LTUE 2018 Writing Dirty While Staying Clean

Published: February 2018

Sometimes you need a little dirt:
- Clipped Romantic payoff
- Soft Characters
- Bland Fight Scenes
- Lack of Physical Conflict

Curse without Cursing.

  • Use a dialogue tag.
  • Utilize other character reactions
  • Replace profanity with made up words (establish made up words early in the story)

Rust and Ruin - Mistborn
Light burn you - Wheel of Time

  • Don’t use overly long swears
  • Don’t use funny sounding words - Fudge Nuggets :-)

What about Oaths?
- Change the God
- Establish early in the story

- spat a word as hard as iron

Change the language - Firefly (Chinese) Slumdog Millionaire (Hindi)

Stay true to the character.


  • cap of romantic plotline
  • character building
  • part of romantic relationship

Start determines the finish.
Pride and Prejudice vs The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Dont’ start hot and heavy in chapter 3. There is only so far you can go.

What makes sex dirty
- Describing body parts
- Straying outside the norm

Clean it up
- Fade to black - secene break comes after
- Turn the lights on after - scene break comes before
- Insinuating
- Pointing the camera elsewhere - Focus on emotions instead of body parts, Use metaphor.

If no romantic plotline leave it out.

Rape - Woman in the Refrigerator - DON’T DO THIS
Don’t kill the woman as motivation for the man.
If you include Rape - recovery is a long term thing.
Is it plot?

Write About Empahty


  • Lean on the readers imagination
  • Don’t forgo blocking (Don’t stand back from wehre the characters are and what they are doing)
  • Strategize where to place the reader’s focus (Emotional vs Physical cues)
  • Trim excessive details
  • Emphasize pain/sensation rather than gore.

To increase stakes change where they are being hurt. Hurt more sensitve areas.

Violence used as abuse will be much more unsetting
Pleasure in violence is more stomach churning
First person will be more unsettling

Writing well

  • Don’t rely on shock factor
  • Create rounded likeable characters
  • Utilize romance - 60% of market - Natural Page Turner
  • Up the stakes - Make the stakes more personal

Don’t write anything that you’re not comfortable writing.
Don’t judge others on their definition of clean.