Warning: This blog may contain sarcasm, oh and profanity…don’t read it if you are easily offended.
Everyone knows I often add to the debate in the various Facebook groups and find the discussions fascinating. This past week there was a lively examination of profanity in lesfic. Rather than regurgitate the various perspectives in this blog, I’ve decided to respond to the suggestion to write a scene that might normally contain profanity and sanitize it.
However, before I do that I thought it would be fun to post a few blurbs of my past books to get a flavor for how I’ve incorporated profanity and in some ways poked fun at it, demonstrating the vast differences in characters (those who love to swear like sailors and those who shy away from it). The very first character I wrote, Nicky, was someone who freely let swear words fly, much to the chagrin of her mentor.
From Love Forever, Live Forever
“Well, this building has a certain amount of old world charm,” my dad, the eternal optimist, remarks.
“You gotta be shitting me. This is the oldest dorm on campus and it’s not some historical landmark, Dad, it’s just old and worn down.”
I can’t help being a little snarky. Remember I want to travel the world, not live in some old musty building with a bunch of silly freshman girls who are looking to find some hot guy to shack up with.
“For such an intelligent young woman, you sure find it hard to resist using profanity. Really, Nicky, I thought we taught you better than that.” My mom seems to forget her colorful language when she’s pissed at my dad.
I grab Cass and pull her into a grateful hug. She is stiff at first but then hugs me back. I think Vic is having a good influence on her.
“Oh, my God, Cass, that is the best fucking news I’ve heard all day.”
“Nicole, you know how I feel about profanity. I have relaxed my stance when you are angry or frustrated, but must you also use profanity when you are happy?”
“Sorry. Old habits….”
Same characters from Nicky’s Christmas Miracle X3
I sit up and look at Dr. Stewart. I want answers. How could this possibly happen? I’m barely ready for one baby, but three is clearly beyond my capabilities.
She’s grinning so wide that I’m afraid she’ll split her lip. “You two are so lucky—usually the pack only has twins. Jacy must have some pretty hardly little swimmers.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I squeak.
“Language, Nicky, language. They can hear you through the womb and you do not want to teach your children your common gutter rat vernacular,” Cass chides.
“Hon, you were doing so well. Remember our little incentive plan?” Annie smiles in that adorable way.
I’ve been working on my swearing lately in preparation for our little bundle of joy because I know kids are like sponges. Putting a quarter in a jar doesn’t get the necessary results since money is not an issue for us, but the prospect of having Annie do wonderful things to my body with her tongue definitely works. Every day I go without swearing, I get Annie’s special incentive.
Later in the story…
Bang, bang, bang.
Annie jumps and I’m startled from my position kneeling in front of her.
“What the fu…fudgesickle?” I grin at Annie. “I’m trying out replacement words. What do you think?”
Annie crinkles her nose in that adorable way of hers. “Um, are there other options maybe?”
Bang, bang, bang.
“Ok, so fudgesickle is out. I better open the blankety blank door before whatever rude a-hole breaks it down.”
Here’s the thing, my family was highly educated and every damn one of them liberally sprinkled profanity in their everyday language. That’s just who they were. Dinner discussion included talking about Viktor Frankl, Kafka, existentialism, Freud, politics and many other topics, and the profanity was never censored.
Here’s another passage from another short I wrote because I guess I like to explore the whole complicated relationship people have with profanity and how different everyone feels about it.
Two tow-headed boys barreled into the living room and collided with Char. Glasses of punch flew in all directions, soaking Char and the wood floors in a manner of seconds.
“God dammit. Brendon, Jacob, I told you not to run in the house. Look what you’ve done to Aunt Char.”
Char smiled when Tracy referred to her as Aunt Char. The boys were a handful, but she loved interacting with them. They were typical energetic kids.
“Sorry,” the twin ten-year-olds said in stereo.
“March your asses into the kitchen and get some towels from your grandmother,” Tracy directed.
“You owe fifty cents, you owe fifty cents,” Brendon chanted.
Char laughed. “Twenty-five cents for every swear word?”
Tracy nodded. “Little bastards never miss a thing when I swear, but when their father lets loose…”
“That’s another twenty-five cents, Mom,” Jacob added.
“Get, right now or I swear I’m dropping you off at the gypsy wagon.”
I was going to write a brand-new scene that would normally call for profanity and sanitize it to see how it worked, but instead, I decided to use something I’ve already written and see how this tastes to you. Just roll it around on your tongue and let me know if it’s bland or delicious?
Re-write of The Ultimate Betrayal
As Lara’s hand made its way back up her calf and inner thigh, Sophia cried out. “Please, touch me where I need you.”
“Where would that be, love? You have to be more specific.”
