Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 1 decade ago

Profanity in a young adult novel: How much is too much?

I am a first-time novelist writing a novel kind of geared towards older teens, but that I'm sure adults would enjoy too... my point is it's not really for 12-13 year olds. The main character, who is the first-person narrator of the story, swears a lot and I am wondering if it is innapropriate. She is 16 years old, has ADHD and probably a learning disabillity as well, gets frustrated easily and is kind of inarticulate (although she's actually pretty intelligent). She's also a little rebellious. The other characters usually don't use foul language more than once in a while. So I'm wondering, is this OK?

9 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Best answer

    Is it possible to use a substitute word with a similar meaning . I think that would be more acceptable. Be kind to your audience in the world of the written word because too much profanity is heard in the spoken world . Thank You for asking.

  • 1 decade ago

    I just finished two of James Patterson's Maximum Ride books - the heroine is a 14 year old girl, and the other major characters are ages 6 through 14. The harshest word in there is 'd a m n'. I think these books are geared for ages 12 and up. I didn't have a problem with that, but I think I wouldn't let a 12 year old read anything with vulgar language (the f word or crude words for body parts). I work for a charity and we just received a donation of books geared for that same age range - its in the form of a diary written by a young teen. I flipped through it and found the phrased 'p * ssed off' - I'm not sure I'm comfortable giving that book to a child, and not sure how their parents would react to it.

    What you have to realize though, is that even though a book isn't geared for 12-13 year olds, if any are voracious readers, they will read it. I was sorely offended when I was 10 and was given an age-appropriate book as a gift - at the time I was reading 2 grade levels higher than that and though the book was a 'little kid book'. I was always looking on the 'wrong shelves' in the school library for reading materials.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It seemed to work well enough for Of Mice and Men. Truth is, if the book is any good you'll probably hear from some parent or other. And if it helps get the character across in some way and therefore is central to the story then I say yes. Besides, you are an artist, and the message is what's important to the artist (not the criticism).

    And look at what gets attacked. South Park for example is attacked as having too many curse words. Yet movies like anything with Sylvester Stallone or Jean-Claude van Damme that had many more curse words and violence and so on were left alone. Why? Because it wasn't the cursing that was the problem, it was the fact that South Park attacks the government and its actions, the beliefs of society based on tradition or fear (like no homosexuality or blind patriotism). But if the leaders attack that, they will be seen as trying to silence someone using their free speech to dissent. So they attack it as immoral because of the cursing.

    So if your book attacks an illogical belief or the government's style or something that people accept as "normal," you will be attacked. If you hold in line with accepted beliefs of the whole, then you should have no problem. Its all perspective.

  • 1 decade ago

    In a reading selection in one of our Literature classes, the central character is a liberated woman and human rights activist. Sometimes, her language is not what our students (13-16 year olds) are used to, and one of the teachers said that some of them were offended by her words. It turns out that these few who were offended didn't even bother reading the whole novel. Episodic readings will definitely lead to a lot of misconceptions about a certain work. For example, people who have read only a few passages of the Qu'ran could come to the conclusion that it is promoting senseless violence. A work should be read in its entirety but this is something that you, as a novelist, has no control over. You can't control what your readers do.

    Back to my classroom story, those who read the novel I was talking about understood why the character talked and acted as such. They appreciated that this was the real world in that book(with the help of their teacher). After all, we don't live in a universe where everything is censored. I bet this 12 and 13 year olds hear and utter these swear words too, once in a while. The thing is, someone should help them put things in perspective when they read these cuss words.. Why does the character talk or act that way? Was her character development justified? I think the novelist's role in the post-reading is very limited (unless you're invited over for a discussion or you have your website to explain things for them!). Its all up to parents and teachers of minors to guide them or let them read a book if they feel that it should be read. After all, when a writer shares his work, he's dead in the reader's mind. Interpretation depends on the reader. Bottomline is, write your story if you feel that its right and justified to write it that way. Hope to see your novel in the bookstores soon.

    Source(s): experiences in teaching literature
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  • 1 decade ago

    I read over a hundred YA books a year. And I would say that 98% of them would use moderate to extreme amounts of profanity. It's hard to find a book that is free from potentially offensive words. Seriously. If it is every other word then it might be a bit too much. You might be trying a bit too hard to make her rebellious. But using some for authenticity is fine.

  • mcanaw
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    for sure they could! PG-13 score could have a large style of profanity, see you later because that isn't any longer too a lot. it would want to might want to be very intense utilization of swear words for it to dictate an R score. sturdy success which include your e book! do not carry decrease back on what you want to write down! For immediately, do not worry about the score too a lot. :)

  • 1 decade ago

    It may be difficult, but if it is being used to portray your character, then don't feel like you need to censor it. In fact, the lack of profanity from the other characters would serve as a good contrast in the characterization. Just don't overdo the cussing, after all it is only one way in which your character's frustration comes out.

  • 1 decade ago

    I know a lot of people in that age group, and to be honest, they swear a lot more than any older teens i know.

  • 1 decade ago

    This is fine. Don't let social propriety affect your art.

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