Bad Language in Your Writing: To have or not to have? That is the question

I’ll admit right now what I did in my writing:

I used a bad word.

I thought it belonged, that it fit. That the character needed to say it. But my beautiful chapter seemed dirty in my eyes with that one little word.

And I got to thinking, how disappointed I have been in books with bad language.

The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.
I came across these books through another blog. I was an instant sucker for them. They are set in Medieval England and have Rangers. And Rangers=Robin Hood=bows and arrows. All of these things I love.  The books were funny. Halt was funny and kept me laughing. And really, the books just had an interesting plot.
And then, halfway through the first book, I met the first bad word. And in every chapter after that, I read some bad language and the taking of God’s name in vain. All in all it wasn’t really that much and towards the end of the series, the bad language all but disappeared (except for the taking of God’s name in vain.)

But the fact was the words were still there and my love for the books was shattered and shaken. I didn’t even like reading the bad language. Halt could be funny and send you into side-aching laughing without the bad words.

I went around saying “how many people could I recommend this to but for the language?”

And that thought stopped me. How many people might say the same of my own book one day?

 

                 Bad language makes a person’s anger and heartache more authentic.
Well, that’s a point. But bad language is not really needed.
                                  
Considered by many one of the greatest works of literature, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien tugs at your heartstrings and might make you wish you didn’t have feelings (books and movies). You can feel Frodo’s heartache, loneliness, and despair. You can feel it as you read it and as you watch it. All without one single bad word.
And with all that Frodo suffered, many might say he would have been justified in cursing.
But he didn’t.
  Ephesians 4:29 (KJV)
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

 

Colossians 3:8  (KJV)

 

 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth

 

 

 

James 3:9-12 (NKJV)
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
Deuteronomy 5:11 (KJV)
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

So, the Bible clearly says we should not curse or take God’s name in vain. And to let everything we do glorify Him.

Well, I’m not glorifying the bad language, my character is. There’s a difference.

Yes, there is a difference, but consider this.

Whether our story is an allegory fantasy or a Christian fiction, that story might be the only contact a person has with Christ.

Sad, but true.

And people interpret things differently. If a lost person reads our story that has profanity they might think, “well, he says he is a Christian but he curses. I do too, so I don’t need salvation.”

And if cussing in our story causes other people to stray, we will be held accountable for it.

And by the end of the story (let’s say it’s Christian fiction) does the character still speak it or has he changed? Has your character changed, but does he still curse?

So, if your character has to say something here is an example of what he could do:  Marcello cursed under his breath.

Yeah, Marcello cussed (bad boy) but you didn’t actually write what he said.

Or, “Dragon’s teeth”, Michael yelped. “You scared me, Sam.”

And the hard core fact is that there is sin in the world. Since the beginning of time when it entered, our language was corrupted. And people sin. People in the Bible cursed. Yes, add Marcello cursed under his breath. He is human. You and I are human. Everyone sins.

So, in summary, our story might need a little venting, but just write Marcello cursed under his breath. Don’t write words that make the ladies of the castle blush and cover their ears.

                  But…….

Don’t write profanity that people might interpret wrong and thereby your whole redemption theme is lost.

Halt and your own characters can be sarcastic and funny without bad language.

You can write the trials of the human heart without it.

And since the Bible commands against cursing and the taking of God’s name in vain, it is a sin to do so.

The fact is, it’s just really not needed. It’s the easy way to show anger or despair instead of pulling out your dictionary or thesaurus.

God gave us writers (of music and books) a highly developed language and there are a lotta words that can be used instead of taking God’s name in vain and cussing.

We are the Word Changers. Let’s break away from the world’s standard of speaking and writing profanity and do it God’s way.

And to my blog readers, the bad word was deleted.

Will picture source
Aragorn picture source
Frodo & Sam picture source
Boromir picture source could not be found. Picture found on Pinterest
Frodo picture source (right)
Frodo picture (left) source could not be found. Picture found on Pinterest
Frodo picture (bottom) source 
Quote source–Theresa Gray

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