On The Vulgarities Of Writing


But you’re curious, aren’t you?

Yeah, me, too.  I don’t even know what I’m gonna write about, yet, so…

Hide your children!  Check your condoms and diaphragms!  And warm up the heavy bag!

Hold the phone! You mean there really are those still out there who can’t stomach freaky shit, a well-crafted evisceration, or a good fuck?

Say it ain’t so.

Well–to a degree–I’m one of those.  Qualified.

I don’t like to read or watch movies with nasty and graphic content (though sex is always a bo-nusss…), especially if it’s in there only for the shock value. Don’t watch them slasher flicks with numerals after them, and the Saw flicks utterly flabbergast me in their popularity. Great work for the SFX staff, but geesh….

However. I do understand the occasional and measured use of the graphic depiction to “swear, fight, or fuck,” as I’ll call it.  In my writing, I, too, have also been there. Many times, actually.

You see, thing is…when writing (but not in the workplace nor freely flourishing anywhere in polite society where great offense might be taken…), writers try to do the best we possibly can in setting mood, tropes, and moments. Have to be honest to the story. And sometimes in setting these things one has to get, well…dirty. Yes, roll up the sleeves, slog around in the mud, and say to ourselves:  do I cheat the reader? Whimp out? Look the other way?

Pretend my people (“Characters?” Ha!  These are real people, I tell you!) in my book don’t swear nor how to spell it?  Don’t have sex nor masturbate? Everybody’s good and has only good thoughts and intents? Puppies and kittens?

Or do I face the music head on and crank that bad boy up?!

No one wants to read about the daily grind, unless the daily grind involves conflict, sex, or a well-thrown punch or two. Conflict. That’s the word. I’m paraphrasing, but David Morrell once said that the/a secret to writing was to just not bore the reader. Well, writing about waking up, making your coffee, and heading to work (even in rush hour) doesn’t usually cut that mustard. And when trying to cut “that mustard,” weird, intense, sometimes quite offending events happen, and that’s where “interesting” begins, as should stories.

No longer can writing be flowery and flaccid (if it ever could), with a lot of “blanks” conveniently overlooked and not filled in. Readers want more real in their works, or, perhaps more to the point, “verisimilitude“:  the appearance of reality (we, do, after all, in fiction, anyway, have to make the story appear real just enough for us to believe it, even if trying to escape reality…). So if you have certain characters, some are going to swear, fight, and fuck. And being a writer, we have to weave all these elements into our work in the best possible way, as Stephen King says, to be transparent to our readers. To write our work well enough so readers forget they’re reading.  They’re living.

This, also, can apply to other areas of writing…like blogs.

Now, most of the time, I post pretty clean material…but every now and then I tend to use a choice expletive or two. Yes, I said “choice” for a reason. Sometimes when you’re slinging words around, a certain turn of phrase just begs to be used…is a perfect fit for what you’re posting. Do you use it, or select another word choice to show you’re far smarter than the little fuck?

There’s a certain…energy…to the use of the chosen expletive that better drives home a point, or makes a statement. Now some writing simply doesn’t allow for the “fucks and shits” other writing allows, and that’s okay. We all have our place, we all have our superpowers. But, for the most part, most writing does allow for them, and when using them, the same rules apply as they do for everything else in writing: don’t over use. Use for effect. There are so many other words to use in any language (well, except maybe Hawai’ian…?), pick and choose! On a Zen level, words are created for use. I don’t use fifty-dollar words to sound elevated and stuck up…I use them because they exist and I want to use as many as possible!

But…my parents! They read my blogs! My children!  They don’t know this side of me! And-and I grew up tasting so many variants of soap I’m near blind!

My friends and co-workers!

I’ll be banned from my a) church, 2) car pool, thirdly) Home Depot.

Well, do what you gotta do to survive, but, one way or the other, as a writer globally projecting thoughts, ideas, and words out into the world…you are going to piss someone off. It’s inevitable and unavoidable. You just can’t please everyone–no harm in trying–but sooner or later you come up against your own energy and who and what you are. As a writer, it’s your responsibility to go beyond “nice” and portray whatever it is you’re portraying in the most compelling, readable, unboring manner possible. Assert your independence and grow. Reach beyond and strive for bigger and better.

