First of all, hello! I'm new here. Let's get right to the point! I spent the summer with my cousins in the Bronx. Cursing is part of their vocabulary. They use it as humor also, which gave me an idea for a screenplay. Now..., do I stay true to the character, or is cursing frowned upon. Also, slang. How is that taken.
I love cursing in movies. I grew up in a foreign country. I learned English reading books. I learned pronunciation watching TV and American movies. I watched Goodfellas again and again with my high school buddies and learned how to curse, and we started cursing left, right and center. I came to the US for college. One of my best friends was an Italian American from New Jersey. He talked just like those people in Goodfellas. I went to stay with his family for Thanksgiving. I met his high school buddies. They were mostly of Italian descent and they cursed every which way you can imagine.
So if I were to write about them, it'd be impossible to do it without curse words. And it wouldn't be lazy. It'd be authentic.
But since we've established that you're not Tarantino, the problem is that if you make a film with excessive cursing, studios may be reluctant to take your movie on, as a business proposition. Excessive cursing means: 1, some people will not like it because of the cursing and may not want to watch it. 2, They won't make any money from TV, as movies with excessive cursing don't get air time. 3, etc.
So you'll have more of an uphill battle with a movie with excessive cursing.
I'd write it any way you think it makes sense. If the curses make the script realistic, just do it. Then do another version that's more sanitized and see if it makes more sense to do it that way.
I've said this before... People's sensitivities are something I don't understand. If I kill someone in a movie, they'll show it on TV. If the guy I kill in a movie curses at the person killing him, they won't show it on TV. People are more sensitive to the cursing, than to the killing. You just have to take that into consideration when you write.
Good luck with your script.
Edit: Also wanted to mention: One of my best friends is a Mexican American from L.A. When I worked in LA, and spent time with his friends on weekends, they also cursed like motherlovers. My boss, a Managing Director at a Bank, was from the south. He cursed like a drunken Sailor. I've known lots of people with exhaustive vocabularies who liked to curse, and um... the point is... um... that I just LOOOOVE cursing. And despite what everyone else is saying, I don't think it's lazy. In fact I think it's beautiful.
I'm not a fan of it personally -- for a couple of reasons.
A) Profanity is a crutch when writing. It's a lazy way to show anger. It really only works if the character is only honestly portrayed if they are profane to begin with. Everything else is just cheating out of doing the work to show other characters expressing emotions in real ways.
B) Our group is moving away from it as it is harder to gain larger audiences if you have to mark them online as 18+. It's even more difficult to get parents to allow their kids to act in films with language... and we like to try to cut out barriers to acceptance for festivals and possible wider audience distribution.
So, you've heard a number of diverging opinions. Is it "authentic"? May be, but it's gotten tired and cliché. And I agree with Knightly that it can become a barrier to several demographics.
Here's some food for thought...
TrueIndie learned to curse from "Goodfellas". You spent time in Da Bronx where that way of speaking was new to you. This was a "foreign" language - literally for TrueIndie, more of a dialect difference for you. (BTW, FYI, I was chief engineer at a recording studio in the the Bronx for three years, so I know exactly what you mean.) If you really want to use all that foul language why not use it in a situation where it is contrasted. You can do it a lá the jive translations in "Airplane" or Fuggedaboutit from "Donnie Brasco", or from your own or TrueIndies point of view where it's new and different.
When I became a Daddy I had to learn to moderate my language - especially since I spent so much time and still was living the rock 'n' roll life style and speaking the language that goes along with it. I don't know if you ever watched Star Trek TNG, but in one episode the character Data the android kept using technical jargon for slang. For example, "I believe we are in pursuit of an untamed ornithoid without cause" which, when translated is "I think we're on a wild goose chase." So, almost as a joke, I started using the "technical" terms for curse words - like using "feces" instead of "shit". Eventually statements came around like "I think that you should participate in an airborne fornication with a rotating pastry." Translation - "Why don't you go take a flying f**k through a rolling donut." My 20 year old daughter and her friends think it's funny, and even use it sometimes.
FWIW, witches and wizards "curse".
Us muggles and mortals swear and cuss.
EDIT: Pet peeve of mine is when a film is MPAA rated R due to language. That's just stupid on the writer and director's behalf.
If the story is already rated R due to violence, gore, nudity, and drug use well... then gopherit. Toss in some swearing to boot.
But if the two reasons a film is rated R is something heinous + foul language then that's just barely sensible.
Don't make a PG-13 story R due to language.
That's just retarded.
EDIT #2: Cinema "love scenes" don't sound anything authentic.
You don't have to demand the language to be authentic either.
Don't make dialog a distraction.
What you could do is write it with all the swearing, then change all the swear words for something else. Kind of like this...
(LOVE this video!!!)
In all serious though, Keep It Real. If the characters would swear, let them swear. As mentioned, don't have your characters swearing in what should be a PG movie. Think about your story... It's set in the Bronx. You know how the people talk there. If the story warrents swearing, have the character be as realistic as possible. If its a kids movie, tone it down.
Lots of great advice and opinions. Hopefully you get the sense that screenwriting does several things:
1. Tells a great story with believable characters
2. Provides a vehicle for a marketable production
3. Connects with a targeted audience
In the 60s, married couples weren't allowed to be seen in the same bed on TV. And women couldn't show their navels. Today, well, ... the viewer sees a lot more, even on public networks. What can pass for 'R' today would have been XXX back in the 70s. Times and values change.
It used to be that there were seven words you could never say on TV. I think the last hold out is "fuck" but even that seems to slip by on occasion. And depending on the country in which you film, ratings and censorship vary.
Dialogue should never get in the way of telling your story. As pointed out, film is a visual medium. David Mamet urged his writers to write as if it were a silent picture so that the story is in the pictures. Swearing is one of those things that is inherently powerful when it is used like a spice.
If you grow up eating spicy food, you think everything else is bland. Growing up without, you can be easily overwhelmed with that first jalapeno. Then you run across that truly exotic chutney or curry ("You two timin', swill swankin', potsherd of humpin' dog!") and it delights the palate.
As an older friend remarked about modern comedians, "Potty mouthed people like potty mouthed humor". While I don't totally agree, I do think that you need to match material to your intended audience. The audience going to see Tarantino is not typically the same audience going to see a romantic comedy. I do believe that exposure desensitizes us over time. If your intended audience is comfortable with swearing such that it doesn't distract from your story, then it's fine. Screenwriting is finding the balance between authenticity of character/story and relatability to the audience.
Some very common features of beginning screenwriting/filmmakers are lots of profanity even when it's inappropriate for the setting, stories about suicide, waking up it was all a dream (or was it?) and a dozen more tropes. While that doesn't mean these topics can't be handled well, for most readers it's almost a signal that this is a newbie writer/filmmaker.
When swearing becomes common and everyday, it takes away their original power. Which means people often escalate their behaviors because the words don't carry weight. "Sonnofabitch" is now so pedestrian that I even caught it on pre-teen programming watching with my son. It took me aback. Some people laugh when their toddlers swear. That's not my upbringing.
Treat swearing like a chef treats any hot spice, with respect. It can heighten the flavor if used well. Use too much and you burn out the 'taste buds' and the rest of the movie becomes secondary. You risk losing the story in your effort to make the dialogue too colorful. As was mentioned by others, it should be natural and not forced. Good luck.