"I like that you told a great story and you didn't have to use curse words. Thank you for that."
This isn't the first time I've received a comment like this and I love that readers are communicating their thoughts on this issue. However, it wasn't really a goal of mine when I wrote the book to produce a curse word clean story. I'm not pro or con swear words. I'm fine with them when they fit the story. Interestingly, my book actually does contain swear words, but they are rather mild and infrequent.
The Light Who Shines is a cross-genre book that spans Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Mystery. The first two genres are known to be proliferated with swear words. When I first drafted my main character profile for Bluebell Kildare, I decided that she only said soft swear words, as this fit her personality. She says things like, "Holy cow!" "Holy smokes!" and "cripes!" That is just her way. She grew up in an orphanage associated with a Catholic church so hard swears are not comfortable for her.
One of the detectives she works with is Catholic and his expletives are things like, "Jesus Christ!" and "Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph!" He doesn't swear a lot because his image is important to him and he likes to be seen as cultured. One of my editors felt that the religious cusses would actually be disliked more than the non-religious hard swear words, but I haven't received any negative feedback on it. I should clarify that this is not in anyway a religious book, even though the various religions of the characters shape their actions and thinking.
The other main character, Jack Tanner, does say more common swear words, but not often and usually not in the presence of ladies. He's a five hundred year old Vampire and a bit old fashioned that way. He has been known to say, "Crap!" "Shit!" and may even say, "Fuck!" in future books, though he hasn't yet.
So, while I didn't set out to create a book purged of swear words, it ended up being fairly clean based on the personality of the main characters. I was pleasantly surprised with all the comments I've gotten from readers who have been hungry for a great action book in these genres that has cleaner language.
How do I feel about swearing in books that I read?
Naturally, I've read a considerable amount of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance to be able to write in those genres. I recall being turned off by a few where the main character cussed all the time and it seemed unnecessarily ugly. But other times characters will belt out the harder curse words during times of danger, pain, or when emotions run high and I'm fine with that. I'm also fine with no swear words.
When I first released my book, one of the negative comments I received was that I had too many exclamation marks. I took this to heart and removed almost all of them during my revision. I left them at only the highest points of emotion in the story. I think all those exclamation marks tired people out.
Similarly, I think hard swear words do the same thing. In my opinion, too many is too many. You risk losing potency.
Still, even though I know that many of my readers don't care for the hard swear words, I think others would be fine with them in any quantity. I think some people feel that if the book doesn't have sufficient hard language it's more of a young adult book, even though the official definition of young adult has nothing to do with swear words.
So, in light of all of these questions, I'd like to take a poll:
When you are done taking the poll, you can see the results here: http://svy.mk/1Pe2ljF
I'd love to hear your comments!