Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone say that as they lift their nose and take on an air of superiority.
Look, if you feel that way about naughty words, you’re not using them correctly.
Exhibit A: George Carlin
And so do a lot of my characters.
I think initially I got it from my mother. She could swear a blue streak, though didn’t get particularly creative with it and usually apologized afterward (not so now—I think I’ve influenced her in turn).
A lot of kids swear for the forbidden aspect but as I grew older it stuck with me. It’s not forbidden now; I am entirely comfortable with all manner of words. I can say things that’ll make a sailor blush and I don’t bat an eye at any of them. But the fact is, words have power. They have power that we assign to them, and it’s impossible to ignore the gendered aspect.
Fuck’s had lots of attention before. But let’s talk about cunt.
For a long time, this word made me uncomfortable. It was a word even my mother didn’t use. I know many women who will say anything but that word.
But here’s the thing: in a real life situation, I don’t want that word to scare me. I’ve been in uncomfortable—sometimes dangerous—situations before and froze when I heard that word. It carries a lot of baggage. When used by certain people in certain circumstances, at the least it feels dismissive and at worst threatening. But I don’t want a simple word to have power over me.
I respect those who still refuse to use it, but for me, it was important to reclaim cunt. To say it over and over and over until it stopped sounding shocking, to use it and take the power from it. And that ends up in my writing.
Although I throw around a lot of curse words in my work, I tend to choose them with care. Different characters will lean toward different words.
For Peri in Lineage, a mercenary, she tends toward plain, harsh language like fuck, cocksucker, occasionally cunt. I’ve known a lot of blue-collar, midnight-shift workers, and that’s what I modeled her language after.
Ryann in Hunter is something else entirely: she’s a nun. And while it’s not her position in the church that keeps her from swearing—plenty of her colleagues do—it’s just her own personality that prefers not to say such things. She won’t even use darn. Despite cursing by other characters peppering the rest of her novel, when she finally utters a “Shut the hell up” at an opportune moment, it’s all the funnier.
Zara in Bloodlines and Exhumed is among my favourites, because she simply enjoys the words. She’ll use any and all curse words to make her point, and prefers to twist them in fun ways. (Like “fucktard.” C’mon, that one’s just fun to say.)
Including the forbidden c-word. From Exhumed:
I blinked, just in case I missed some look of irony but nope, he was serious. “I’m sorry, I think I’m having trouble hearing since she screamed TRAP so loud in my ear. She’s not just a lying cunt, she’s the Supreme Lying Leader of the Lying Cunts in Cuntania.”
“Cuntania” was a word that only Zara would end up saying. And it still makes me giggle.
I get it: words like these can draw a reader out of a story because they’re unexpected. The more shocking they are to the reader, the more out of place they’ll seem if used more than 2-3 times in a book. But all of that is subjective. Opinion. Period. You know what word draws me out of books? “Darn.” I don’t know a single person in real life who uses “darn.” I don’t see how sticking a word in place of “damn” is any less sweary. But, again, subjective.
Does this language put some people off of my books? Probably.
And that’s cool. It’s a creative choice like any other. There’s also graphic violence and vaguely sociopathic main characters; if it’s the swearing and not the violence that puts you off, well...okay then. You might very well be my grandfather.
My grandfather is ninety-nine years old and insists that I should cut the swearing out of my books as none of the popular writers (meaning female popular writers) have that level of cursing in their work. So I might always wallow in obscurity because of my cunty fucking language.
We’ll see, Grandpa. We’ll see.
Thanks for sharing that with us Skyla, it was fucking awesome. Skyla Dawn Cameron is the author of the Demons of Oblivion urban fantasy series which includes:
As I understand it, she recently got the rights back to her books and she's re-releasing them. For the next few days you can buy Bloodlines for free, so take advantage of it while it lasts. The last one mentioned, Oblivion, seems to be scheduled for a 2014 release.
Demons of Oblivion series is a favorite of our friend Melissa from her My World...in books and pages and she's been pestering me to read it since forever, even came to the blog to share a few thoughts on it. Well fine, I'll give it a read Melissa... just grabbed Bloodlines.
In any case, this was an awesome guest post from Skyla, certainly one of my favorites... she had me at George Carlin, and with that I'll leave you with a video I've shared around here before, a 10 minute Fuck Bomb Reel from George.
Please visit Skyla Dawn Cameron's website for more information and you can follow her on Twitter @SkylaDawn.