“Oh, God, Lara. Stop teasing me,” Sophia begged.
“You have to tell me and I’ll walk out the door if you use overly clinical terms, my prim and proper professor. I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a P.”
Sophia could hear the smirk in Lara’s words.
“My flowering petal (formerly pussy), please, touch my flowering petal (formerly pussy),” Sophia cried out.
Lara threw her head back and moaned. “Ooh. So good. So fudging (formerly fucking) good. Remind me to ensure that tongue of yours.” When her orgasm finally crested, the pulsations and quivers that ran up and down her body created an out of body experience.
Lara chuckled. “Unfortunately, I don’t have time. I have to be in the office by seven thirty this morning. Besides, don’t you need to get up and get going?”
“Nope, I told my staff that I would be making love to (formerly fucking) you long into the night and wouldn’t be in until later this morning. They completely understood,” Rachel joked.
“You did not, you big liar.”
Re-write of Asset Management
Toni couldn’t believe she was about to stop herself from fingering (formerly fucking) the redhead in the bathroom stall—but something seemed totally wrong about the situation. Heather was way too classy for a cheap one-night stand.
“What the tarnation (formerly hell) is going on? How did you get into my suite? Security,” Byron screamed.
Sophie rushed to Kim’s side and pulled her away from the man’s grip. “What the blazes (formerly fuck) did you give her, you slimy person (formerly bastard)?”
Finally, from a current WIP…should I change it?
I kept running my fingers lightly over her body and saw the goosebumps erupt. “Good, hard and fast isn’t something I’m very fond of either. Honestly, I never could understand the notion of putting something inside (formerly being fucked) so hard it was uncomfortable the next day. Maybe uncomfortable because of muscles being used that haven’t been exercised in a while. That will be the case with me, but hurting you know…inside…not really my cup of tea.”
Maya placed her finger on my lips. “I think you might be stalling now, or is this your idea of teasing me mercilessly until I beg for relief?”
I don’t know, it’s just my humble opinion, but sometimes a sanitized version just doesn’t work! Thus profanity is sometimes described as “colorful”. I like color…
I know everyone likes to learn something new from my blogs, so here is today’s lesson based on some Google research. Cursing, profanity, cussing and swearing all have their roots in the Christian Church. A curse was an expression of a wish of misfortune, evil, or doom to befall a person, group, etc. Profanity was considered an early form of taking the Lord’s name in vain and was considered blasphemous. Cussing was an American alteration of cursing and was first recorded in 1815. Swearing is rooted in Christianity as well. The meaning began with an oath to God and evolved into a simultaneous meaning of taking God’s name in vain or speaking of acts that were considered sinful. Gasp….and that’s where I believe “fuck” came into play…that unspeakable act!
One final thing I want to say about this…I believe warning labels have a purpose, especially with something that could trigger a reader’s PTSD, but at some point, are we taking the suggestion of warning labels too far? Profanity is everywhere, I don’t think that justifies a warning label.
So, if you don’t want to read something that has profanity, cursing, cussing, swearing, blasphemy, or a bit of color, best to skip the links below, but if it doesn’t bother you, well then…you know the drill…Some books have more profanity than others, but none are color free.
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3 thoughts on “Sanitizing Lesfic”
I freaking loved this blog. Sometimes only a profane word will do (notice I used something other than curse or swear word, lol). Everything needs to be written so it is true to the characters and some of them are going to swear like sailors, and the shy more prime ones will find alternate words to express those same feelings. So the bottom line is let the characters be who they need to be, and the readers who love great characters will read the story and enjoy what you wrote, and the rest will just have missed out on a great book.
Another great post, Annette. I love how you don’t beat around the bush. You talk about the things we’re all thinking but no one talks about. I spent 22 years in the Army. I can swear with the best of them. I’ve toned it down over the last 10 years or so since I’ve been out because it’s not professional and it’s a bad example for some very young children in my life, my two great-nephews. Unfortunately, their mother doesn’t feel the same way (or her brother). Every other word out of either of their mouths is the “F” word.
As a funny aside, my three-year-old great nephew is being potty trained. They bought him a little urinal that mounts to the wall. They call it his “pisser” and he’ll tell them he needs to go to the “pisser”. Can’t wait till that one goes off to public school…
Anyway, in my first book, near the end, one of the main characters is in a world of hurt and she lets it fly. Only, when I wrote it, I thought about all the bad reviews I’d seen for books where vulgar language was used and so I wrot f***, and s**t and so on. Readers fucking hammered me for that! The consensus was, if I was going to have her swear, don’t bleep her out. Lesson learned.
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Yup…can’t please everyone, so write whatever the fuck you want! Of course, I never cursed in the workplace and also do not let it fly with children…but everywhere else…all bets are off.