Feeling Cozy: Avoiding F-Bombs & You

I’m a big fan of f-words. Though I try to limit the number of them, both in my books as well as in real life. F-words Funny gorilla with red sunglasses celebrating a party by blowing a striped hornhave power. Even if you don’t use them, you must understand the beauty of a great insult. Or a stream of f-words blurted when one stubs a toe.

I recently judged a contest, and was surprised to see the number of writers who agreed with the use of the f word. Oddly I found myself turned off by a few that didn't fit the tone or seemed over the top. Yes, me. Does that mean one shouldn’t use the f-bomb for fear of turning off a reader? Heck no.

F-bomb away.

But know that words have power.

Take said for an example. Writers use it to dialogue tag for reason. Invisibility. Use a word too much and it loses its power.

That being said, I’ve recently started writing a cozy mystery my agent requested. I wasn’t sure I could do it. Wasn’t sure I had a voice for it. Turns out the cozy fits my style quite nicely. I get to research, which I love, on top of that, my cozy is about whiskey, so I also get to drink.

I’ve found it easy enough to avoid the f-bomb, as well as a few other choice words I would normally use. Where I’m coming into trouble, and I’d love your advice, is in toning down the snark. I’m naturally snarky, and it comes through, perhaps too much, in my narratives. Though it works for my previous characters. Not this one though.

How do you keep yourself out of your words? And what’s the acceptable amount of f-bombs dropped in a novel?




J.A. (Julie) Kazimer on Email
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 15 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com.

6 thoughts on “Feeling Cozy: Avoiding F-Bombs & You

  1. There’s “me” in all my words. It I get too noisy, my critique partners point it out, but I also catch a lot in edits. Also, the further I get into the book, the better I know my characters, and the easier it is to hear them.

    As for F-bombs. There’s no magic formula. For my books, it’s what works for the character. No matter what you do, a part of your readership will think you need more; another part will be offended. In one of my books a reader said she generally drops an author who used F bombs, but since mine were at the end of the book, and she liked it otherwise, she wouldn’t blacklist me. (I checked — 3 uses, all of them in internal monologue; not one spoken aloud.)

    But there’s no way I’m having my cop characters say, “Oh my goodness. There’s another dead body. I wonder what nasty bad guy killed him.) But I don;t write cozies. Or read many of them.

  2. Hi, Julie, I write historicals, so I have a nice list of antiquated profanity that doesn’t include the F-bomb. In my contemporary women’s fiction, I use it sparingly, and it never comes from my protagonist. It brings to mind The Sopranos. My husband and our German exchange student used to watch it together, and I found it so amusing … the dialogue went something like this: “F F F F F, and F F but I can’t F-ing deal with the MF-er. FFF!” I’d pop in and say, “I *hear* you’re watching the Sopranos.” At least it didn’t take long for them to learn their script. hahahaha

  3. Oh, dear heart, you hit my dilemma right on the head. I started writing with a new character, and he’s a high-end bar owner in a big city. He’d use the “F” bomb, right? But I HATE that (yes, my children and husband quite frequently say “Mom’s in her bubble again” when I rant about the horrible language on TV). I immediately wrote my main character with an offended expression (shown, not told!) and having it come out that she was very sheltered as a child, blah, blah, blah. Then I deleted it. That’s me in that story, and I don’t belong there. I’m having to realize, writing a contemporary story, that there are more to swear words than hell, damn, and an occasional son-of-a-bitch, and that real life can’t be “bubblized.” I’m adapting, but I don’t like it. I know there won’t be very many “F” bombs or other strong language, and that may be one of the reasons Renni knows the guy’s not for her. I’ll deal with it, just like I dealt with learning to write sex scenes for my romances (although THAT research….) Anyway, thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my bubble, at least not all of the time.

  4. I am of no help here, Julie. Snark is my default setting. In my latest book, a thriller, I surprised myself by only dropping the F-bomb two or three times in the whole book. Another time, I was writing for a character who used the F-word like others use ‘umm’ or ‘like’, and it was frankly almost too much even for me. I guess all I can say is trust your instincts. If it seems inappropriate, it is.

  5. I really struggled with the f-word problem for “Dead Wrong,” but there were two characters who talked that way and I went along with it. My editor made me take a few of the bombs out. She said it looked as if I was trying to prove I was a bad ass writer. 😀

  6. Great article, Julie. And please (FFS) don’t lose your snark. Life would never be the same! As for the F-Bomb, I am personally one who drops them in real life on an hourly basis, whether I need to or not, but strangely, none of my characters thus far have needed it. In one scene it could have been acceptable but even then, I wrote, “What the—” and cut it off. Weird. It always comes back to your audience, I guess, and if it’s appropriate and necessary to your character’s personality, then we need to do what’s right for the story. That being the goal and all.

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