Dropkicking the F-Bomb


Warning: Language Alert. For writers the “F bomb” is always out there and writers are either comfortable using it or not. Some will use it sparingly, some will pepper it. Like all curse words, the F bomb serves its purpose so for those people offended by its use in print, accept it or give up reading. It’s just another word in the English language. Some of our words are classy and elegant and some are abrasive and ugly, even offensive. Writers need all those glorious options when they create.

Language should be fit to the genre, characters, and story. If you’re writing a cozy mystery, the F bomb isn’t going to make an appearance, but if you’re writing noir, it will. If your main character is a youth pastor, not likely he’ll drop it, but if he’s an ex-con working the docks, it’s probably his favorite verb. The important thing for writers is stay true to the character. An astute reader will know if the character wouldn’t speak that way. Never use any word, the F bomb particularly, for shock value. Which brings me to a current proclivity in film.

Seriously, Hollywood, get over the “F” bomb. I hate attending a film where the only dialogue is that word. Just the F bomb strung together between gun fights or bombings or whatever. If a writer is that lazy, that uncreative, my advice is write yellow page entries. Language should always be a tool for the characters to relate, and the F bomb alone cannot do that. Whatever it is that makes Hollywood think it’s necessary, it isn’t. Like any word, choose the F bomb carefully, use it for a purpose that will delineate character and emphasize action.

Do real people use the F bomb as every other word? Absolutely. However, your writing teacher will tell you that people speak in dialect too, but that doesn’t mean you should write an entire book in it. What happens in real life doesn’t translate well to the page, not without the writer’s delicate touch. Never use a roller to plaster the words on, always use a touch up brush, with a light hand. The meaning is as clear as if you used flourescent lighting, but the impact is subtle.

How do you use expletives in your writing?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Dropkicking the F-Bomb

  1. I think it depends on the kind of writing style the specific piece demands. Like, if i’m writing something realistic, i’d use it. But if i’m writing something that would not depict the reality of the situation, then i won’t.

  2. I SO agree! I write YA and know teens pepper their dialogue with the F-bomb, but that doesn’t mean it works well in a novel. When I read, it’s annoying to find the liberal usage of it; an occasional, “well-placed” one is tolerable. But I never write it into my own novels, even milder curses. I keep it offscreen and Telling, saying, “He swore.” or the like. I’d like to think ANYONE could pick up one of my books and enjoy it. Why limit my potential readership?

    • Audience is always a factor in decisions but for me it’s about being true to who each character is. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. My first draft had a number of expletives in it because I was transposing my colourful language onto my characters. It was my father who pointed out to me that this didn’t really work or fit with the other language these guys were using. I went back, had a look and realised that he was right (and my dad swears a lot, so he wasn’t just being prudish). On removing these swear words the dialogue seemed so much more real to life. It’s true what you say: the F Bomb doesn’t alway translate to prose so well. Nice post, thanks.

    • Sometimes it takes another reader to catch what we miss. For me, it’s just a much grayer area than most people make it. They either eschew the word completely or they inundate the prose with it. Focus needs to be on what the character would do and say in the situation. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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