And, yeah, sometimes we just get mad and are prone to potty mouth (and research does indicate that the use of expletives does help in dealing with pain, BTW).

Of course you can always chose to not write things-offensive. Case closed; no harm, no foul. Look, unless you’re still under the roof of whoever’s rearing you, you have a right to assert who you are–even to your parents.

Think your parents never cursed? Had sex?

I’m not saying to walk around carelessly launching expletives hither and yon like rose pedals at  wedding, but you gotta pick and choose your venues–and in writing, that’s all you. Know your readership. Use wisely.

And get over being so easily offended!

In today’s world it’s become vogue to call out one’s offended status far too fucking frequently, IMHO. Get a tough skin and let the occasional fuck fly past without so much as a second glance. Move on. Go around the rocks. Get on with your life. There are other offensive words out there, and I’m not going there, because they go off into other territory I feel is far beyond the scope of what I’m trying to demonstrate…I also don’t want to get into a possibly really nasty debate. That is not my issue. Though all I’ve said certainly may apply to some of them, I’m more concerned with the more generic variety and their application that doesn’t carry other connotations that are best left to other discussions I will not enter into on this post. Use them at your own risk.

So, please understand that in writing, writers choose their words, and sometimes we use certain words for specific effect. We don’t just “throw down” without due consideration.

I hope I’ve managed to put this into better perspective, and I thank you all–in advance–for puttin up with my shit.


About fpdorchak

Upmarket paranormal fiction author. I write gritty, Twilight Zone-like fiction. Please check out my website: https://www.fpdorchak.com/! Thank you for stopping by!
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13 Responses to On The Vulgarities Of Writing

  1. Lankywriter says:

    The bottom line is you have to be true to your characters and your story. If it’s out of character for a character to use an expletive, then of course you can’t stick it in there just for the sake of being “edgy.” 🙂 I’ve tried it. It soooo does NOT work, lol!

  2. William brock says:

    It’s not the words. My story “For That You Pay Extra” (in the Chimira World #1 anthology) contains not a single word that would be bleeped out on the radio, the word “blood” is used once, about bedbugs, not people. I also think it is one of the nastiess, disturbing, and in some ways, violent stories ever printed. It isn’t the use of obscenities that make a story distubing, or even offensive. But making it real to the reader, making them believe . . .

    As to the gratuitous use of obscene words, their use in the HBO series “Deadwood” was entirely gratuitous. Many viewers tuned in out of curiosity, and stayed because it was a damn good show.

    • fpdorchak says:

      I thought about including what you said, ended up keeping my discussion to a more limited scope, but what you say is abso-fricking-lutely correct, Sir! And there will always be exceptions. Books are surely written on this subject…I just opted for a humble blog post. :-]

      Thanks for stoppin by!

  3. Bill says:

    heh heh… you said “flaccid”

  4. Karen Lin says:

    Great uses of daily grind (always a good thing) and flacid (not always a good thing). Bet my erotica goes along way to offend you.
    Not bad for a post that was “spurt” of the moment! Karen

    • fpdorchak says:

      Though the dictionary definition of “being offended” is as innocuous as “being annoyed,” but I find the word carries a “broad indignation” connotation to it that kinda bugs me. I don’t use the word, and don’t feel I’m easily “offended.” I may not like nor prefer something or someone, but “offense” is not even something I can bring myself to say about myself (just that previous sentence had me wiggling…)! Nor would I ever (I say now) say something out loud like that to others. Others probably don’t feel this way about the term, so I can’t levy my subjective definition onto their use of the term. I realize the whole “I’m offended…” also takes the “vector” off the transmitter of the offensive material; i.e., instead of saying “YOU’RE disgusting!” one now says “I’M offended!”, mitigating situations by forcing the other to consider YOU and not having to become immediately defensive at something they did? Again, I’m sure whole books are devoted to this kinda thing….

