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Rules question: censoring language in fiction

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Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Rahvin » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:52 pm

And by language, I generally mean profanity.

Now, don't get me wrong, I fully support the rule against swearing in discussion threads and conversation and the like. That's just polite. But when it encroaches into fiction and the characters and dialogue therein, it begins to get restrictive. It's hard, for example, to write a decent underhive story if the characters are restricted to saying 'feth' or 'fug' instead of 'fuck' and other such 'oh biscuits' levels of made-up-words-to-censor-what-it's-plainly-obvious-they-should-be-saying. I mean, is your average hardened ganger really going to be saying 'oh sugar'? It kills a lot of the attitude and atmosphere of the piece, and all-too-often I find myself just writing normally in the language the characters would use, and then having to go back and edit out profanity and consequently send the whole thing into nursery school.

Of course, I'm not saying that profanity is by any means necessary. Most of the time, you can convey the message without using it. But in some situations, it's right to use. That's why we invented the words, after all.

So yeah, are we PG-13 here, or are we grown-ups?
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby LordLucan » Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:49 pm

Personally, I'm fine with it in stories. It is more when curse words are used in a combative way, during discussions/arguments, that I take issue with it.

So long as you aren't being gratuitous with your language, there's no real harm done.
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Athelassan » Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:24 pm

I believe BL in this matter have stated they will not use the f-word or c-word in any of their writings (I don't particularly like the x-word convention, but what can you do). Certainly I've never seen either. Anything less offensive than that they will print within reason. I see no particular reason not to adhere to the same policy regarding the lesser swears. As to the more serious ones, personally, I'd rather they weren't used, but that's because most of the time when I see them in fiction (or for that matter hear them in conversation) I find them gratuitous or used only for shock value, and that there would have been a better way of expressing it.

However, sometimes swearing is appropriate for the situation, and so long as it's not overly gratuitous, as LL says, I don't really have a problem with that. However, we do still have our blanket PG-13 rating and such language wouldn't be allowed elsewhere on the site, so if there is going to be bad language in a given piece it might be best to put up a reader advisory notice at the start.

Incidentally, I'm not excessively keen on one of these words being left openly in the initial post given that this is not the fiction board... but I'll leave that for now.

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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Liliedhe » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:33 am

He wasnt swearing. He was explaining (and btw, I agree with Rahvin).

When you are writing, at some points a character will swear. Having to selfcensor, disrupts the flow of creativity and reads... Strangely.

Sometimes settings will manage to invent their own swears and manage to have them feel natural for the setting (Shadowrun did for example) but other settings dont (aside from 40k, Star Wars comes to mind). Besides, with the permission to put original stories up here, one might have to use fake swears for stories set on earth and that just doesnt work.
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Athelassan » Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:49 pm

Liliedhe wrote:When you are writing, at some points a character will swear. Having to selfcensor, disrupts the flow of creativity and reads... Strangely.

Where is that line drawn, though? I have known people who would swear - literally - every third or fourth word. To transcribe their dialogue or to portray their character accurately, you'd have to replicate that when writing about them.

As for the self-censoring, I doubt anyone is just hammering out the words and pressing "send" - if you're worried about it disrupting the flow of writing, then put the swears in then take them out in editing/proofreading. Besides which, people self-censor all the time. You can't use certain language in certain types of correspondence or in certain social situations, and fiction is absolutely not an exception to that (it's why there's a ratings system in the first place). If you're writing for a publisher, you'll have to abide by their language guidelines and submit to their edits about what they consider appropriate.

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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Vivia » Sat Oct 12, 2013 2:12 pm

Rahvin wrote:And by language, I generally mean profanity.

Now, don't get me wrong, I fully support the rule against swearing in discussion threads and conversation and the like. That's just polite. But when it encroaches into fiction and the characters and dialogue therein, it begins to get restrictive. It's hard, for example, to write a decent underhive story if the characters are restricted to saying 'feth' or 'fug' instead of 'fuck' and other such 'oh biscuits' levels of made-up-words-to-censor-what-it's-plainly-obvious-they-should-be-saying. I mean, is your average hardened ganger really going to be saying 'oh sugar'? It kills a lot of the attitude and atmosphere of the piece, and all-too-often I find myself just writing normally in the language the characters would use, and then having to go back and edit out profanity and consequently send the whole thing into nursery school.

