Expect the f-bomb.

(Needless to say, this particular post is not even remotely safe for work.)

Have you ever seen an Amazon review on, say, a military thriller in which the reviewer complains about the novel containing “the f-bomb,” as if it were inappropriate or unexpected for a novel in that genre to contain any strong language?

My own thought is that, unless the novel is religious fiction or was written for the under-14 crowd, readers should expect the “f-bomb.” At least some occasional, mild cussing in whatever form. D’uh. Some humans cuss; fiction, like life, will almost certainly contain examples of that.



Not too long ago, out of curiosity (and because I’d seen yet another review of someone’s novel complaining about “the f-bomb” — although I suspect fuck wasn’t the only word the reviewer didn’t approve of), I decided to count exactly how many of the more common cuss words were contained in each of my clone’s novels. And I’m sure you’re all eager to learn the results…

Cussing in The Remnant

damn = 28 times
hell = 23 times
shit = 10 times
fuck = 3 times

(Limited resources means fewer f-bombs to drop? 🙂 )

In The Fallen

damn = 49 times
hell =  60 times
shit =  20 times
fuck = 16 times

(Note: Especially in this book, uses of damn and hell are not necessarily cussing. Example: “Your species stands on the brink of damnation.”)

In The Madness Engine

damn = 34 times
hell = 21 times
shit = 9 times
fuck = 20 times

Fuck occurs more often in this third novel because Tonya Harris, one of the major supporting characters, has a rather foul mouth sometimes.

To me, these counts seem quite tame, considering the shortest book in the series so far is well over 100K words. Characters using strong language is one of those things, however, that readers either don’t mind or will totally lose their cool over — and the ones who’ll lose their cool don’t have the sense sometimes to just avoid books which may contain strong language. *shakes head at foolishness of humans*

About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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18 Responses to Expect the f-bomb.

  1. Sometimes it’s really the only word that works and anything less seems odd.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lame compared to most stand-up routines and pretty much any movie these days. A lot of people just like to complain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nrlymrtl says:

    I don’t mind cussing, and I outright adore creative cussing. In fact, I don’t take a plot and/or characters seriously unless someone at some point acts like a human and cusses.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura L. says:

    According to my work (and recent kerfuffle) REAL people don’t ever swear either. Not when the computer blows up in your face, not when hot coffee is poured down your front (and white shirt), not when the minions have thrown you under the bus in a sink-or-swim learning session (hm, mixing of the metaphors produced an interesting brain picture)(pontoon buses…). Expletives are never muttered nor hinted.

    Heh…you counted swear words. I’m telling.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unless you have in mind branding books with some kind of rating system, it will probably remain difficult for readers who’d rather avoid obscenity and profanity to do so consistently, because some writers may wait to drop bombs until after the end of the preview.

    My problem is with carpet-bombing being substituted for creative writing. (I blogged on the topic last year: http://wp.me/p30cCH-zy)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s an argument scene between the male lead and his friend in the movie Chasing Amy that I always think of when someone mentions “carpet-bombing” dialogue with variations on a particular cuss word. I THINK it was meant to be satire of Extreme Cussing.


      • Filmmakers often do that kind of thing to avoid getting a “G” rating, which is considered the kiss of death at the box office for anything but a cartoon. They did that in “The King’s Speech.” I have no idea if that really happened, and there were probably viewers who thought the scene was hilarious, but it just comes across as sophomoric attention-seeking (“Hey, look, everybody, we use ‘language,’ so this is a GROWN-UP film!”)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Terry says:

    My works don’t contain the F bomb (fantasy and SF). It’s by choice. I’ve used the rare ‘bastard’ and even ‘shit’ a time or two, but that’s all. I might mention someone cursing as they worked or cussing, (first person POV), but then again, these are worlds created by me. It works well enough. Just a choice. I read plenty of works with foul language, and that’s fine. Just depends on the story and the author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s my point: readers of adult fiction should not throw a fit if they see an occasional use of strong language, even if they don’t use it themselves.

      (Not having characters cuss because it isn’t appropriate for the characters’ culture is a completely different matter anyway. As a writer, you do what you gotta do for the story.)


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  8. I once worked with some people who seemed to use f-bombs once as an adjective and once as a noun in every sentence, so I’m probably immune to it when reading, but I’m not sure.

    I wish I could remember the blog post, but one author said that, somehow, seeing the f-bomb in print is more jarring than hearing it in conversation. If I remember correctly, he had given a draft of a story to some active-duty military guys, and they told him it had too many f-bombs, even though that was the way they normally talked among themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hannah G says:

      Could be something to that. Most of my dialogue is pretty tame, but I’ve just introduced a character who swears very casually. It’s intended to look more like the way my real-life friends and acquaintances actually talk, but it’s hard to keep him from sounding belligerent.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a rule about profanity in BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES: I write whatever I want on first draft, and on second draft I try to remove about half of it. I feel like that threads the needle between my own occasional desire to make my characters swear like sailors and paying at least a little lip service to folks who don’t like it.

    No F-bombs in SKYLIGHTS because that was deliberately pitched at a broader audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have never used a swear word before, but I used the ‘F’ word in my book ‘The Rode to Justice (John Rode, 1st grade detective, murder stories)’, because the character used it. Who was I say she shouldn’t use it!


  11. judyt54 says:

    I think to dislike a book because someone cussed in it is sophomoric. For heaven’s sake, just get over it and keep reading. My mother in law, a gracious and careful lady, said that when she came to “such words” in a novel, she just read a little faster. =)

    Liked by 1 person

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