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efultz
05-16-2011, 12:10 AM
I was working on a new novel while I let another project sit, and I hit a scene where the antag kills a child. Is it taboo to show this in a scene? As of now the antag uses a scalpel to excise a burn scar while urging the child to repent, and then I skip to her post-bone saw carrying a garbage bag. I haven't come across this in reading, so I was wondering, is that too much for a reader to handle?

Amadan
05-16-2011, 12:17 AM
No.

Smish
05-16-2011, 12:25 AM
I think it's fine. Even some children's books have violence against children.

Ken Hoss
05-16-2011, 12:32 AM
Just check out "The Innocents" by Richard Barre. Definitely not a taboo subject.

http://www.amazon.com/Innocents-Wil-Hardesty-Novels/dp/0425161099#

heyjude
05-16-2011, 12:42 AM
Like the others have said, it's not taboo, necessarily, but some people won't read it. For example, I have a hard time with abuse/killing of kids or animals and I won't finish the book. I'll also make an effort to avoid the author in the future.

heyjude
05-16-2011, 12:44 AM
Just check out "The Innocents" by Richard Barre. Definitely not a taboo subject.

http://www.amazon.com/Innocents-Wil-Hardesty-Novels/dp/0425161099#

Just glanced through this--it sounds like the killings are off-screen or off the page, as it were? I can handle that a lot better than actual scenes.

kaitie
05-16-2011, 01:03 AM
Ditto what Jude said. I'd do it off-screen and maybe have someone mention later what happened. I wouldn't keep reading a book where someone tortured a child in front of me like that.

Ken Hoss
05-16-2011, 01:03 AM
Just glanced through this--it sounds like the killings are off-screen or off the page, as it were? I can handle that a lot better than actual scenes.


Yeah, the murders occured years earlier and are just now coming to light. Haven't read the entire thing yet, it's on my to-do list, right after I get a "fresh start" on my current WIP.

Calla Lily
05-16-2011, 02:18 AM
My WIP involves child/baby kidnappings. One of the babies dies. At the advice of many authors and readers, all that is far, far offscreen. I myself won't read books where there's violence against children. My brain hates me. :)

kaitie
05-16-2011, 02:27 AM
I just wanted to clarify that I'm not someone who is easily squeamish. I love horror, I've read all kinds of crazy stuff, and while I'm not into torture-porn horror movies like those out now, a little blood and guts has never bothered me. I'm a big fan of SVU, and that obviously has many cases dealing with children being harmed. But in that case none of it happens on screen, and if it did, I wouldn't watch it.

I don't think I'm all that unusual. A lot of writers like to include things like this for shock value, but really, in most cases less is more.

JoNightshade
05-16-2011, 02:33 AM
Basically chiming in with everyone else here. Handle it off-screen. You can imply a lot without actually forcing the reader to "watch" the act. Actually, I think implied violence can be just as disturbing if not more so than spelling things out move by move. Letting the reader imagine what might have happened allows them to scale it to their own comfort level. Also, I've heard this in regards to rape, but I think it's a similar situation here. Portraying the actual act gives power to the perpetrator, not the victim. And if your victim (or someone related to) is the protagonist, that's the person to focus on. Their feelings, how they deal with it, etc.

Personally, I used to be able to read this stuff. Now that I have a kid? I almost started crying last night when we watched an episode of Deep Space 9 where a mother is separated from her children. I'm amazed at how little I'm able to handle of kids getting hurt, now.

Soccer Mom
05-16-2011, 02:50 AM
Like the others have said, it's not taboo, necessarily, but some people won't read it. For example, I have a hard time with abuse/killing of kids or animals and I won't finish the book. I'll also make an effort to avoid the author in the future.

This. Personally, I don't read things where the violence against children and animals is on-screen and graphic. I have no stomach for it.

scarletpeaches
05-16-2011, 02:52 AM
I wonder if the 'anti' people would have the same opinion if it were an adult.

If you want to be true to the person committing the crime, be truthful about them, that is, then write it.

