What Would You Do? Strong language in competition entries.

Multiple voices, one author?

Two More Reasons to Support Litopia

Status
Not open for further replies.

Barbara

Full Member
Emeritus
Nov 10, 2017
Cambridgeshire
How do you all feel about using strong language in your writing? I'm working on a short story for a writing competition. Do you think that using strong language hinders one's chances of winning? Or is it perfectly OK to use the odd swear word here or there as long as it is in context? I wouldn't normally be concerned about such things were it not for the comp. Also, it isn't exactly one 'F' word after another 'F' word. But I'm considering using the sentence: Happy Diner, my arse! in a 2000 word story, but this will be as 'bad' as it will get. This sentence is in context and makes sense for this particular situation where emotions are high after a terrorist attack. If anything it should be stronger.

Am I blowing my chances of doing well in a competition by using it? Should I find a 'milder' way of expressing it?

What do you all think.
 
Every competition entry I have ever seen is either littered with profanity or filled with scatalogical references, so don't worry.
In essence, adults swear. They just do. As long as its not done with the intent to shock or sound mature (which never works) but you are writing your characters honestly, it is, IMHO, all good.
EDIT just be honest with yourself and your writing. It needs what it needs.
 
Well it would depend on whether the official rules of the contest call for something specific. My characters all swear like drunken sailors. LOL! I say if it fits the characters and the situation, as oppose to putting it there for say, shock value, then write the story the way it's meant to be written. :)
 
I like your clear thinking, @Howard and @Carol Rose. And what you both say is what I kind of felt. The thing is, the winning entries and runners up etc will be published in a mag, which is why I was wondering if this kind of thing would be taken into account. I haven't seen anything in the rules about swearing and strong language, but it's so subjective, isn't it. One person could say 'oh, poo!' and someone will take offence. I always think, if it's in context it's ok. After all TV is worse.

Oh, I'll just leave it in there and sod everyone in the comp panel who disagrees. :) Thank you both for your kind response this Saturday evening.
 
Exactly. Go with what is right for what you are writing. You know your work. Nothing else matters.
 
I like your clear thinking, @Howard and @Carol Rose. And what you both say is what I kind of felt. The thing is, the winning entries and runners up etc will be published in a mag, which is why I was wondering if this kind of thing would be taken into account. I haven't seen anything in the rules about swearing and strong language, but it's so subjective, isn't it. One person could say 'oh, poo!' and someone will take offence. I always think, if it's in context it's ok. After all TV is worse.

Oh, I'll just leave it in there and sod everyone in the comp panel who disagrees. :) Thank you both for your kind response this Saturday evening.

Yes! All of this is subjective, even when you're a reader and reading in a genre you love. Some stuff you hate, some stuff you love. :)
 
How do you all feel about using strong language in your writing? I'm working on a short story for a writing competition. Do you think that using strong language hinders one's chances of winning? Or is it perfectly OK to use the odd swear word here or there as long as it is in context? I wouldn't normally be concerned about such things were it not for the comp. Also, it isn't exactly one 'F' word after another 'F' word. But I'm considering using the sentence: Happy Diner, my arse! in a 2000 word story, but this will be as 'bad' as it will get. This sentence is in context and makes sense for this particular situation where emotions are high after a terrorist attack. If anything it should be stronger.

Am I blowing my chances of doing well in a competition by using it? Should I find a 'milder' way of expressing it?

What do you all think.

It doesn't sound as though there's a lot of cursing in the story at all.

But ... short answer... it depends....

There are lots of different types of contests. I've seen a lot of RWA contest entries because I've been a contest coordinator a few times. They tend not to have a lot of curse words in them. But this is a reflection of the organization and the chapter, I think. Whether you want to take it out or submit something else I suppose would depend on your read of the contest and the judges. When I submitted to contests it was mostly so I could get the score and the comments back. What you want out of the contest would be another factor. Do you want to win or participate?
 
Also, to be clear, in a world where we're all grown ups with bills to pay, there are other considerations besides our art when submitting to something like a contest. Contests cost money. When you write, write for your art, when you submit, do so strategically. That includes submitting to a contest.

