Having recently seen several manuscripts where ‘swearing without swearing’ was not handled well (you can’t make up fake swear words unless you’re in a whole new world, like James Dashner’s Maze Runner), today’s Writing Tip Tuesday comes compliments of Day to Day with Valor Publishing. (Re-posted with permission from Valor Publishing.)
Are you writing for the LDS market? Mormons do swear differently from other people. If you want to write literature for Mormons, you have to tone it down. You will not get swear words past an LDS censor. And unless you’re a cartoon character, or writing an e-mail, you won’t get away with $%&#(@#*%&@!
But now you’ve got a problem. You’re writing a tense scene where Marco, the assassin from New York, has flown into town ready to do the job he’s been hired to do. Along with him he brings Fredo, his loyal sidekick. They’ve cornered their prey, a sniveling coward named Jones, and Marco brings out his gun. He puts the silencer in place, his movements slow, all the while watching the face of their hapless victim. He wants to prolong the agony as long as possible, and he knows by watching the beads of sweat roll off Jones’ face that his methods are working. He brings the gun up and prepares to shoot. As he pulls the trigger, the gun jams.
“Jeepers,” Marco says. “That’s rotten. Hey, Fredo, hand me another gun.”
“Rats. It sure is too bad your gun didn’t fire,” Fredo says, handing over another gun. “I bet you’re really disappointed.”
We sort of lost all the tension in that scene, didn’t we. Unfortunate.
Let’s try again.
As he pulls the trigger, the gun jams. Jones, eyes clenched tight, flinches, then slowly raises one eyelid. Marco flings the gun to the side, cursing under his breath.
“Give me another gun.”
Fredo removes his own firearm and hands it to Marco, taking the safety off in the transfer. Only a moment has gone by, long enough for Jones to feel relieved but not long enough for Marco to forget why he’s there.
“See you on the other side,” Marco said, pulling the trigger.
Notice how we switched it out and said “cursing under his breath.” We know he’s cursing, but we don’t know what he said. That is one way to interject a “swear word” into LDS fiction. Because Marco isn’t LDS, it doesn’t matter that he swears, as long as we don’t know what he’s saying.
You’ll find plenty of examples of how this is done as you read LDS fiction. The trick is, finding a way to keep the tension high without breaking it by sounding silly. If you can’t find a way to imply a swear word, evaluate if it really needs to be there. Use them only when the scene demands it. And, whatever you do, never use the term “yippee skippy” as an interjection. Please.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved by Valor Publishing Group, LLC.