One of the best ways to convey character through dialogue is swearing. You can tell a lot about a person by how and when they swear. A lot of people are of the opinion that swearing is just a lazy and unimaginative way of writing dialogue. I disagree. Swearing is a tool, just like any other writing device. Basically if it is natural for your character to swear at a given point the god fucking damn it they should swear. I’ll give you some examples of characters in the novel that I am writing and how I use swearing to help build their personas.
First off I’ll start with the main character. This one is a classic knight in sour armour. He is generally rude or violent but not because he is an arsehole, just because of his ways. He only swears when he is distracted or confused, he doesn’t actually use swearing to hurt people. Unfortunately he is confused a lot. When something doesn’t go his way he swears at it to release his anger. When he swears he swears well. He uses the right kind of word at the right time. He doesn’t swear like a teenager. He doesn’t swear just because he can. He swears because it is the right time to do so.
Now we go onto Jasmine. She is a girl in her late teens/early twenties. She is intelligent and uses her speech wisely, though she doesn’t speak overly flowery. When she swears she always has a smile on her face. She swears for comedic value, always at inappropriate times to get the best effect. When she swears she uses the worst word possible for the situation, just to get a reaction.
And finally onto James Withers. He is a happy-go-lucky ship captain who speaks entirely in slang. He rarely ever swears. He tries to think of more creative ways to use language. He only ever swears when he is angry, which is almost never. He never swears at a person, it is always a more general reaction to a situation. When he swears he uses classic and softer words. Words like bloody, hell and damn. Things that have lost their effect with time.
That being said I would avoid swearing outside of dialogue except for if you are using first person and the situation calls for it. Swearing outside of dialogue can be used for comedic effect but it tends to break the fourth wall and ruin the immersion.