Posted in Nitpicks

The Gratuitous Swearing Counter

Anyone who has been reading my reviews of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (DADBS for short) will have noticed I’ve placed a little counter at the bottom of each review, mentioning how many swear words I found in the chapter. Let me explain my reasoning behind this, since I’ve not actually done this for other books.

I don’t have any real problem with swearing. If you’ve been on a high school or college campus you’re probably familiar with people who swear constantly. When I was at university, it was background noise to everything I did. People tend to use swear words like I used salt, as if it added flavor to the conversation.

Whether its in real life, or in a book, if you want to use swear words you can. There are some situations in which swearing is cathartic, or can help a person manage stress.

However, I will say this. Swearing often actually takes away some of the punch of the words. Think about it. Curse words tend to offend and off-put people for a reason. In my opinion its all about context.

Say for example you have a middle aged single mother who is quite adamant about keeping her speech clean in front of her young children. She has a lot on her plate but does her best to make sure her kids are provided for and happy. Put her in a situation where she is laid off unexpectedly and is faced with the prospect of trying to take care of bills and the house payment on her own. She is half tearful, and she pounds her desk. “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” She says, her voice choked.

You feel the emotion, you sympathize with her breakdown here because you feel something and the cursing serves the purpose of illustrating just how stressful the situation is. The context is what counts.

Now say you have a character like Violet White, from DADBS. She’s a social misfit in her high school. She likes reading books, painting , and keeping to herself. She’s a food and coffee snob. She has never dated, and has maybe one friend.

She also swears like a sailor. In my opinion it was really unnecessary. I’d say over half of the swear words aren’t even in the dialogue. They end up scattered in the narration. It adds nothing, and in my opinion is sort of doesn’t make sense with Violet’s characterization.

Now I’m willing to forgive it in the last several chapters, because its the climax, with a big fight. In this high-stress situation, swearing seems to make sense. But its lost all of its punch in my opinion, since there are usually a lot of curse words in the narrative anyways.

I harp on it in this book, because of all the bad books I’ve read, this hasn’t been as big a problem. Most swear words I’ve encountered are usually aimed at someone. In romance novels the word “bitch” is particularly popular when directed at a rival for the main character’s affections. And most of them are in dialogue. The character is saying these words, and they add something. They aren’t trapped in the narration.

If I come across this phenomenon again in other books, I’ll be sure to insert a counter down below. I have a feeling I might need it for the Dark Hunter series. Not looking forward to those.

So those are my reasons why I dislike the swearing in this book. I don’t think its strictly necessary, and it adds little to the overall story.



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