      But, thanks, and no, I wasn’t offended (wiggle!) at your work! I just don’t read (nor write) erotica in and of itself. :-] Part of a story is one thing, but in and of itself, ain’t my bailiwick ;-]

  5. Teresa Funke says:

    In my dialogue class, we go over when and I to use expletives. It does, indeed, come down to the story and the characters. In my novel Remember Wake, many of the men swear. Serveral times, a few of the older women who read my book (which is set in WWII) will come up to me and say, “We did NOT say the f-word in the 40s.” My response them is, “If you were living on a remote island, surrounded by fellow constrution workers, with no women in site, and bombs falling of your head, you would said the f-word.” I have NEVER had a male vet from that generation read the book and correct my language. In fact, many of them have told me the hardest thing about coming back from war was cleaning up their language. So the time and place influenced the need for swearing. But if you watch carefully in the book, you’ll see that the language always reflects the circumstance too. Colin swears, but he only uses the f-word in times of deepest trouble. In other words, THAT word is showing that his stress has reached full potential. Authors whose characters use bad language in every line, lose the ability to make those words count! Even if your gangbanger would swear in every line, it gets tedious for the reader and there’s no growth. Change up his language a bit and see what happens.Incidentally, in my own life, the f-word is my “reserve word.” If you ever hear that word come out of my mouth, I’ve had too many drinks and you better take me home or I’m furious or extremely frustrated. So when that word does come out of my mouth, It really gets the attention of my husband and friends. I recommend a reserve word for everyone. 🙂

    Regarding sex, I actually HAVE had several women ask why there is no sex in my book. Um the characters are 3,000 miles aptart through the whole book, so that would be a litle hard. 🙂

  6. This is funny…and actually helpful — I surprised myself and my critique group when I produced a suspense manuscript with a very bad guy who uses language I’d never use myself (well, except maybe if I hit my thumb with a hammer or something). Now it’s time to start submitting the novel to agents, and I’m embarrassed by my own character’s bad behavior. 🙂

  7. The Phil says:

    Well here I go……I believe you are wrong….Number ( 1 ) The use of the word FUCK is so out there and just stupid. The word (or initials) were put on signs when people were being publicly scorned for “committing Adulty” (Found Under Cardnal Knowlege). When someone says the “MF” words what does that really mean. Sounds to me like you are belittleling someones mother! (Your mom was Found Under Cardnal Knowledge) Not something to brag about if you ask me! What about Shut the F___ up. Not even comprehendable! In the great novel “Gone with the Wind” We knew what Rhet and Scarlet were doing when he carried her up the big staircase! It didn’t have to be explained to us with every “thrust” We were able to use our imagination on just what we wanted to see happen in our own heads. I’m sure most people can imagine Making Love a lot better then it being spelled out for us word by word or without it being vulgar! This brings me to the word “Shit” Lets go out on a wire and start off with “F__k this Shit. Can’t even begin to think how disgusting that is. My fradgle little mind will not and should not be able to picture that in my minds eye! Eat Shit! Just yuck! Although it was funny in the book The Help! and very cleverly used, plus it was used in the correct way. Not just some off the wall command to someone!
    When all is said and done…and believe me I could gone on and on. Using Vulgarity and $50 words just doesn’t make we want to rush out and read more of your books or blogs. The meaning of the situation can be just as effective to the reader if one uses his / her talents better by comming up with a better way to explain something. Stop being lazy! Vulgarity is to the literary world as soy beans added to food to make it last. Are any of you under the (I have to have so many pages and use so many words or it doesn’t count as a work of literature, So here I’ll add a few cuss words to make it “A bigger read”
    Last point I promise…..A writer use to be someone to look up at and say WOW look what he /she did. Look at the great imagination this person has. or wow I want to be like this writer because he thinks a lot like I do. Writers use to be like athletes. Someone for not only the old but also for the young to admire. Now a days we have few hero’s because of the way we accept “the common way of life including the way we talk and express ourselves, The way we think politically and not understanding what the Constitution was all about (Not one cuss word in the Constitution or Bill of rights! Humph!!! maybe that’s why people today don’t understand it! IT maybe far above societies head because there are no Fucks, Shit, Bitch, C___s, p____s, c___s, ECT. used to express the laws! ) I just wish people would stop being lazy when writing and be able to get their point across without vugarity. I personally enjoy innuendos versus vulgarity. The point is still made, but an imagination was used.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Everyone is entitled to their opinions.

