Is it Creative Writing?

This post is inspired from some books, which I’ve read or dropped half-way recently. 

I’ve been wondering when did this happen: A marked erosion of language in modern fiction and deteriorating standards of vocabulary.

When I was a youngster, there was a striking difference between good literature and cheap novels and the students of literature were advised to avoid the latter kind of books. Though D.H. Lawrence was a prescribed author, but his ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was not available in the libraries. When I could lay my hands on this novel, I didn’t find anything offensive in the language. Probably it is the theme of his novel that raised eye-brows.

Nobody seems to care about any such aspect of books now. Profane language and curse words are acceptable. Themes can be as obscene as never read. Many modern authors consider it the normal vocabulary of people and want to connect with them. Probably their brains are wired differently, they have been hearing such words at home, which may sound rational to them.

If a character is disgusted, they use a “F” word. If he is frustrated, same word, if he is angry, upset or stressed, their word doesn’t change!

Is it realism, as those authors claim?
Is it the rat race to immediate success?

Showing or telling the story in a conversational manner doesn’t give a permit to use profane language!

If teenagers are using such words, they are hearing them from their parents, friends, cousins or uncles. When they read them in the books, they get the message that such language is appropriate. They grow up with the use of indecent phrases and expressions, which become their second nature. 

Do you think some authors who use “F” and “S” words to convey anger and frustration in each dialogue are doing their real job, which is to describe the emotions and psychological demeanor of their characters?

Don’t you think they need to develop their vocabulary to explain the reactions of their characters?

To my mind, such books, with vulgar thoughts and language are no less than a storm in the tea cup, their value diminishes within days, they would be forgotten and buried in the rubbish of unwanted literature. Most of the times, I drop such a book.

A good writer doesn’t need to introduce himself. His language conveys his stature. He/she doesn’t stoop to the level of cheap tricks to make his books popular. Even erotic scenes are written in a creative manner by mindful writers. I’ve read some fabulous books without a single curse word.

Do you think readers are becoming immune to curse words? Please share your views.

Thank you.

– Balroop Singh.


48 thoughts on “Is it Creative Writing?

  1. Great post and question, Balroop. I had a book where I was on the fence using a certain word but I was encouraged to do so. Later, though, I went back and fixed it to my comfort level. In certain situations it makes sense a character will swear, but no it isn’t necessary to use that throughout. I don’t like to see it at all in books meant for younger readers and limited in adult reading. I think there is more experimenting in writing now and the more defined lines of past are blurred between what used to be considered literature.

    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion Denise. If the protagonist of a book swears at the drop of a hat, that is unacceptable! It may suit a villain once in a while but not the main character. I’ve seen such books earning five stars! Younger readers read all kind of books these days and that could be the reason they pick up such words so early in life!

  2. You raise a good question here, Balroop. We have turned into a society where the F word seems to be a part of every day language. I’m not a fan. Thanks for the honesty!

  3. I could have written this post, of course not as eloquently as you. I think our society as a whole is becoming immune to not only curse words, but obscene behavior that’s shared on social media. I’m happy to know we like our tea the same, Balroop. xo

  4. I read an excerpt of a horror story whose author had one of his characters take the Lord’s name in vain. I sent that author a private message letting him know I didn’t appreciate it and that the Lord doesn’t deserve to be talked about in that manner. The author’s response to me was this, “I’m sorry, but that’s how that character talks. He just let’s things fly out of his mouth like that. Yeah, I’m the author, but he (the character) just blurts stuff out like that, when he’s upset.”

    That answer was unacceptable to me. I totally agree with out 100%. Thank you for your article. I am going to reblog this.

    1. Thank you for coming over to read, welcome to Emotional Shadows L.M.
      I think those who like to use unacceptable words are insensitive toward the views of others. It’s no use banging our heads against their hollow views.

  5. Great topic, Balroop. I’d have to agree that modern fiction is becoming looser with language. I notice (and I can’t think which book it was) dialogue is very ‘slangy’ and it gets annoying. I actually notice this in some new films, often written and produced by people in their early 30’s. All of the characters seem to talk the same way and swearing is just everyday dialogue.

    In a work of fiction, the F word is rarely needed, I think. It has to be a pretty reprehensible character to use the word. I think I used it in the dialogue of an abusive character in one of my short stories. That wasn’t unrealistic to me as I witnessed this type of taunting and language toward someone in my life.

    I’m currently reading The Portrait of a Lady and wow, the language is superior and rich. I nice switch up from the modern bestseller I just finished.

    1. Lisa, I am glad you agree with me regarding the falling standard of language in modern fiction. I wonder how such writers become best sellers and earn five star reviews! There is some section of readers who don’t bother about language and believe in reading cheap thrillers! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this topic. 🤗

  6. Good question, Balroop, and I agree that language in books has become more loose. I think in some cases, those curse words make the most sense, but then again, I’ve read books where the “f” word is in just about every sentence, which to me, sounded ridiculous. Does this language sell better? I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s necessary either as the new normal in creative writing.

    1. To my mind, such a writing can not be called creative. It is just a re-hash of what has been told thousands of times. I would never waste my time reading such books! Thanks for chiming in Lauren.

  7. Hi Balroop, I am not a fan of swearing in books and I’m not particularly keen on sex either. If it’s subtle, fine, but I’m not really interested in details. Sometimes a few swear words are necessary for setting the scene like in a war book, Soldiers swear, but I keep bad language very minimal in my writing.

    1. I absolutely agree with you Robbie, what is the need of details about sex when there are many more things to talk about in a book. A good book should hinge on the plot and the character-crafting, not unnecessary details, which don’t contribute anything to the plot. Thank you for adding your point to the discussion.

