Jul 2, 2011

What's your opinion?

By Bonnie Harris

I've run across many books that have left me wondering about a particular topic. I've asked my husband his opinion and several other avid readers and have been intrigued by their responses. So now it's your turn.

*What is your opinion on Latter-Day Saint authors using curse words and talking about sex in their books?

I have to admit that sometimes the language and content really surprise me. I've gone back and forth with myself on what to do in my own writing. I see and understand both sides of the coin and have heard many authors say, 'If you're not comfortable using the real word, don't use substitutes, whether it be a made up word or just a portion of it.' I would agree with that, but at the same time . . . that's where I'm stuck.

What do you do then, if you have a character that would definitely have questionable language? See where I'm going with it? I guess I'm wondering what other people's experience is or has been with this particular subject. Happy Writing Either Way!


  1. I have hear/read a lot of different opinions on this subject before. huge debate. and a personal one, at that. My choice is to use neither cursing or sexual content of any kind. I'm not currently writing fiction, but I can see where a couple of characters who talk to me now and then might use some slang...like a lot of people do! Good questions, Bonnie. thanks.

  2. There are different ways to handle the language thing. One is just to say someone swore and leave it to the imagination of the reader as to what was said.

  3. "He cursed" is kind of a catch-all. Kiersten White uses "Bleep" (with backstory) in Paranormalcy, and it seems like James Dashner uses something in The Maze Runner that is the way the colony 'swears' but I can't think of what it is right off the top of my head. I think all readers have different comfort thresholds when it comes to that, and writers are the same way. You just go with what feels right and appropriate to you and your subject matter, and I think there are readers out there that will appreciate it.

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  5. Swearing is a part of life for some people, but because I didn't grow up with a swearing household, I don't know how to use it artfully in dialog, and that's a skill I'm not interested in learning. Besides, I believe that anyone who swears just hasn't learned how to use the language that can have an even more devastating effect. It simply isn't necessary, especially in teen or YA genre. Most LDS publishers will eliminate it from adult novels.

    Sex, however, is a part of adult married life, and I don't think it should be avoided entirely. In fact, if anyone should be able to write about it lyrically and beautifully it should be the LDS writer who sees and understands it as a joyful expression of love. Although he admittedly doesn't like writing so-called "sex scenes," Orson Scott Card's depiction of the wedding night in "Enchantment" was both lyrical and beautiful. To me the key is respect. Because it was respectfully written, that scene wasn't offensive or off-putting in any way. It showed a high regard for that sweet, sacred experience.

    One of my books has a near-seduction scene between an innocent 15-year-old girl and a predatory 17-year-old boy. In the revisions I changed it from her point of view to his. Yikes. Very hard to write, but a necessary element in the story. Sometimes sex is a serious issue and ignoring that or brushing lightly over it is more disrespectful than dealing with it realistically. We don't have to get graphic, but if we ignore it as a factor in life, LDS writers may seem laughably naive or deliberately ignorant, which can detract from the believability of the story. It's one thing to plot out a novel without sex as an element at all (not a bad move) but it's another thing to make yourself look stupid because you pretended it doesn't exist.

  6. Since I read fantasy the "cursing" is usually some pagan type god so for some reason it doesn't bother me. I think Pam's comments are right on though about the sex.

  7. I hate to read swear words and I have put down many highly recommended books for that reason. In my books that I write, I never use swearing or curse words of any kind and I'm surprised when any LDS writer does. It's enough to say "he cursed" or "he swore" if you need it in the scene and let the reader fill it in.

    I also leave out all on-screen sex. I either never have it happen during the story or I let it fade to black. If I'm reading a sex scene that stays strictly emotional and not what specific actions they're doing, then I don't mind reading it. I do like a fair degree of sensuality or awareness of each other on a physical level, but not a fully consummated sex scene. That goes for books I write as well as books I read.


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