I for one would put the book down if the author avoided being graphic about violence against children if he had no problem with showing violence against adults. To me, they're all fair game in this genre. Children and animals don't deserve special privileges or extra protection from their authors.

kaitie
05-16-2011, 03:08 AM
It depends, but children and animals are both innocent and helpless. They've done nothing wrong, can't be blamed, and are being utterly betrayed by those who should be protecting them (ie, adults). For what it's worth, I hold the same policy for rape.

Now, I'm not saying don't include it. If it's right for the story don't shy away from it, but I don't need to see every detail of a woman (or man) being brutally raped and murdered in a crime novel for it to be included.

I also agree with what someone said before-- a lot of times the dread element can be played up better by not showing everything that happened and letting the reader's imagination fill in what it will. I think violence in general is an overused shock device. I've written some pretty insanely violent scenes, but I actually left one out of the same story because it was too violent.

I think excess of any kind and anything that's included for the purpose of shocking the reader should probably be reconsidered. I have a hard time imagining a situation in which actually showing a child being tortured and murdered would be necessary.

scarletpeaches
05-16-2011, 03:13 AM
It depends, but children and animals are both innocent and helpless.As is anyone who has a violent crime committed against them. If they weren't helpless, they would have stopped it happening - whatever their age.

Ken Hoss
05-16-2011, 03:19 AM
Just not a big fan of gratuitous violence. Granted, if it is integral to the story, as kaitie said, don't shy away from it. However, if you're just adding it for the shock value, then maybe you need to take a second look at your story. JMO.

kaitie
05-16-2011, 03:22 AM
As is anyone who has a violent crime committed against them. If they weren't helpless, they would have stopped it happening - whatever their age.

I mean in the "dependent on an adult to survive" sense of the word. Maybe helpless wasn't the best choice. And as I said before, it depends on the circumstances, but there are times I'd say the same for adults.

scarletpeaches
05-16-2011, 03:22 AM
Just not a big fan of gratuitous violence. Granted, if it is integral to the story, as kaitie said, don't shy away from it. However, if you're just adding it for the shock value, then maybe you need to take a second look at your story. JMO.That would apply to anything, not just violence, and certainly not just violence against children.

Gratuitous anything doesn't serve the story.

kaitie
05-16-2011, 03:25 AM
Scarlet's said it well. I think the point for me is that I have a hard time seeing this particular instance not being gratuitous. But everyone's levels differ. I know people who love Tarantino movies, but I can't watch them for the life of me because everything about them seems gratuitous to me. And yet I can watch a Japanese movie about a bunch of teenagers on an island forced to kill each other and be fine.

mirandashell
05-16-2011, 03:47 AM
I've read a lot of crime novels, of all types, and I cannot remember a scene where violence to a child was happening 'on-screen'. It is usually described via the police or the coroner or whatever.

I won't read any torture scenes, no matter what or who the victim. But that's me.

But, tbh, I think having violence towards children or animals 'on-screen' would be a very tough sell.

heyjude
05-16-2011, 04:40 AM
I wonder if the 'anti' people would have the same opinion if it were an adult.

No. You can argue logic all you want, and you're probably right, but children and animals affect me on a more visceral level than adults.

MarkEsq
05-16-2011, 05:03 AM
No. You can argue logic all you want, and you're probably right, but children and animals affect me on a more visceral level than adults.

Agreed. Maybe it's because I see too much in my job, maybe it's because I'm a dad. But the death of a child has to be off screen for me. No question.

JoNightshade
05-16-2011, 06:12 AM
I think what is particularly horrifying about child/animal violence is the lack of understanding. Of course every victim is innocent - otherwise, by definition, they would not be a victim. But adults know that the world is a dangerous place and that there are sick, twisted people in it. They are able to put their pain in context, and even if it is wrong it's comprehensible on some level. Small children and animals by nature have no other parameters in life except that "I am dependent on others for everything." When someone hurts them, it is worst betrayal because they simply cannot understand WHY.

Ken Hoss
05-16-2011, 06:56 AM
That would apply to anything, not just violence, and certainly not just violence against children.

Gratuitous anything doesn't serve the story.


