This question is geared towards querying.
So, I have a story where in the prologue, the F-Word is used.
In the prologue, the scene is dramatic and the vulgar language is used to emphasize the scene, and also introduce early on that this is a bit more of a mature audience. I don’t use vulgar language often in the story, but people do use it, as I want it to reflect real life. I also find it to be quite fascinating to see the characters that never use fowl language, compared to the ones that need to have a bleep machine attached at their hip. It’s a subtle way to really define a character.
Is this really such a turn off to agents that they will stop reading because of a vulgar word?
Maybe it would help to read it. This is the very beginning of the prologue and first few paragraphs of the story. It is a Paranormal Fantasy with a side genre of Romance.
The miner swung his pickax with rhythm, sweat dripping from his nose as metal struck rock. Each strike reverberated in his arms, successfully chunking away at the wall. Rubble tumbled down to this feet. He kicked a few of the loose rocks to the side before swinging the pickax again, pressing his lips together as sweat slid down his back.
That strike felt softer.
He panted heavily, his shoulders rising and falling with each breath. Staring into the darkness, eyes darting back in forth in consideration, he chuckled and turned towards the table with lit candles. He grabbed one, squinting at the sudden bright light, and chuckled with elation.
Had they really found it?
He held the stick of wax to the walls, a small flicker revealing the veins in the rock.
He held the gentle flame closer, revealing more shimmers of the gray metal.
Even though the mines were thick with heat, gooseflesh trailed his body as the smile on his face crinkled his eyes.
“F*ck me, we hit a vein!” he softly shouted to the men around him. He was careful not to yell too loudly, or the vibrations of his voice would spell danger for the mines around.
The men huddled around him with commotion, dropping their pickaxes with a sharp clink . The air thickened with all of them breathing in the same corner. Then, small cheers erupted as they too confirmed what he had seen, their echoes bouncing against the stone. One shushed the group, silence falling over them once again, although the murmurs were clear.
“We did it, lads. We found the vein that might save us all," the miner said.
I don’t have a problem adjusting the language of the story at the very beginning, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem overly vulgar here. It’s the language they use. So is it better to err on the side of caution, rather than using a genuine character trait? I can’t tell if this is just advice that permeates to err on the side of caution, or if it is tried and true advice, no matter the genre or age group.