black person before let alone heard English but after a month or two of close combat both sides would scream "F### you! or Go @@@@ your mother!" in each other's langauge as if they spoke the language for years.

    He later enounterd the primative Montain-yards who came out of the jungle dressed only in a loin cloth carrying a home made crossbow. The first thing he said was "smoke, smoke!" he mimicked like he was smoking. He quickly learned US G.I.s would give him a cigarette or chewing gum so they could take a picture with him he went back to his village a rich man.

    I could easily see neutral aliens learning enough English to trade or maybe communicate with basic sign langauge. Soldiers be they human or alien would certainly learn enough of their enemy's langauge to insult them. When I worked in a restaurant I worked with a lot of Puerto Ricans. The first words of Spanish I learned from them were dirty words and insults. I did not become fluent but I could tell you what to do with your bad attitude.;)
     
  14. pragmatist

    pragmatist pragmatist

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    I wouldn't be at all surprised if any visiting alien species had a good knowledge of all of the Earths languages and the languages of any other planet of interest they visit.

    I think any visiting alien species has probably been visiting us for quite some time.

    It may not be possible for them to form 'words' as such, they may sound like dolphins for example, so I suspect they would have translation devices and just program them with a new language as required.

    If they are carrying out a scientific survey of the Earth they are bound to have a language expert as part of their team.
     
  15. D.R. Stevenson

    D.R. Stevenson Autistic Madman

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    I could see them following radio signals to earth, but I doubt they could decipher the words they hear. If they were able to to figure out how to make reciever the words they hear would be just sounds. They would need a visual refrence to go along with the words to learn a langauge.

    If they were visiting they would have to be picking up humans for studying. Maybe even keeping the more chatty ones. I would take hundreds of everyday humans to teach the alien langauge to. They would be cutural liasons.

    We have translators here on earth so you know they would be able to whip something out like that. I could see them handing out translators at supermarkets or post offices to the people of earth as a good will gesture.

    They would also have teams that would teach the locals their langauge and customs if the local governments allowed them access to the citizens of earth.
     
  16. Anjasa

    Anjasa Erotic SFF Author

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    Hopefully you'll be comforted to know that most people read 1 star reviews to see why they were rated so lowly, and the type of people that would like your novel aren't likely to not purchase it based on 'Bad Language'.

    I'm not bothered by natural language - that is when bad language serves a purpose or adds something to the story. In this case, it definitely would seem to serve a purpose, so I wouldn't mind that one star rating at all. It wouldn't turn me from your book.
     
  17. D.R. Stevenson

    D.R. Stevenson Autistic Madman

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    If the aliens were working with the governments you would might also see them have langauge lessons on PBS or even have their own caabl channel. They show video clips of their homeworld, cuisine, music, and wildlifr sort of what you would see on the travel or discovery channels.:cool:
     
  18. D.R. Stevenson

    D.R. Stevenson Autistic Madman

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    I have to agree with you. One uptight kook would not be able to keep me from a good read.
     
  19. pragmatist

    pragmatist pragmatist

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    Anjasa:
    Thank you, it is comforting. I thought this would most likely be the case but it is comforting to read the responses to the question on here for sure. I had a look at her other 1 star reviews, most of them were 1 or 2 words. I thought her selection of "did not read" books was quite interesting since she listed her reading interest as "cozy mysteries"!

    Still, "there's nothing as strange as folk" as they say.

    D.R. stevenson:
    Alien game shows, another interesting one, you could have '4 arm wrestling', 'name that chirp', 'top hover'. I doubt we would be able to stomach alien cooking shows, can you imagine the ingredients, gathered from all around the Galaxy. 'Tonite, oozing around your plate, purple swamp surprise'. Please, spare us the surprise!

    If some aliens turned up for a chat it would be impossible for us to keep them against their will for study or anything else, we wouldn't stand a chance against them in any conflict.

    With regard them them recieving radio or TV signals, I think they probably would be able to figure out what was being said eventually, language experts are very good at finding patterns in speech.
     
  20. Piousflea

    Piousflea Registered User

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    If an alien species has the capability to travel to Earth, they have the ability to study our language and reproduce it. If their own anatomy precludes them from speaking they can pick up a smartphone.

    The question is whether the aliens would actually try to communicate with humans. They might not if:
    1) Alien laws prohibit them from contacting humans. ("Prime Directive")

    2) "Normal" aliens refuse to or don't want to contact humans. The only ones that encounter humans are injured, mentally impaired, children, a slave-caste, or otherwise not fully functional. ("E.T.", "District 9")

    3) Aliens are intentionally pretending that they don't understand us.

    4) Alien consciousness thinks on a totally different level from humans and they cannot communicate their logic to us without altering our humanity. ("Lovecraftian cosmic horror")

    5) Aliens are talking to humans all the time but they don't let us know about it. ("MiB" and all other alien-conspiracies)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012