If you've read certain blog entries and/or my debut novel, you know that I don't have a problem with using profanity in my writing. And, in fact, I find it offensive when I feel that a writer is censoring her/his characters by not having them use the words that they really would use. It's kind of a hot-button issue for me. Oh, yes.

I'm still struggling to understand people's use of the word "gratuitous" in the context of describing profanity in writing. Despite my efforts, I have yet to come across an expletive in any book where I found it to be gratuitous. And so far, no one has shared examples with me to steer me in that direction.  (Seriously, if you have examples, email me! I want to see this for myself!)

As I've said before, it seems to me that it all comes down to:

A) personal preference (e.g. "Certain words don't appeal to me, therefore, usage of them in any book is gratuitous")


B) poor writing (e.g. "It doesn't make sense that this character would use this word in this context, therefore, its inclusion is gratuitous").

Yesterday, I was revising a scene in My Current Manuscript. It's just past mid-point and the narrator, C, has been caught doing something that looks worse than it is. Instead of asking why she did it, her mother is just being all angry and accusatory. (Which totally makes sense in context since it appears that C deliberately did something that her mom didn't want her to do.) In frustration, C yells, "You aren't listening to me! We didn't do anything wrong, so get the f*ck over it."

I have to say, when I read that last line back to myself it was a very shocking moment. Tension galore! Oh, boy did it make me sit up straight and pay attention! But honestly? The eff word here? Totally gratuitous.

I think it's almost always a huge thing when a character in YA says "f*ck" to their mom. But with this particular narrator, it is in the realm of NOT EVER GOING TO HAPPEN.  You see, I've established that she has a very certain way about her. She's poised, she's always in control (or can fake it when she isn't), she doesn't use expletives. It isn't a thing where she has a problem with those words or that she deliberately avoids them and/or substitutes different ones in order to be "proper." She isn't even fazed by other characters who cuss in front of her--unless it's in a situation where it's supposed to be shocking, obviously. Using those words just aren't a part of who she is and that's that.

It's already enough in the scene that she's raised her voice to her mom. Readers are seeing something very important there. But if she also were to cuss at her mom, it wouldn't be true to the character I've created.

Is the inclusion of That One Word gratuitous? Perhaps. Quite definitely, though, it is an example of B above: poor writing. 

(FYI: I edited the sentence in the draft so that suckiness could be averted. Hooray!)

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