Friday, November 30, 2012


No, nothing terrible has happened that might tempt me to utter the dreaded f-word. I was just perusing old files and found an article I'd written about the use of cussing in literature, especially in novels for youth. I wrote it back when I first published THE TRAZ and at the time I deemed the issue quite controversial. 

Since then, having fielded no complaints from anyone about the use of f**** in THE TRAZ and FATAL ERROR, I'm wondering if I was all worried and tense about something with which the rest of the world is quite fine.

In any event, here's an excerpt from that article, written about a year ago.

Some say swearing in dialogue makes the story realistic—that that’s how people talk in real life, it’s what kids hear on the playground, on TV, and in song lyrics'.

Others say that just because people in real life swear—it doesn’t mean it makes good literature.  After all, there are lots of things people do in real life (such as bathroom duties) that we don’t especially care to read about.


Sequel to The Traz
Crime Fiction/Psychological Thriller

FATAL ERROR eBook in the UK


I think both points of view are valid—unless the cussing is doing something to move the story forward or enrich the drama, the f-word is not something that looks good on paper.  For some reason, cussing is more stark and dramatic when written than when spoken. I’d scarcely notice the ‘f-word’ in conversation with someone prone to use it—but I wouldn’t miss it if written.

One of the discussion questions in the Teaching Guide in the School Edition of THE TRAZ concerns the use of swearing in the story. Although I admit I did use the f-word to ensure realism in the dialogue (this novel is about bikers and drug dealers, who generally don’t say ‘darn it’ or ‘Oh, dear”) I also used it to define my characters.  As pointed out in the Guide, people swear for several reasons—the most obvious being because that’s the language they are used to. It’s their culture. Many people aren’t even aware they are using course language. However, others swear in an attempt to conceal fear, or to elicit fear, or (especially in the case of younger people) in an attempt to fit in with a rough group.

When I’ve done readings for youngsters, they giggle and look down when I read aloud the f-word.  I’ve used that as a teaching tool—pointing out the power of language and the effect it has on one’s listeners and readers as well as exploring the motives behind my characters’ swearing.

It is my hope that if my young readers become aware of all these issues surrounding course language, they’ll be better equipped to both deal with others’ swearing and to monitor their own.

THE TRAZ is available in paperback and ebook formats and in a special School Edition that includes a Teaching Guide.

Click on the following links to purchase or sample THE TRAZ

My gift to you (coupon codes valid until 16 December 2012)

$1.00 off regular edition paperback from CreateSpace  use coupon code: NB5SUY8H

Also available:

And from other fine online bookstores.

If THE TRAZ is not on your local bookstore or library shelves, ask for it to be ordered in for you.

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Eileen Schuh

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