    1. Jacqui – I’ve tried to go into your blog several times today (from different sources) and a big red block comes up saying it’s a dangerous website. Thought I’d give you a heads up!!! Pam

  8. GREAT question and hopefully eye-opening and thought-provoking for authors. If a lot of profanity is used in a book, I assume it’s not well-written, because if it WAS well-written, the reader would know the character’s emotions by the setting/dialogue/description, not by the use of the “f” word etc. I suppose some authors think that their characters speak that way, but really, do characters speak that way because the author watches a lot of TV? I notice TV characters speak that way a lot. Again, my guess is bad screen writing!
    On another subject, your name comes up in my blog post tomorrow, and I linked your name to your blog.
    And thirdly, I love love love your latest book of poems and I finally reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads. And not a profane word was to be found. 🙂

    1. I agree with you Pam, only those who fail to create a wonderful setting, compelling dialogue and nice description depend on such tactics! Thank you for endorsing my thoughts about creative writing.
      Many thanks for reviewing my latest book, I am dashing off to read your reflections about it. 🥰

  9. I don’t understand what it is in the new literature with “F” and “S” words. Do they think it’s “cool?” Do they think that’s what the new generations want? Or does it reflect on the characters of the writers? I would never have that kind of language in my writing. Would those writers say I’m old fashion? Old fashion it is with me then. When I watch movies with that kind of language, I always say the screenwriter is lazy. He just writes half of the script and fills the other half with swearing words. I don’t think those books or movies will last for too long. A great post, Balroop! 🙂

    1. Thank you Miriam for expressing your honest opinion about the topic and I agree with you…being lazy doesn’t give you any accolades! Such writers are forgotten before they blink. Their loss! 😀

  10. Great topic of discussion Balroop. I have to say, I read many books, and don’t come across much swear words, possibly because of the genres I read in. I also read a lot of nonfiction and do find the occasional word ‘of expression’ in those books. But I don’t mind when it’s called for, but certainly not used constantly through dialogue. Like any over used word in a story, it gets boring. 🙂

    1. Yes, in non-fiction, there is no scope for profane language. Also, non-fiction writers have a wonderful command over the language, they don’t rely on cheap gimmicks. Thank you Deb, for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Hello Balroop, very interesting. In fact I noticed this a lot in some books I came accross – kind of modern fiction or yound adults books. I wonder what’s the point of using such an inappropriate langage. And how some people seem to find it ok. Perhaps we don’t all have the same approach of literature. When I see too many of theses words in a story, I give it away quickly. It’s way too violent for me anyway!

    1. I agree with you Marie, there is no point in using such language. They expose their own lack of vocabulary and pathetic style! Thanks for sharing your views.

  12. Hi – I think this degradation doesn’t just apply to books – but also to TV shows and movies – and comedians – and not sure if you ever heard of Jin Gaffigan – but part of his success is that he dropped the “F” word from his routine and it was a good call!

    The F word overused gets watered down and loses impact
    And then all that swearing it classless and I like how you said “storm in tea”

    I am reading a softcover book from 1953 – “six weeks to word power” by Wilfred Funk and he has a lot to say about vocabulary and word choice.

    1. Thank you for adding your insight to the discussion, much appreciated. Only those who lack the right words to describe the situation in a creative manner use profane language.

      1. Yes / and it is so classless
        My husband is a health coach part time and so he watches a lot go webinars put in by his peers!
        One of his favs is this lawyer lady who does health coaching on the side
        Well! She is all fit and has great outfits and looks polished and has some wise info to share – but each F bomb that she lets out (and she explained it is just her style??) well each sweat word diminishes my respect for her!
        I just don’t find it professional and that is why I stopped swearing when I taught college classes

  13. Thanks for sharing your opinion on this, Balroop. I have one book that uses the F word quite a bit and I’ve been planning to go through it and tone it down A LOT. Probably in September. At the time, I wanted to be realistic, but I’ve learned since that cursing isn’t necessary for realism. And it certainly does throw some readers off. Thanks for reinforcing my decision to revisit my book. 🙂

    1. I can’t believe you’ve used this word Diana. You are known for your master over the language and yes, realism is much more than curse words. I am glad you feel inspired to eliminate them. 🤗

  14. I actually don’t use cuss words, but don’t mind them myself. However, I feel that cusses are best used sparingly for full effect, and if so inclined, I think making up fantasy cuss words (especially when writing stories in different worlds) can dampen the effect somewhat. Great topic here. Thanks for this post!

  15. I am a bad author. I have to disagree with 1 point: that teenagers hear it from their parents… Right now it’s mostly TikTok and the internet. They play with the phone from the age of 3 🙂 I personally belong to the older generation and never heard a bad word …mmm before 6th grade (I mean in my family). I also got a classical (literature) education… but I think I just like it. Being bad is fun. I don’t use F word often because there’re other ways to be bad…

    Well I believe there will always be bad and good writers.

    Just an opinion. Maybe I’m wrong 🙂 the time will tell…

    1. Hi Victoria, thanks for sharing your opinion. It is a matter of perspective. Being bad doesn’t mean using foul language. There are many ways to project your characters as wicked, it’s the matter of being creative.
      A child playing with phone depends on how much parental control you have on children and teenagers. Yes, peer groups do acquaint us with all kinds of words but where to use them or not use them at all, depends on parental guidance.

  16. Writers can be more effective by using more descriptive words to convey visual imagery. F…k doesn’t convey much to me. I can’t even read bestsellers for long that concentrate on realistic life language and now prefer other writers with less violence and less bad language in their stories. Perhaps some like that edginess?
    You can show without telling, as they say. This applies to bad language and violence too. We read for entertainment or to be transported to different spaces via words, and bad languages can be heard anywhere, so it if is added into a book, there is no incentive for me to read it.

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