Aug 24, 2011

Drawing the Line

If you haven't heard, I was interviewed by Dawn Alexander this week on her blog. I talk a bit about how I got published, how I manage my writing schedule, and what I'm currently working on, so check it out.

I'm very close to the end of the first draft of Silent Oath. The climactic showdown is about to start and I'm looking forward to it all playing out. I have gotten to thinking about the rest of the series, and while brainstorming ideas I came up with some events that, while likely to grab the reader's attention and keep their interest, are just too much for me to include. It's not how dark they are that turned me off them, more what it might say about me as a writter if I included them, depending on how I portrayed the events.

There are some things I just don't want to write about, no matter how much of a sensation they might cause or readers they might draw. I'm not interested in being gratuitous.

This led me to today's topic. Where do you draw the line, both as a writer and a reader? Are there particular events you can't tolerate? Does even the possibility of certain events put you off? Have you ever put a book down and walked away because the author crossed a line that you couldn't stand?


  1. Anything about rape really doesn't wash well with me, or even when the sex gets too rough, and I like vampire books so it does become an issue sometimes. .....also why can I not comment on anyones blogs with my google account?!? what am I doing wrong!

  2. I honestly don't really think of the book as an action of author except if it is good enough that I'm talking about it and dissecting it afterwards.
    That said, I generally find that sexual assault as the default bad-thing that happens to women is pretty offensive. I think it indicates that the author is making no effort to go further than clich├ęs and stereotypes. If I really wanted to read into it I'd be pretty worried about someone who's mind goes to sexual violence every time a female character is in peril. I also have a very hard time reading about anything unpleasant happening to children. Both things need to really be integral to the events of the book for me to not be put off by them.

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  4. Oh, I utterly cannot stand "it's not rape because they gave in"; ruined Blade Runner for me.

  5. The most powerful movie is M. There's a murder of a child. How do we know it? We see a balloon floating into the air! Hitchcock knew how to do it.

    I see no point to the explicit stuff.
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  6. Oh yes I have been turned off many times by explicit scenes meant to turn me on. It seems like everyone now is trying to cross lines and push the envelope just a bit farther.

  7. I am amazed sometimes at the books I've enjoyed that actually are pretty gruesome and sick. (Like Dragon Tatoo, or Kay Scarpetta novels) With movies, I cannot do horror. I simply cannot look. I had nightmares forever after seeing The Exorcist. So I just that anything to do with the devil is over the line for me to see or read. For my own writing, I am really a lighter spirit and want to bring hope to the world. So I'll never write real dark stuff. I hope that I can evoke strong emotion, compassion, empathy and a darn good story, by writing stories where the characters are real people dealing with real life stuff. That's even true in The Christmas Village, which is a fantasy/adventure - but the issues being dealt with are real, everyday ones.

  8. sjegan: Rape can be such a difficult matter to tackle. All too often it's handled with little sensitivity.

    Zounds: I find it very difficult to separate events in a book from an author's intent. Even on a subconscious level I believe a person's writing speaks of them deeply. The truly shocking stuff, thrown in without a real purpose but evoking shock, are at best signs of laziness and a lack of sensitivity.

    Yeah, that scene in Bladerunner creeped me out a lot.

    Ann: Subtlety is such a powerful tool. And as I've said before, what the audience's mind creates is always more effective than any graphic description you can create.

    KarenG: I often wonder if the amount of shock value comes from a misunderstanding of what really appeals to readers. It's the fast food version of storytelling. A Big Mac instead of a nice steak, you know?

    Melissa: I do find I can stand to read things a lot worse than I'm comfortable writing. It all depends on how it's portrayed and how the writer has the characters cope. Like you, I want to tell stories that end with hope, with right winning through. I can be cruel along the way, but some things I just won't do.

  9. My daughter put down a book because the author used God's name way too much. I couldn't read Lovely Bones--I got physically sick with the rape/opening scene and cried.

    It took me a week to get over that and I still cringe thinking about it now.

    I bought an $11.00 paper back book and had to toss it because the swearing was SO off the wall. At first, I blacked them out with a pen, but the more I read, the more ink I used and thought, "forget this." So I recycled it rather than gave it away.

    I recommend Mel's post!
    She nails taboo subjects right on the head! ;)

    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

  10. Profanity rarely fazes me, unless it's just getting to ridiculous over-use and loses meaning. I can understand having trouble dealing with things that push against your beliefs being over-used though. I think my Friday post may deal with a particular issue in fiction that turns me off almost without exception...