Monday, March 25, 2013

Drop the Habit of Dropping the F-Bomb

by Walter Knight,

In an age of shock-jocks and R-rated TV, there is a tendency by authors to succumb to cultural trends and liberally drop F-Bombs for dramatic effect, realism, and humor. Don't do it. Humor and drama are elusive creatures that cannot be caught merely by throwing an F-Bomb net over them. Humor and drama require planning and timing.

But that's how real people talk, you say? I get it. However, just because real people drop F-Bombs on the street, does not mean passersby want to hear it. I have little choice on the street about what I hear, but when I open a book and see F-Bombs carpeting the first page, I dive for cover. The book goes back on the shelf because I do not have to put up with it, or pay to be abused.

Dropping F-Bombs is a common mistake made by inexperienced authors attempting to grab readers' attention. It's not necessary. I write military science fiction, but usually the only bombs I drop are smart bombs. I'm no prude. I've been in the Army, so I know how soldiers often talk among their buddies. But F-Bombs obscure your story. F-Bombs are like sending an E-mail in all capital letters.  They annoy and hurt the eyes. I'm particular about what gets etched in my retina.

I'll tell you a story. When I came home on leave from military basic training, every other word was an F-Bomb. A girl I was sweet on asked what happened to me. Why the foul mouth? I did not even know I was raining F-Bombs. It was embarrassing.

I earned a valuable lesson, that F-Bombs are not a turn-on. Bad language limits people, hurting them socially and financially, slamming doors in their face. Unless you want to live permanently in the trailer park, clean up your mouth.

Authors want their writing to have deep meaning, to make a difference, to stand for something. We want to be proud of our work, showing off our books to family, neighbors, co-workers, and local newspaper editors. You cannot do that by leaving a trail of F-Bomb craters in your wake, from first page to last.

I consider it a personal challenge to elevate my literary skills to a level where, no matter the scene, F-Bombs are not needed. Humor can be a difficult thing, but I am not Richard Prior. I can't do what he does. Few can.

If you want drama or controversy, write a quality story. Shock your readers by not dropping the F-Bomb. Good luck. Keep writing.

Walter Knight

The vanity plate pictured above, featuring the fictional expletive 'Frak,' was taken from with the stated source: Date 7 July 2007, 20:42; "Adama is my copilot"; Author Rob Marquardt from Bay Area, CA, US


  1. Hi Walt :)

    Interesting post, I agree language can limit where a book can go and who you show it to. I'm not sure if f$$k can be completely avoided in an adult story. Let's say a character gets shot would he scream "Darnit!" Or "F$$K!" ? I agree it doesn't need to pepper every page but in the right scene I think it can work for emphasis. I think if you write an adult book you just have to live with the consequences of course I'm new at this. I did just finish a Star Trek script and I'll admit writing a story with no sex or language was a challenge. Enjoyed the post, good job :-)

  2. Hmmm, if I get shot, would I yell 'oh frak!' Not on Star Trek. It's really a challenge not to drop an 'F-Bomb' because it's so prevasive in our language and culture.

    However, resistance in not futile.

  3. "Just because real people drop F-Bombs on the street, does not mean passersby want to hear it."

    Very well said, Wally. I never really thought about it that way before.

  4. Hi Wendy:

    I believe F-Bombs prevent people from elevating themselves both socially and financially.

    I've found that the written story is not lessened by a lack of F-Bombs. Do they swear on Star Trek? No. But even in a gritty story, readers are more interested in characters and plot than in F-Bombs. It's a challenge for writers put their skill level on display without regressing to dropping F-Bombs on us.

    This can be extended to swearing in general in your stories. At the very least the swearing does not need to rise to the 'shock-jock' level.

  5. Hi all :)

    One more comment, I agree people don't say f€€k on Star Trek and I had to re-write my script 3 times to make it less adult. Also that was due to the fact that even with no language I had a character go through Pon'Farr (Vulcan in heat) and the actors wouldn't do it. I think writing partially is about getting into the characters you write and in adult/violent/anger situations it just seemed natural for them to swear. I don't think my writing is anywhere near shock jock levels, just mature audiences :)

  6. Even I drop an F-Bomb once in a while (usually no one gets killed, except for those who do). However, I reserve F-bombs for extreme situtations.

    Never explode F-Bombs off the first page. The first page introduces a reader to a sampling of what to expect of a story, so that the reader continues to read. You want the reader's decision to be based on an interesting plot, not bad language. F-Bombs during the beginning narration are a rookie mistake and an unneeded distraction.

    Subject matter makes a story adult, not unneeded F-Bombs.

  7. Hi Natasha! I try hard.

    My next article will be about tattoos, and how to get them off my children. Ha! Wish me good luck with that.


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