I curse all the time. I like it and never subscribed to the belief that people who curse don't have a large vocabulary. Sometimes, I bring it in. Because, there are some people who really can't take it, they don't like it. And lets be honest, we all do this. I didn't hear anyone cursing during the workshop last week. Well, why not? On the other hand, I curse almost every time I use Skype for critique group. I know my audience.
 
Most responses seem to agree with my personal thoughts. I used the 'c' word in my latest partial, just once, and it was a man screaming at his ex... I don't think he would have called her anything else in the circumstances. This was the piece I submitted for my MA thesis. My tutor said it was perfectly OK, and added that if someone thought the work good enough to publish (I haven't finished this one, so have yet to find out...) a single word wouldn't alter their opinion them. It could always be changed if it violated the publisher's own criteria. I suspect the same would apply to magazines/competitions. I'm going to a reading and masterclass by Roddy Doyle at the end of Feb. I suspect he might agree, too...
 
How do you all feel about using strong language in your writing? I'm working on a short story for a writing competition. Do you think that using strong language hinders one's chances of winning? Or is it perfectly OK to use the odd swear word here or there as long as it is in context? I wouldn't normally be concerned about such things were it not for the comp. Also, it isn't exactly one 'F' word after another 'F' word. But I'm considering using the sentence: Happy Diner, my arse! in a 2000 word story, but this will be as 'bad' as it will get. This sentence is in context and makes sense for this particular situation where emotions are high after a terrorist attack. If anything it should be stronger.

Am I blowing my chances of doing well in a competition by using it? Should I find a 'milder' way of expressing it?

What do you all think.
I've read the story and 'My Arse' works well :) It is a completely natural expression and doesn't sound out of place at all. Keep it!
 
I've read the story and 'My Arse' works well :) It is a completely natural expression and doesn't sound out of place at all. Keep it!
Thank you Rachel. Ever since I wrote those two words, I've been staring at them. One minute they were in, next minute they were out, then you had a read through and they were in, then I had a read though and they were out, then the cat looked at them so they were in, then I looked at them .... I've now made up my mind. They're in!!

And thank you for reading through my story. Your feedback was really helpful!
 
I wish you luck with it. I'm not comfortable writing swear words either, but then I listen to my kids and think the odd 'shit!' in my character's moment of frustration or anger is quite mild and totally acceptable.
 
Do they curse in French?
This is an interesting point. A lot of mud can be slung in other languages rather more freely than our own. I am using this trick in my YA books. The culture of the people in the book is descended from Chinese stock, and while the language is not really spoken in that world anymore, a lot of the words - particularly curse words - have stayed behind. Sure, the words have twisted around a little, and the pronunciation is off, but that is even better! It means my characters - who are all kids - can curse themselves silly, with great sounding, part made up words, but no one is going to bat an eye hearing them as they have no idea what they mean.
 
There's a kids cartoon called Chuggington that follows the adventures of a bunch of talking trains. My three-year-old is mad for it. The characters run around saying things like, 'Honking horns, we're going to be late!'

I'm fascinated by the fact that we equip our kids, consciously or not, with the structures they'll need in later life for serious swearing. :)

Also, you gotta love the grammatical flexibility of English swearing:

Fuck it, the fucking fucker's fucking fucked himself! – contains an exclamation, an adjective, a noun, an adverb, and a verb, and is by all accounts grammatically correct. And if you knew that I was talking about a student of mine called Nathan who had failed to study for his final exams, you would know exactly what I was talking about.

Anyway, I think I've rather digressed...
 
You can step in shit, you can have a shit, you can be in shit, you can paddle up a creek of shit, you can sell shit (in more than one sense), you can look like shit, you can not give a shit, you can go batshit crazy.... apparently there's a website claiming 107 uses of the word 'shit' (but I've just looked at that and quite frankly, most of it is shit). And on that note... I'm off to sort some :)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Multiple voices, one author?

Two More Reasons to Support Litopia

Back
Top