I know this topic has been covered at length elsewhere, but I had an experience this past week that got me thinking about using swear words in teen lit that I decided it was time to post something about it here. So, here's the deal: while at my husband's family reunion, my MIL read Colors Like Memories, and was highly complementary of the book. But, she really didn't think I needed to include swear words. It wasn't "clean" fiction, and there were lots of youth who would avoid the book because of that. (There were Stephanie Meyer comparisons in there somewhere...) I'm not upset with her in the least, and am always happy to hear other people's opinions. Seriously, she phrased it in a way that was really nice. BUT it did get me thinking.
Here's the thing: I really don't fully understand the need to omit these words. I mean, I get that some people really take offence to swearing, but I guess I've never been one of these people. And I occasionally have swearing in my books. This isn't to annoy people, but it's for two reasons:
-Real teens swear. I don't care where you are (even in the middle of Utah--trust me), teens swear. Maybe not around adults. Maybe under their breath. But they swear. There may be one or two who don't, but they're around it all the time. It's not abnormal. Most people probably don't even notice it. My students who come in to talk to me slip all kinds of random language into their speech while talking to me, their Professor. So yeah, it happens :)
-Artistic license. Writing isn't just about putting words on paper. It's about telling a story. Creating a world, a life, out of words. And sometimes my characters are really having a crappy day and use a word that not everyone likes. Who am I to censor my characters?
Okay, so those are my arguments for why I don't feel a need to be overtly careful about not using swear words in my books. Granted, I write for older teens, too, so bear that in mind :) BUT, my MIL had a point, too. She flat out told me that the use of swear words limits who she can recommend my book to, because certain people will be offended. And, quite frankly, that kind of sucks.
My WIP has a character with kind of a potty mouth. He's a freshman in college, and I've spent way too much time around this species, and they all have potty-mouths. So, what's a writer to do? My inner arguments outlined above make me want to leave his swearing as is. But, is this hurting my future sales?
So, what do you think? Does swearing turn you off from a book? Does it bother you? Inquiring minds wish to know :)