The official blog of Jane Domagala


Before I dive into the subject of swearing I should warn those with sensitive ears that there will be swear words starting with the letters s, f, c and e mentioned in this post.

To be fair, swearing is not limited to adults alone, however, there are some who would have swearing corralled and shuffled off to the dregs, so that their children may never be befouled by such language. Which brings me to my first point.

I object to the suggestion that swear words are not part of mine or anyone's language. Statements such as, there is no need for that language; please refrain from using that language; if you continue to use that language you'll be charged, bother me. I didn't realise that swear words made up their own language. Since I only speak English what other language am I supposed to use? Would you prefer I swore in French? Ah, if only I could.

As a writer, I need access to all words so that I can explore all facets of my characters.

It is not the words themselves that matter, but the context in which you use them. Hey cunt, how's it going? can be a term of endearment to some. But to call someone a slobbering dog is generally an insult. The word scum may be considered mild in comparison to fuck, but put a negative edge to it – you dirty, filthy piece of scum – and it becomes extremely insulting, especially to those who have had to scrape their way out of the gutters to make something of themselves. The word fuck probably doesn't mean anything to those who use it every day.

When I write fantasy fiction I tend to use less of the s, f and c words in favour of more creative words. I do this because I find those harsh swear words have more impact when used sparingly (but that's just me). I do know others who like to use them more often to give their story a gritty feel. There are many different ways I like to come up with soft swears, as you might want to call them. Three of the mains ones are:

Many of our modern swear words come from taking the lord's name in vain. All of my fictional worlds have some form of religion that my characters follow or resist. I give my gods and religious leaders names and titles and then use them as swear words.

Animals and Body Parts and Bodily Function
We've all heard the term bullshit before, I'm sure. Animals, body parts and bodily functions are a great way to swear. Sometimes I make up animals, or use animals common to my story as a replacement for the word bull. Then, instead of using shit, I might use a bodily function similar to shit; poo, diarrhoea, crap, dung, farts, burps (all the fun toilet humour stuff). Or I might use body parts, which I won't elaborate on here, but dog's balls is a great example. Be creative. Of course these animals, body parts, bodily functions can all be used independently. I'm sure I don't need to explain that one.

Another way to use animals is to pick ones we tend to think of as repulsive or dim-witted; maggot, slug, snake, cockroach, worm, mule, turkey. The list goes on.

Ordinary Words
The word fuck/fucking has been replaced with ordinary words such as freaking, fruit-tingles and flaming. Almost anything can become a swear word if you use it the right way. Just stick the word dirty in front of it; dirty mutton; dirty cheese hole, dirty wax stuffer, etc. I'm sure you can come up with better ones.

Making Words Up.
This one is my favourite. I love making up words. One trick I use is to take a real word and swap the letters about and play around with the way it sounds. For example, take the word shit. This can be changed to shet or shek or skick. Othere examples: you're such a smenk; keep your bleaming hands off my you cepidizoid; get the frugo outta here; you're such a eglitest.

These are pretty mild examples, but you can see where I'm going. How harsh you want to get with your swear words comes down to your characters. Where they grew up, how they were raised, culture constraints, friends and families can all attribute to how and when your character swears.

Tell me your creative swear words.

Coming up next Observation Deck – Is The Universe Inherently Lazy?; and Beauty in Fantasy (not necessarily in that order)


In my last post I spoke of violence in adult fantasy fiction. Today I'm going to continue the discussion of adult content in adult fiction and talk about SEX. To me, sex in fiction means a number of things; sexual interests, the way people behave around the opposite sex (or same sex if that's your fancy) and of course the physical act of sex. In my opinion fantasy books should have a combination of all three. All adults think about sex, engage with the opposite sex and (if they're lucky) have sex. There's no avoiding it. So why should your characters.

Quick note:  I am generally talking heterosexual interactions, however, everything said can apply to any sexual orientation your characters may take, monsters and aliens included. Also, I am speaking from a woman's point of view, so guys if you have a difference of opinion, would love to hear about it.

Sexual Interests.
The sort of fantasy novel you're writing will dictate how deep you go when it comes to romance, but that doesn't mean you should ignore sexual interest. Your characters can still be attracted to others without falling in love. Obsession for the one you can't have can really drive a character's decisions.

You can't go through life without being attracted to someone and neither can your characters.

The way you behave.
The lack of sexual interaction is one of the most frustrating things for me when I read a book.

Men and women check each other out. Sometimes you get caught, sometimes you don't. To all the women writers, don't make your male characters overly sensitive. When there's cleavage in the room men are going to look. To all the male writers, women are looking too, it's just our wider peripheral vision makes it easier for us to be subtle.

We alter the way we behave around people of the opposite sex, especially if we are attracted to someone. We make excuses to be closer to them, or touch them. Or if we're shy, we desperately avoid eye contact. We have all flirted at one time or another with the opposite sex, even when there is no sexual pursuit involved. Flirting is a great way for your characters to  subtly manipulate, or be manipulated. We have all talked about sex – wish mine were/was bigger, what are they like in the sack. Whether we are comfortable, or embarrassed in sexual discussion can depend on who we are with.

There are always going to be people who push you out of your comfort zone and become crude and crass. Or maybe you are the one doing the pushing. Put your characters in awkward positions with the opposite sex. Don't make it easy for them.

The physical act of sex.
The fun part. I find it most unsatisfying when the main character, who I've invested my time in, spends the whole book eyeing off their love interest only to get a kiss at the end (or not even that in some of the books I've read). Not all of your characters are going to have sex in your book, but in real life people are having sex. Don't avoid it in your adult novel.

This doesn't mean you have to write graphic thrust by thrust descriptions. On the contrary, writing a sex scene can be an opportunity to bring out your literary side with metaphors and colourful imagery. If you're feeling bold then you may want to add some detail; give the reader something to remember. Don't be afraid to use the word penis. Just be careful your descriptions don't cross over into erotica if your aim is to write down-the-line fantasy.

It can be hard knowing the limit of how much or how little sex you put in. Too much and it becomes porn, too little and you have yourself a young adult novel instead. When you do find that balance it will add a whole other level of depth to your story.

Coming up: Swearing - the fun I have making up words.
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