Agree. Whether it is gratuitous violence, sex, or even comedy. If it is done to the extreme it serves no purpose.

scarletpeaches
05-16-2011, 01:36 PM
No. You can argue logic all you want, and you're probably right, but children and animals affect me on a more visceral level than adults.I appreciate your honesty. We might disagree on this matter, but I can definitely respect that. :)

gothicangel
05-16-2011, 03:12 PM
I wonder if the 'anti' people would have the same opinion if it were an adult.

If you want to be true to the person committing the crime, be truthful about them, that is, then write it.

I for one would put the book down if the author avoided being graphic about violence against children if he had no problem with showing violence against adults. To me, they're all fair game in this genre. Children and animals don't deserve special privileges or extra protection from their authors.

I think SP has a point. Since the Victorian era we have a culture of sentimentalizing children, seeing them as 'innocent' when they can be evil little buggers. ;)

It's something that horror fiction taps into a lot.

I also agree if a writer is wanting to be truthful to their readers, ignoring that violence against children is being very dishonest.

It also depends on the style of MTS that is being written. I wouldn't expect it in a cozy, but not surprised if I pick up a thriller or psychological. I mentioned a few days ago that I intend to have a child murder in my new WIP, but it fits the tone of the book and shows my protaganist in a very sympathetic light.

Saying that, if I read a book that involves animal cruelty, I won't read another word.

Rachel77
05-16-2011, 10:16 PM
It also depends on the style of MTS that is being written. I wouldn't expect it in a cozy, but not surprised if I pick up a thriller or psychological.

I've actually seen it done in a cozy series -- Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Joe Grey series (the mysteries are solved by talking cats, and they're very obviously cozies). The actual violence is always offscreen, but I think there's even a book where the bodies of murdered children are found under a house. And even though they're cozies, the scenes/stories don't feel out of place.

For me, I can deal with violence towards children in books if it's offscreen; violence towards animals, even offscreen, and I put down the book (turn off the movie, whatever). And in answer to a question earlier in the thread, I have no justification for it. Purely an emotional reaction.

efultz
05-18-2011, 11:57 PM
Thanks for all the responses! I started this WIP in November (before my baby was born in January). Now I tear up at the end of Little Mermaid when Ariel leaves her dad (I used to be happy she was with her love, not sad for the dad who has to miss her)! I'm going to keep the actual killing off-screen for sure. I, too, don't like to have too much shoved in my face. The narrative skips to another character (whose POV is where the novel begins) and returns after the worst is over.

Thanks again for all the input!

gothicangel
05-21-2011, 11:53 PM
I was writing a scene this afternoon involving the death of a child [the violence had happened off scene] and started to wonder:

Those who said they don't mind reading violence against children, how far is too far? I was quite surprised at myself, I thought I would go full belt, but instead I my hero was quite tender towards this dying child - something he hadn't demonstrated until now.

Thoughts?

nathanrudy
05-25-2011, 04:44 PM
If it is part of the plot, then of course you can include it. If you think it is inappropriate, then maybe you shouldn't write the story.

happywritermom
05-26-2011, 12:20 AM
Off screen for me. I have a hard enough time with the on-screen adult stuff. Heck, some of my own stuff in my second novel I couldn't read or write whenever my husband was out of town. But I definitely could not/would not deal with on-screen torture/killing of a child.

If you are thinking of fiction writing as a career, you really do have to consider the market and your audience to some extent. This is one of those instances.

quicklime
05-26-2011, 12:44 AM
I was working on a new novel while I let another project sit, and I hit a scene where the antag kills a child. Is it taboo to show this in a scene? As of now the antag uses a scalpel to excise a burn scar while urging the child to repent, and then I skip to her post-bone saw carrying a garbage bag. I haven't come across this in reading, so I was wondering, is that too much for a reader to handle?


God no.......

off the top of my head Lovely Bones had the rape and murder of the protag and was mainstream fiction, Every dead Thing had a girl killed and flayed and was a thriller, etc. etc. etc.....

Chase
05-26-2011, 01:32 AM
Stephen King has gathered a tremendous following by repeatedly placing children in "on-screen" peril and subjecting them to agonizing torture and death. It's horror, and what could be more horrible (or realistic)?