characters using slurs that the author can't say


See Also ----------->

fag (v.1)

“to droop, decline in strength, become weary” (intransitive), 1520s, of uncertain origin; OED is content with the “common view” that it is an alteration of flag (v.) in its sense of “droop, go limp.” Transitive sense of “to make (someone or something) fatigued, tire by labor” is first attested 1826. Related: Fagged; fagging.

fag (n.1)

British slang for “cigarette” (originally, especially, the butt of a smoked cigarette), 1888, probably from fag “loose piece, last remnant of cloth” (late 14c., as in fag-end “extreme end, loose piece,” 1610s), which perhaps is related to fag (v.), which could make it a variant of flag (v.).

fag (v.2)

“put to work at certain duties, compel to work for one’s benefit,” 1806, from British public school slang fag (n.) “junior student who does certain duties for a senior” (1785), from fag (v.1). Related: Fagdom(1902); faggery “fatiguing labor” (1853). Brain-fag (1851) was an old term for “mental fatigue.”

fag (n.2)

shortening of faggot (n.2) “male homosexual,” by 1921. Fag hag “heterosexual woman who keeps company with gay men” attested by 1969.


Yeah my google search found sim


EtymOnline is one of my favorite sites.

It’s also great for checking your word choices for historical fiction so you don’t have characters in 1760 using words that didn’t exist until 1849. (ie that one time I almost had a Georgian lady say “byproduct”)


I’ll have to check that out! Very useful


You’re writing a story. If people are outraged at what slurs your characters use — and then try to pin some sort of blame on you — they should chill the fuck out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using slurs in your stories, as long as the stories aren’t clearly biased and written to actually hold a horrible opinion (black people and homosexual people shouldn’t be equal, etc).

However, your story can have characters who hold that opinion, and who degrade people of colour and homosexuals as well. You shouldn’t have to avoid telling your story properly and thoroughly because of a few bad words some people could be outraged at.


Even if it makes sense that a character would use an offensive slur because they’re portrayed to be rude or immature, there are definitely going to be readers who are offended and take it out on the writer. Most will probably get what you’re trying to do, but to others, the context will not matter.

So unless it is absolutely crucial to the story, I’d probably find ways to avoid it.


The English language has, what, a million words? If a writer can’t replace an offensive word with an equally accurate alternative, I’m sorry, but he’s not even trying.


Most people see to agree with you. I do as well


I’ve used the word faggot, because some of my characters are gay and they fight. The straight characters use the term as a slur, but I also have other slurs that I created specifically, so the word is shot down as a bundle of sticks. A fag is also a cigarette, but I don’t reference them as that.
As to the N word? I won’t even say it. It’s not a part of my vocabulary, and when I listen to old school rap, and know the lyrics, I don’t say it. In my head, it’s hurtful and I have no frame of reference to begin to use it, therefore my characters don’t.
When I create a character, I try to think of someone I know, or maybe two or three people, and combine personality traits to make someone unique. Then I ask myself how would they say it?


For the sake of realism, yes. Slurs can be used as long as they are used in accordance with the characters and how real people use them. There are guidelines about this on Watty, and they call for respect of others’ points-of-view and opinions. If an author is striving to depict realistic characters, that should be respected. He is not out to offend anyone, just depict life as it is.


Yeah, it’s strange how some people try to stop creativity in that sense. It’s almost like saying that murder and rape is sensitive, therefore shouldn’t be portrayed or written about.

I think that mindset (with words, actions or thoughts) is dangerous and only sets us back as intelligent and empathetic creatures.


If using a slur is organic to your character, then the answer is an unqualified yes. Of course, this means that the character must be authentic and multi-dimensional, not a stereotype. You will probably have to “go inside” of a community to understand the context in which members of that community use certain terms about themselves. Once you do that, you can build the character.


I am bisexual and I think it’s okay — as long as you understand the ramifications of the word and don’t use it purely for the shock factor.

