Category Archives: swearing in novels

Dilemmas of a Christian writer, part 1

I’m a Christian. I’m a writer. (Well, I write, which may not be the same thing.) But I’m not what you would call a “Christian writer”. I loved Patricia St John’s books as a child, read them over and over again, and on some of my holidays in the South of France an American pastor’s wife used to lend me Christian equivalents of Little House on the Prairie, and then a detective series. (Anyone know either of those?)

But that was the last time I read any Christian novels. Until, that is, I picked up James Scott Bell’s Deadlock, having been pointed to it by his book on Plot and Structure. I loved it, I have to say: I didn’t know there was such a thing as well-written, decent “Christian fiction” that was not only intelligent but also set in DC. So, all in all, perfect for me at this stage of my life.

Anyway, I digress, because my point is that I am not writing a Christian novel, and this brings me a couple of issues. I’ve made my peace with the fact that since my characters are non-Christians in their early 30s, living in the 21st century, they will probably not be signing any abstinence pledges, for example.
But dialogue. Dialogue is a whole other situation. I don’t usually swear, except in dire emergencies such as when I lose my shoe running for the train, or the doorbell rings in the middle of a Josh and Donna scene. So writing in swearing does not come naturally for me, and I’m not sure we need much of it, anyway.
Here’s the thing, though: in real life, people swear. Particularly the guys in my story – I see them swearing, but more than that I see them saying “God” a lot. Americans seem to do that, possibly more than the British. (And they are Americans.)
I’m really not comfortable with blasphemy, even what must seem very mild blasphemy. What do I do? Will the novel seem fake if I don’t use those kinds of expressions? If no one ever blasphemes, and hardly anyone ever swears?
Readers, what do you think? And writers, what how about you?