Is the “f” word in fiction ever necessary?

Auntie Sue

Auntie Sue

I have mentioned Auntie Sue before.  She was 88 last month  and is my Number One Auntie and my Number One Fan. She loved The Blue Suitcase and was the first person to buy a copy of Food of Ghosts, refusing absolutely to accept the book as a gift. Here’s what she said after reading Food of Ghosts…

“From the off I was gripped. You took me on a wonderful trip and from start to end I didn’t want to put your book down. I did put it down, though, because I didn’t want the treat to end too quickly. I rationed myself and enjoyed every word. You are a master storyteller. This is it!  I am not saying this because you are my niece. If I had not liked the story I would have said, it’s very nice, dear, and smiled. I enjoyed The Blue Suitcase, of course I did, it’s a wonderful book,  but Food of Ghosts is even better …”

Auntie Sue paused there to catch her breath. I was so thrilled to get such praise. Auntie Sue reads heaps and approval from her, someone I admire and respect, means a lot to me 🙂  Then she said  …

“Yes, the book is  good, so very good, that it can stand all on its own, yes, it can, without one single swear word.”

Ah! 🙁

I knew Auntie Sue wouldn’t like the swearing – not that there is a lot of swearing in Food of Ghosts  but the “f” word is used once or twice. Auntie Sue has asked me to think about not using such words in my next book. I have said I will think about it. However, in my heart of hearts, I know I will  use whatever words it takes to tell the story I want to tell, even if that means using the “f” word.

What do you think? Do you  agree with Auntie Sue?

PS: Despite “disapproving” of my use of swear words, Auntie Sue says she’s still super keen to read the next DS Louisa Townsend book and is still my Number One Fan! Yeh hey! 😉

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14 Responses to Is the “f” word in fiction ever necessary?

  1. Adrienne Allan says:

    I love Auntie Sue! (I see she was feeding you with Tunnock’s Teacakes amongst other goodies!) I know what she means about swearing, I’m not a great fan of the f word either. However, unfortunately we are both in the minority, so if your dialogue is to be realistic then it’s got to have appropriate language and that means as many swear words as you deem necessary for that particular character. Hope you are cracking on with the follow up book Marianne! XX

  2. Lovely to hear from you, Adrienne, as always. Yep, there were Tunnocks teacakes a plenty ;O) I don’t necessarily like swearing myself but, as you say, it’s not about me it’s about what’s right for my characters. Regards the follow up, yes, I’ve started and getting into a writing frame of mind by having a GIANT de-clutter! Some people could call that procrastinating but I find it very helpful 😉 xx

  3. Lorna says:

    The f word is just a word. I use it, quite creatively, in life and in fiction, when necessary. Sometimes it’s the only word that suits.

    • Hey Lorna, so nice to hear from you! Yes, it is just a word but it never ceases to amaze me how powerful some words can be and a simple word can mean so many different things to so many different people. I suppose that is why it is so important to pick the word that most suits 🙂

  4. john gray says:

    A very good point Marianne. I personally do not like swearing in books although I can see how it needs to be used to maintain an element of reality in the story. I dislike it when an author makes an excessive use of slang in order to shock the reader.

  5. Wendy says:

    Hi Marianne. I have no problem with swearing in books if it is appropriate to the character. Just because I don’t like hearing people swear in real life is irrelevant – it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. If it is appropriate to the character then it is appropriate to the book.

  6. Hi Wendy, I seem to be saying ‘lovely to hear from you’ to everyone today, so I’ll not stop now because it is lovely to hear from you too 🙂

    RL Stevenson said, “In all narration there is only one way to be clever. And that is to be exact.”

    I think he was right and it doesn’t matter what the exact word is, as long as it is exactly the right one – even a rude one 🙂

  7. fcmalby says:

    Hi Marianne,
    This is a great post and I love your Auntie Sue. We see eye to eye and I couldn’t bring my self to use the word in my writing but I’ve been reading a lot about being more honest with your words so who knows. You don’t seem to be able to get a Booker Prize nomination without it so you are on the right track. Looking forward to reading your books soon.

  8. Hi Fiona – always nice to hear from you too 🙂 Yes, Auntie Sue is very lovely.

    Despite being so small, words are so complicated, aren’t they? I do think, though, that whatever we write, we have to be true to ourself as a person and a writer, whoever that is and whatever that implies. A Booker Prize nomination? Ha ha Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice ;o)

  9. Katie says:

    Hi Marianne
    Hope your well -I quite like the swearing in book I think people mistake swearing as always being something so bad where as I think its just another word to express a how you feel sometime too much swearing can be distracting if its every-other line but if it adds something to a characters personalty then why not. I also thinks sometime people can relate to some one that isn’t perfect and swears when they heart them-self or someone fighting with say there girl friend and she lobs a vase at him the shock might course the F word. I’m not saying that you should swear for the sake of it but I think it can add grounding to two side to a characters.
    My Nan agrees with you Anutie that swearing shouldn’t be in books because she say that young minds learn from what they read and if they read the F word it will become apart of the way they talk- we had an hour talk on the phone over this and agreed it was a generation thing.
    Overall I think swearing is fine in book, if it bring something to the story.
    Have a great day.

  10. Great to hear from you, Katie! A big hello to all the family, especially your Nan 🙂 I agree “swearing” is a form of expression. I also think you are right, it probably is a generational thing. I laughed when you talked about your hour call with your Nan about this, because I talked about it with Auntie Sue for at last an hour too – and I am sure it will come up again (she has strong views on this!). But I also think it’s okay to disagree with other people. One thing I was really pleased about, though, was Auntie Sue said the swearing wouldn’t stop her reading the next book. She is avery broad minded woman really 😉 Thanks again for your dropping by and your comment. How’s your writing going? very best, Marianne

    • Katie says:

      Hi Marianne
      Writings going well thank-you hello back at you 🙂 hows you all?
      Ha! yeah it was an hour well spent my Nan loves reading and it was a great topic to talk about and she got a new Budgie the other day so it cheered her up.
      Smokey Holly and Jessie are well too.

      I agree its okay to agree to disagree because that what makes us, us our views etc.. My Nan said she would still read the odd book with swearing in it if it was a good book but she not a huge fan of swearing it’s a generation thing. also a respect thing I think between the to because say if I hear swearing in general it doesn’t affect me but if my Nan does she would pull you up on it and then give fiddlesticks as a better word to use. 😀 hahahaha

      Aww that’s great that your auntie is open minded even if swearing isn’t her fave thing in books.

      Thanks for a good talking point sometimes its hard to find something to talk about lately so it was interesting to get her view. 🙂

      I think overall you do have to stick with what you can live with in your story if you can’t take swearing in it don’t add it if you can add away.

      Hope your having a nice week end.
      Take care

      • Good to hear your writing is going well and that Smokie, Holly and Jessie are well 🙂 I am writing my next DS Louisa Townsend novel. I think I’ll be a while ;o) I think as writers we can take risks and try out different stuff but ultimately whatever we do we have to be true to ourselves – and be able to live what we have written. Great to talk to you. Enjoy the rest of the weekend 🙂
        Marianne x

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