I recall once looking at a sample chapter from another author’s novel. There, in the second sentence of the opening narrative, was the dreaded, F-bomb. That was it. I was done. The book may have had an intriguing title. However, once I saw that expletive, I was turned off. I had no reason to read any further.
I’m not saying I’m a total prude, and, for some genres, this kind of language may be both suitable and expected. However, it’s not appropriate for my work. I write contemporary sensual romance. (As Marina Martindale.) In my genre there simply is no reason for profanity, and most romance authors don’t use it. To me, profanity, especially when used in the narrative, a sign of a lazy, sloppy writer. A rank amateur. A good storyteller doesn’t need to use profanity. Plain and simple.
What about the dialog?
There will be times when an, “Oh my goodness gracious me,” simply won’t cut it. That’s when I’ll use an occasional damn or hell, or similar verbiage. However, I never use the F-bomb, or any other vulgar synonym for human genitalia. And the keyword here is occasional. As in infrequently. My characters aren’t potty mouths. Even my villains have more class than that.
Sometimes there will be an occasion when a stronger word may be expected. For example, I had once had a scene where one of my characters has just learned that her husband had been kidnapped. She’s understandably upset, and her response is, “What the —?” Another character interrupts her before she completes her sentence. Some readers may have interpreted it as, “What the hell?” Perfectly appropriate for the circumstances. Other readers, however, may have interpreted it differently and assumed she was about to say an entirely different word. Either way, I left it up to the reader to decide.
It may be the 21st century, but there are still people out there who find profanity, particularly the F-bomb, offensive. So why risk alienating potential readers who would have otherwise loved your book?