I saw a play called Kinky Boots two weeks ago that’s about a drag queen and they did use the f word. It was used ironically to speak about the drag queen, Lola’s, father who really didn’t approve:

“He died of lung cancer. It’s funny actually. It was fags that got him in the end”

It was also used to reclaim the word from a real homophobe, too. She referred to herself in the third person using the word whenever he was rude to her and used it first, showing that he had no effect on her and he was being ridiculous. Both examples were used satirically to make the audience and the other characters aware of how stupid homophobia is.

It works really well because it has a real purpose in the play. That’s the main thing to consider, I think. Does your usage have a purpose or is it there to shock?


i haven’t read every single reply in this thread so my apologies for that, BUT:

you are not your characters. if you’re writing a scumbag that believes it’s okay to use these words, then to be authentic, you need to use them in your work if you feel the urge to. you know that it’s wrong, which is a completely separate thing to whether your characters do.

there is a level of responsibility to this; obviously, your story should not portray positively the hatred that those characters do. but yeah. imo, your characters can use whatever slurs they would naturally if they were a real (albeit asshole) person.


It’s a bit different, but I’m currently reading a historical novel set in New York of the 1940s. It’s just full of all sorts of homophobia, sexism, racism, bigotry against Catholics (the heroine is Protestant so she doesn’t think much of Catholics) and Jews, anti-divorce and abortion attitudes and … well, you know. Basically what you’d expect from the era. And it’s never specifically portrayed as unreasonable or bad, just as a matter of fact thing.

Doing a clean version of this wouldn’t have felt authentic. I’m not saying that everyone all the time in those times was an ass, but certain prejudices simply where so prevalent that demanding that no character ever bring up anything like it is unreasonable.

There’s, I think, right now a certain tension authors are under when they want to cover anything. People demand that minorities and subcultures and so on are covered in novels. They also demand that this is done right, and not as stupid stereotypes. Rightly so. But they also want that the author doesn’t approve of certain practices, yet at the same time they want it to be realistic, where, after all, people do things we don’t approve of and do believe things we know are wrong. And it gets worse since obviously no community is monolithic. Everyone always disagrees on everything. So it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, and some people will inevitably be offended (possibly not even those you are writing about but some who feel they need to feel offended on their behalf in some way…). And if you sorta take the “average it out” approach, well, there you are back to stereotypes.

It’s a bit of a “doomed no matter what you do” situation, if you want to look at it negatively. Positively though it means you can do a lot of interesting things and people will help you doing it right (or as right as you can do it). Do the best you can and be open to what people tell you about things and do good research and then at some point put your foot down and stick with this being your characters and they are the way they are.


Thats what im saying… i think the op was concerned that might be the case but almost no one is advocating for that hehe. People are NOT trying to stunt creativity in this way. Hehe


Yay, one less thing to hate in the world… :joy:


When I think it’s okay:

  • If you’re writing a bigoted character, as long as it’s clear that the author doesn’t approve of the words, go for it. If you’re writing a bigot, it doesn’t make sense for them NOT to use bigoted language.

  • It’s also realistic for characters to use period appropriate language in historical fiction. For example, a character in the 1950s isn’t going to use the term “intellectual disability.” They’re going to use “mentally retarded.”

  • I also think it’s realistic to have characters reclaim slurs they are targeted with.

Just make sure you don’t play it for shock factor or overdo it. Also make sure the slurs you have a character reclaim are ones the actual community has chosen to reclaim

  • Ex) A significant portion of the LGBT+ community have reclaimed slurs like dyke, fag, queer, etc. Many physically disabled people have reclaimed cripple in the context of the cripple punk movement. On the flip side, the Jewish community does NOT reclaim kike. Just be aware of what is realistic.

The one thing I have an issue with is when authors use slurs (or otherwise derogatory language) they don’t have a right to reclaim in their titles. Case in point, I have seen a lot of stories on here written by able-bodied authors who use “cripple” or “the/a cripple” in the title. Because that almost always comes across as dehumanizing.


Agreed on all points! Also will say that if you write a minority community that you are not a part of… research and sensitivity reads go a long way


He/she could very well be trying. If i was writing a book about life in the deep south of america during slavery, gosh darn golly gee, im sure not going to shy away from the terms and phrases used at the time. That in my opinion would be watering down the narrative. But to each his own. I offered the OP advice based on my perspective and the orginal post.

They can take it or leave it.