      Some of these words are words I cannot even say–let along think–exactly because of their literal interpretations. But, the use of words can change over time…meanings can change…lose their meaning. I am quite aware of the origins of the word “fuck,” and also aware that there is even disagreement over exactly WHAT it stood for (heck, it could have stood for different things in different regions…). I do appreciate your passion on the subject, and that is your right. As I mentioned in my post, I’m not advocating surpersaturated use of ANY vulgarity–anywhere. That was never my intention. My intention was to help explain why vulgarity might be employed in writing or elsewhere. Additionally, over my lifetime, I have not found that the use of curse words meant someone was not as smart as another. I’ve heard plenty of salty talk from quite the intellectual set.

      And as far as “lazines” goes, I also have to chalk that up to your opinion. Few of the writers I know–whether or not I like whatever it is they write or how they write it–are decidely NOT lazy. In fact, I cannot think of one single writer I know who uses said vulgarities that I could even remotely describe as “lazy.” Writing is hard…good-to-exellent writing even more difficult. Writers today are amazingly well-wersed in all-things grammar, craft, you name it, and when they chose a word the chose it WISELY. For effect. They pour over their work, let it get brutally picked apart by peer critique groups, etc., so to call any of them lazy is an affront to all the thought and effort writers put out.

      The creation of books today is different than it was with Gone With The Wind, and the use of vulgarity in The Help wasn’t a driving factor to the story. In other books it may be. You don’t have to like that, or even agree with it…but today’s publishing world is very different than a hundred–or even fifty–years ago. Stories are far more fleshed out today, for one thing. I don’t agree with all that is being published, either, and am also disturbed at some of the material being put out there, but there is one part of the Constitution/Bill of Rights you mentioned, the very FIRST one, that begs statement: free speech.

      And as with free speech, it also still stands that if you don’t like or want to read something–don’t. That will always be your perrogative.

      • The Phil says:

        You know very good and well that “Freedom of Speech has nothing what so ever to do with Vulgarity, When the First Admendment was writen it was a more thought out way to say people can have different opinions and voice them, Not lets make an Admendment so people can “on purpose belittle there mothers, and freely talk about excrement and how holy it is. As for my feedom of speech I say, Stop polluting everyones minds not only by works but also by deeds. When a writer writes Vulgarity and a young mind reads it, It might be saying this is exceptable to say and do! young people are very disrespectful today and I think one of the reasons why is that there is crap (not Shit) put out there and used as a common way of life. BTW the First Admendment may give you the legal right to be irresponcible and use Vulgarity, but it does not address the reponcibilities one has morally and respectfully.
        You had mentioned that the word “Shit” in the book “The Help” was not a driving factor in the story. You are right, but what that is saying to me is that when a “Writer” continues to use Vulgarity that you are saying that is his / her driving factor? Once again “Crap and fooey” it might be time to start rating liturature as G- pg – R- or triple X. Even the best selling book of all times (The Bible) doesn’t use Vulgarity. IT may use words such as hell, damn, and ass, but these word are used correctly.
        I say every book and or article or magizine should say on the cover. Not recommended for people under or over a certain age because of ingnorant laungage and Vulgarity. Who really wants to pay hard earned money to watch or listen to that when you can go join a gang, and walk around a ghetto and read it on a tagged wall or fence or hear it for free.
        Yes this is my opinion. but I will bet you my kingdom that the “Normal Public” feels the same way. Time to take this country and this society out of the gutter, wash, and rinse it off so it is a place we can be proud of, and not embarrassed to walk the streets with a loved one in fear of someone being Vulgar and insensitive to others. IT’s time to take up a stand and say this is not acceptable. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be walking in a mall with your nieces and hear John Q public useing the F word and have to explain to them that Vulgarity and cussing is acceptable because the First Admendment says it is. So go ahead and say all those 4 letter words, Use them in Church and school. It’s OK. And by the way when you are mad at your mother call her an MF! Tell your mom her cooking tastes like Sh–, And not to forget. Don’t tell me what to do Bitch! I’m sure that will go over well! After all things have changed in the last 50 to 100 years, So it’s OK to use those type of words. For crying out loud all you so called writers, use your gifts and talents for good not evil. Be a light of sunshine, and write something that all can read. Do not just aim to please the preverts, and the socially unacceptable.

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