Warning – foul language ahead

by Julie Frayn on April 8, 2015 in  Writing

Not everyone swears like a trucker (with all due respect to truckers). Some folks go their whole life without one cuss word. That’s kind of like people who never get cavities. How the hell do they DO that?

In case you haven’t noticed – I swear. I like the sound and feel of words I can spit from my mouth. Not necessarily in anger, I’m not an angry person. Just for emphasis. For effect. And because I just plain like it.

Since my penchant for profanity pops up in my writing, I put up warnings for all of my books.

Language, violence, sex.

These things appear in everything I write. Even 90% of the short stories. In addition to the warning, the F-bomb will likely pop up more than once in the “look inside” preview on Amazon. The whole point of the book description and the preview is to be sure readers are getting what they expect. So please take advantage of those bits of critical intel before you buy. If foul language isn’t your cuppa joe, then my stories won’t be either.

What’s this, you ask? A writer warning readers away from her books? Well, here’s the deal. I love reviews and feedback. I want to hear what readers think. It feeds the ego – no question – but more importantly, it informs my future writing. If there are areas I can improve, I’m going to try. But often a review isn’t about the story, it’s about the F-word. That’s why I put the warning out there. A one star review that is only one star because my fiction has a potty mouth (a fact the reader was already warned about) is a waste of a review in my opinion. And a huge waste of that reader’s time and money.

imagesWhen a movie has been cleansed of foul language – shit becomes sugar, fuck is fudge, all profanity turns into sweet confection – the result is often laughable. A drama with an edge becomes b-grade comedy. Me and the babies press the pause button and try to guess what they really said. It can become a game of he said what? She said fuck.

The same can be said for novels without realistic vernacular. A gangster that doesn’t swear? A rapist who can’t verbalize the horrific abuse he heaps on his victims? I just don’t buy it. Hell, even my 82-year-old mother drops the occasional F-bomb. And when she does, we laugh our asses off.

My own experience has shown that a large portion of folks in the real world swear. And many who choose not to, acknowledge and accept that others do. Especially homeless drug-addicted teenagers, or abusive drunken husbands. One reviewer commented that Mazie Baby would be just as impactful without all of the profanity.

Possibly. But it wouldn’t be as honest.

Stories, even fictional ones, need honesty. They must convey the mood, the lingo, the reality for those characters. If the writer tiptoes around language to appease a minority readership, what other aspects of the story are they not exploring to the fullest potential?

So here’s my bottom line. Profanity stays. In the right doses for the story being told, the character being explored. Because when trying to bring reality to my fictional characters, phooey just doesn’t have the same heft as a good, hard, fuck.


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

David Antrobus April 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm

I’ve always said that having curse words as well as the other words means you have a wider and not a narrower vocabulary. So yeah, the prudes can go fuck themselves. 😉


Julie Frayn April 8, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Thank you David! I love curse words. Most of them. There’s one I hate but I used in Mazie at the urging of my editor because it fit. But I still won’t say it. And I’m no fucking prude. :)

David Antrobus April 8, 2015 at 7:42 pm

If it’s cunt, you need to talk to me. I’ll change your opinion. I swear, the North American male has made that word taboo here, yet it has the richest and greatest history of almost any other word I know. I absolutely love the word, and I’m about as un-misogynistic as you can get, lol.

Julie Frayn April 8, 2015 at 7:43 pm

That is the word….

Julie Frayn April 8, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Even after the Vagina Monologues, I can’t say it…

David Antrobus April 8, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Deprogram yourself! LOL, I know this isn’t the venue for it, but I did some extensive research on the word, partly because I was gobsmacked by the disconnect between the UK and North America, and reactions to it over here, and it was fascinating. Shakespeare himself made at least two jokes based on it, one of them in Hamlet. (Email me if you’re curious, lol, I don’t want to commandeer your blog.)

Oh, btw, I aways wanted to write a Canadian spoof called The Regina Monologues.

Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 12:40 pm

hah, you must do the Regina Monologues. Too funny.

BigAl April 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Fuck yeah. :)


Julie Frayn April 8, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Cursing’s da shit.

Laurie Boris April 8, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Love the fuck out of this post. And considering a warning on the next book. 😀


Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 6:42 am

Thanks! Warnings do work for those who read them. I’ve received emails thanking me for the warning. And of course, shitty reviews from those who didn’t heed it.

Laurie Boris April 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Yeah… that C-word’s a tough one in America. I have a major problem with it. Because use that and the safety comes off.


David Antrobus April 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm

What? Laurie, you mean the DBs haven’t gotten rid of your squeamishness? Don’t let the misogynists win! 😉

Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 6:44 am

OK David, I’ll be emailing you for info. Doubt I’ll be flinging the C-word around, because here it does have some incredibly negative connotations. (DB?)

Ey Wade April 8, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Holy shit, you hit the f’ing nail on the head. People should take note of warning sounds.


Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 6:44 am

Agreed! And some do. Which is good :)

Carolyn Frayn April 9, 2015 at 10:06 am

I’m enjoying the comments almost as much as your post… I’m glad you got it off your chest, those reviews were as useful as the movie reviews that give out one star for a great movie because the file wouldn’t download. Uh, sure. Whatever. PS… I say the C-word once in a while, it’s the youngest boy’s fault, there’s something about the UK. xo


David Antrobus April 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

Definitely UK. *Huge warning for massive cursing*


Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Yes, needed to speak my fucking mind. 😀 David, all I hear when I hear that is ‘can’t’ – in Arthur’s voice…

David Antrobus April 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Ha ha, I know, right? Their Derek and Clive stuff was very juvenile, and so am I for laughing at it (it’s the ’80s terrace football fan in me). Shakespeare’s joke in Hamlet was far more elegant!

Kathi April 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Since I have a science degree, here’s some science — a research study that says swearing is healthy:


And this quote, from the same article, via linquist, Dr. Benbarek: “Swearing is important for creating close relationships, friendship or intimacy with others, and bonds can be formed around it.”

So there. I do like, sometimes, just as a vocabulary challenge, to employ phrases that aren’t necessarily cuss-words, but get the point across nonetheless. Like my friend Elaine’s much-beloved and oft-quoted phrase, ‘bat excrement.’ And one of my personal favorites, ‘I don’t give a rodent’s derriere.’ Sort of Shakespearean. Like this one, by Will himself, from Henry IV: “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

In closing, however, I confess that this is possibly my favorite Facebook page: ‘Intelligent, classy, well-educated women who say fuck a lot.’ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Intelligent-classy-well-educated-women-who-say-Fck-a-lot/191907457493339?fref=ts

Says it all, I think.


Julie Frayn April 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

I love it when science backs me up! Fuckin’ A – Thanks Kathi :). I’ve liked that facebook page now that you’ve confirmed ‘classy’ is optional. Maybe I’ll go comment on all the one star reviews and just post that link…

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