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