This post was inspired by an essay on swearing in romance novels over at Alpha Heroes.
I thought a lot about the way my characters in The Duke & the Pirate Queen would swear. The book is set in a fantasy world that is not dominated by Christianity; more than that, I’d gone out of my way to avoid mentioning religion at all. Also, I wanted the swearing to be part of the worldbuilding.
All the cursing/swearing I can think of is religious, sexual, or scatological. I’d thought about worldbuilding swearing before I started writing this book, because my fellow workshopper Judith Berman came up against the issue when writing her science fiction story Pelago. (Read it online. It’s awesome.) She, too, wanted to avoid religious cursing. She didn’t want sexual cursing, either. Instead, she went far, far into scatological cursing, from basics like “shitsmear” all the way to “you steamy squish-squish shit-puddle.”
There was no way I could top that! Inspired by Judith, I did use “Bloody dripping weaselshit!” (character who lives on land) and “Bloody flux in a hurricane” (character who is a sailor).
I tried out “Do I really smell like a rotted jellyfish?” to reference the ocean, since most of the book takes place at sea. And for a religious touch that worked with the ocean theme, I decided marine animals would be fitting to take the place of gods: By the Great Whales of the Deep, she knew what he was.
For the most part, though, given that my book was erotica, I decided some sexual swearing would be required. I just wanted to make it feel different from our world’s sexual swearing, so it would be seamless with the fantasy. This world has many fewer sexual hangups than ours. So a simple f*** him became, “Julien can go and suck a splintery arse-dildo.”.