Is a Lack of Profanity in Fiction a Sign of Weak Writing?

Earlier today, I had an experience in one of my Creative Writing classes that I have chosen to share. It was in playwriting class, and it was my turn to be workshopped. While the majority of the class took no notice to the fact that my play had zero profanity in it (rude words yes, profanity no), one student felt it was odd that my play’s cast swore none of the time at all. To be honest, she even seemed bothered by it. So, I’ve chosen to use this experience as a means to talk about profanity in fiction.

Is it poor writing when your fiction has little to no profanity?

I don’t think so. I can only speak for myself, but the worst words I’ll use are “crap,” “heck,” and “darn.” That’s verbally, though. Occasionally, I’ll slip a real dirty one in there, but I’d be lying if I said that’s how I talk in real life. My mouth is as clean as a whistle. But that being said, I don’t think it’s a poor choice of diction to exclude certain words when you’re writing fiction or some other form of Creative Writing. I think often times, people rely far too much on profanity to get the point across.

The point is simple. If you choose to include characters that cuss, make sure every word out of their mouth counts. Too much of that stuff can reflect poorly on you as a writer. And please, don’t be so narrow-minded that you catch yourself thinking that a lack of profanity is weak writing. It’s frankly a stupid mindset, and there are plenty of writers out there (myself included) that don’t generally use language like that in their books. I won’t judge if you do it, but for Zeus’s sake, make sure every word counts.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Author: napoleonlovecraft

Napoleon Lovecraft is a blogger and author from the suburbs of Maumelle, Arkansas. Born in 1988, Lovecraft is a lover of the fantasy genre. It is his goal to write in as many fantasy subgenres before he kicks the bucket, with stories ranging from short stories to full-length novels. His debut novel, Kingslayer, is expected to be a unique take on the High Fantasy genre, having been told in first person and aided with footnotes, not to mention the fact that it is set in a non-medieval fantasy world. Lovecraft is studying for his BA in both Professional Writing and Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He lives in Greenbrier, Arkansas with his family, where his dog and seven cats keep him in line.

One thought on “Is a Lack of Profanity in Fiction a Sign of Weak Writing?”

  1. I don’t really use profanity in most of my fiction writing, either, although I don’t suppose I really have an aversion to it, and I’ve used it generously on some occasions in other types of writing.

    Thinking that it as “weak” writing seems a bit odd, but to some degree I guess it can depend on the context. If you’re writing a gritty crime story and the characters never exclaim anything harsher than, “Darn it!” or “Oh, fiddle sticks” that might seem a bit odd.

    On a broader note, I think sometimes people make those kinds of arguments because they get hung up on the idea of “realism” in fiction, when they take to mean that everything in fiction should be just like real life and should be criticized at any point where it fails to be. But genuine, literal realism isn’t always a desirable or achievable thing in fiction. What I think really matters more is verisimilitude and the reader’s ability to BELIEVE in the reality of the fictional world, rather than that’s world’s fidelity to actual reality. If you can build a fictional world where it’s believable that the characters don’t swear, then that’s really all that matters.


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