This, I believe, has been a long-standing question in the literary world. Each writer is different in what they like and how they prefer to write. Some avoid cursing altogether, some use it sparingly, some drop the F-bomb every once in a while and some practically drown their books with curse words.
Now I don’t know if I’m a minority or anything, but I try my best to avoid curse words… both in writing and in my personal life. It is very rare for anyone to hear me cursing or saying something less than appropriate. The most I will probably say is damn, and the expression, “Sacrebléu!” amuses me greatly. That said, however, I don’t avoid books or movies that contain cursing. It’s just when the characters start going crazy with their crudeness that I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth.
While I know that real life is not all sunshine and daisies and curse words are employed quite regularly in the everyday language, I don’t see their purpose or literary merit when it comes to fiction. Some might say that it’s realistic and manages to show just how angry or peeved a character is, but as someone once told me, you don’t need to use swearing to show that. A good writer will be able to show the reader just how angry their character is by employing other techniques.
For example, you could say that your character was clenching their fists, or that there was a look of murderous rage in their eyes, or their glare was burning twin holes into someone else’s head, or that a vein was throbbing in their temple… the possibilities are endless. Even without all that, the tone makes all the difference. A character could say, “I’m going to f***ing kill you!”, but they could also say, “I’m going to kill you.” and get an ominous, creepy effect.
Ultimately it’s up to the author to decide whether they want to go clean or not. It’s a personal preference and I respect that, and in most situations it wouldn’t stop me from reading a book or watching a movie… but it can be sometimes jarring. One example that comes to mind is Ted, a movie about a teddy bear that comes to life. You may have a heard of it. It has an interesting premise, but I was aghast at the amount of swearing spouting out of that bear’s mouth… and I was only watching the trailer! I mean, is that really necessary?
I like my stories to be clean, so I avoid cursing and avoid sex scenes. I may include references or a simple kiss here and there, but I don’t go beyond that. I have no qualms about writing a disturbing murder, but I still refuse to venture into naughtiness. I don’t claim to be a better person/writer for it, and some of my favourite authors include both these things in their stories, but as I said… it all comes down to preference! One should write what they like. =]
What do you think? Do you include smatterings of curse words in your books or do you avoid them altogether? How do you feel about books or movies with such content?