I went out for lunch and coffee with some close friends today, and the topic of movies came up on the drive. We first started out talking about how this year was kind of the Year of Animated Film, coming with some of our new favorites including “Toy Story 3,” “Tangled,” and “How to Train your Dragon.” Then we started talking about movies we hadn’t seen yet. Take “The King’s Speech,” for example. It was rated the best film of 2010, but it was also rated R, nearly entirely for profanity. We happened to bring up how we didn’t think that it deserved that rating, seeing as lots of other films rated PG-13 often showed content that was much worse and shouldn’t even be watched by adult audiences. Then I started thinking about some books that I’ve read where I can tell that a character, had (s)he been in a film, should have sworn, just due to continuity of character. That’s when I can really tell when an author is censoring his/her work.

As of right now, I have not been able to make any of my characters swear. I know these words would never come out of my own mouth, so I can’t make them come out of my own creations. Usually, when I reach that point where I know a character would swear, I stop. But I don’t want to hinder my characters by censoring them completely.

So what do you think about profanity in literature? I don’t believe that when an author writes a character as swearing that it means that the author is condoning the use of profanity; I think that swearing can be used as an effective tool to build character. When used in moderation, is a swear word more shocking to a reader than the overused (s)he-spouted-off-a-stream-of-expletives-that-would-make-a-sailor’s-ears-burn type sentence? Is it appropriate for characters to swear in stories by Christian authors? Even big-name Christian authors have gotten a lot of flack for this type of thing; have you run across anything like this?

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