Of course, I'm not saying that profanity is by any means necessary. Most of the time, you can convey the message without using it. But in some situations, it's right to use. That's why we invented the words, after all.

So yeah, are we PG-13 here, or are we grown-ups?


I completely disagree that no swearing brings things to a nursery school level or is less adult.
For a person that swears very little in real life I never felt like I'm limiting myself, it isn't a big deal.

For a ganger that swears a lot, well, that's really nothing more than stereotypes. The gangers I have talked to weren't cursing a lot, it was their type of words and expression that were crude and unpolished.

My suggestion is to watch 1930s and 40s gangster cinema with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, they played menacing gangsters in a time when the moral code was very high. Watch The Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum, his false preacher is truly sinister, fairly certain it's on YouTube.

Swearing like a sailor, smoking and drinking heavily are stereotypes of debauchery and lack of moral, and hardly needed. Just because it's socially accepted in a different way doesn't make it better, it's only a weak way of pointing out so-called bad-assery. Don't fall for this trap.

My reply has little to do with the BH rules but I think it has been addressed by the other mods.
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Liliedhe » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:10 pm

Athelassan wrote:
Liliedhe wrote:When you are writing, at some points a character will swear. Having to selfcensor, disrupts the flow of creativity and reads... Strangely.

Where is that line drawn, though? I have known people who would swear - literally - every third or fourth word. To transcribe their dialogue or to portray their character accurately, you'd have to replicate that when writing about them.

As for the self-censoring, I doubt anyone is just hammering out the words and pressing "send" - if you're worried about it disrupting the flow of writing, then put the swears in then take them out in editing/proofreading. Besides which, people self-censor all the time. You can't use certain language in certain types of correspondence or in certain social situations, and fiction is absolutely not an exception to that (it's why there's a ratings system in the first place). If you're writing for a publisher, you'll have to abide by their language guidelines and submit to their edits about what they consider appropriate.

Ath

Please, tell me you have never read a book and come to a place where you thought "a swear word went here, and was then taken out".

It completely depends on the character, the story, the context. I am not saying it happens in every story. It won't even happen in many. But sometimes it does happen and then you have a problem.

Sure, you can write "X swore violently." Works quite a lot of times. But sometimes it does not. Sometimes you need to know what a character actually said.

If you are dealing with alien cultures, isolated social groups or whatever, or historical fiction, you can get by with invented words, or simply words that are from older times and it's fine. If you write something that is set here, now on earth, that is not a possibility.
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby LordLucan » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:32 pm

Sometimes swearing is required for visceral emphasis, I agree.
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Therion » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:41 am

Vivia wrote:I completely disagree that no swearing brings things to a nursery school level or is less adult.
For a person that swears very little in real life I never felt like I'm limiting myself, it isn't a big deal.

For a ganger that swears a lot, well, that's really nothing more than stereotypes. The gangers I have talked to weren't cursing a lot, it was their type of words and expression that were crude and unpolished.

My suggestion is to watch 1930s and 40s gangster cinema with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, they played menacing gangsters in a time when the moral code was very high. Watch The Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum, his false preacher is truly sinister, fairly certain it's on YouTube.

Swearing like a sailor, smoking and drinking heavily are stereotypes of debauchery and lack of moral, and hardly needed. Just because it's socially accepted in a different way doesn't make it better, it's only a weak way of pointing out so-called bad-assery. Don't fall for this trap.

What's immoral about swearing?

Also, swearing exists outside of "badassery" and "looking tough". Swearing is a common way of relieving tension.

Anyway, for good use of swearing in military themes, I would point to Sven Hassel's novels. Soldiers in them swear a lot and are often creative about the way they swear.
They seem to like to play various word games.

Some people behave like that especially in large groups. They trade insults and invent new insults against stuff they dislike. I never was into such stuff - I was more into violence, so it's probably an important part of characterisation.
I think that some menacing characters may be more into terror than into attacking their opponents by saying silly stuff.
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Re: Rules question: censoring language in fiction

Postby Xisor » Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:00 am

Fugging Strabo

It's unsurprising that ol' Fry can come to the rescue on this one: Fry on swearing.

(NSFW, thanks to the presence of the people mentioned in the content probably being at your work and a bit sensitive to it all.)
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