A-to-Z Challenge Day 15 — Offensive Stuff in Novels


Ambiguous morality.
Culture wars.


People can be offended by these things in fiction because they are the same things people can be offended by in real life.

Not that surprising, right?

My boyfriend’s mother is a bookworm. Every time I see her relaxing, she’s either got her nose buried in a novel or she’s plugged-in to her e-reader. We both love books and sometimes we can talk about them, but only sometimes because we have totally different opinions on the items I listed and also disagree about what we think when they show up in our fiction.

But, I’ll stick to one topic for now: Offensive Language

His mom doesn’t like harsh language. Not just your expected cuss words. She comes from a generation and background where ‘crap’ and ‘fart’ are considered as bad as ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’.  It took me months of constantly nagging her and talking about how awesome A Game of Thrones is to get her to read it.

Martin’s work was the first fantasy novel to have language like a Stephen King novel. I love Stephen King’s characters and the depth he achieves with them is I think largely due to the way they talk.

My insistence that she try out Martin’s books was before the show came out. I have since teased it would give her a heart attack if she decided to watch it.

I knew she wouldn’t like the swearing, but Martin is a master storyteller so I thought she should at least try reading them. To her credit — and I would say to his as well– she read all five of the novels, but confessed that she tried to skip over the rawer elements and dialogue.

I, on the other hand,  like my books to have an edginess to them, and sometimes that shows up in the language.

I honestly see where both sides of this argument are coming from, though.

One the one side, you have people who dislike swear words and are turned off when they hear or read them. They like when the author comes up with alternative swear words, or maybe avoids them all together. that's shocking

For these readers, the offensive language could end up being such a distasteful distraction to them that they put the book aside and don’t finish it.

On the other side, you have people who either don’t mind cussing in their books or who actually like it when the character uses harsh language because in real life, people talk like that and to see it in dialogue makes it feel real.

I think it’s one of those things that remains entirely subjective. If you’re writing a story, and you think your characters would swear like a drunken pirate, then you should be true to that. If they wouldn’t, or if you don’t want to write that into your dialogue, then that’s the direction you should take your work.

Because my preferred genre to read (and so far to write) is fantasy, I enjoy a bit of both. I like reading new ways to tell someone what to do with their genitals and a domesticated farm animal just as much as I like reading a character yell, “Shit!” in a fairytale setting.
And it’s equally enjoyable when Robert Jordan’s characters say, “Blood and ashes!” as when George R. R. Martin’s characters tell someone, “Fuck off.”

Okay, maybe it’s a little more fun to hear Tyrion Lannister talk than Rand al’Thor…


A little.


2 thoughts on “A-to-Z Challenge Day 15 — Offensive Stuff in Novels

  1. This immediately made me think of Claire from the book series, Outlander, and her swear word “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” I’m not a huge fan of swearing, but I don’t mind if it is in books in moderation. If every bit of dialogue is cursing, I would probably be turned off because it can tend to detract from what the person is trying to say (unless it is put in strategically). I love it when authors come up with other words to do the same thing. It becomes a bit more lighthearted that way.

    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com


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