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Jenifer
08-06-2008, 06:17 AM
This post (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2623060&postcount=29) in this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=111819) woke up the old brain weevil... ;)


There's no harm in asking, if this helps you decide how to write a scene. But the reactions you got in this thread should warn you of the level of emotion such a scene might provoke in readers.

-Derek

Let's talk iffy subject matter. What won't you touch?

Is there such a thing as going "too far"?

In my current WIP, a handful of children are tortured and killed. It is heavy stuff, hard to take emotionally, and- I suspect, not being a parent myself- it will be tough on parents. I do not, as a general rule, go into a lot of gory detail for the sake of turning stomachs... but if I'm to keep with the truth of the story, these scenes must stay in. The children and their fates motivate my MC and my villain and craziness abounds.

Thoughts?

Do you have a "stop" switch? What trips it?

Plot Device
08-06-2008, 06:26 AM
Incest.

Siddow
08-06-2008, 06:33 AM
Peak oil.

(:D)

maestrowork
08-06-2008, 06:35 AM
Nothing is off limits for me.

SPMiller
08-06-2008, 06:37 AM
Hmm, never actually thought about it. In theory nothing is off-limits for me, but I've never written a scene involving rape or incest. Torture, sure. Murder, yeah. Robbery, of course. Vigilantism, duh. But never rape or incest.

Maybe my next short story should include incestual rape?

... Maybe not.

maestrowork
08-06-2008, 06:39 AM
How about cannibalistic incestuous child rape-murder involving a religious icon?

Nah, nothing is off limits for me. ;)

Carmy
08-06-2008, 06:41 AM
I don't think I've found anything off limits so far except for the time period 1910 - 1935. Won't touch it, won't read, watch movies or TV programs set during those years. Don't know why, but it gives me the creeps.

If reincarnation is possible, maybe something bad hapened to me then.

SPMiller
08-06-2008, 06:41 AM
I already have child murder involving religious icons, believe it or not...

Cannibalism! Good one.

Jenifer
08-06-2008, 06:42 AM
I already have child murder involving religious icons, believe it or not...

Cannibalism! Good one.

Yes but where is the SEX. :D There is sex, right?

SPMiller
08-06-2008, 06:44 AM
Yes but where is the SEX. :D There is sex, right?There's some sex in that story, but it's unrelated to the religious child-murdering. Hmmm. Ideas are now stewing in my subconscious, no doubt.

Clair Dickson
08-06-2008, 06:47 AM
How about a female MC who trades sexual favors for informtion? Oh, wait, got one of those. =) Plus murder and forced sex acts. No incest or cannabilism, but I prefer to stay on the more common side of evil-- everyday evils, I call them.

Jenifer
08-06-2008, 06:52 AM
I prefer the evils that happen on Tuesdays.

maxmordon
08-06-2008, 06:57 AM
Something I am not interested

Judg
08-06-2008, 07:05 AM
I won't read descriptions of child rape, cannibalism, and pretty much anything on that level. Yup, I got lots of limits. Having them occur offstage, I can usually handle. But I don't want to witness it. And I'm not going to write it.

I did write a scene in which a child was terrorized, another with a messy murder, (not overly described) and that's about as far as I will go.

Histry Nerd
08-06-2008, 07:16 AM
I'm not sure anything is truly "off limits" for me--I hope I'll have the fortitude to write the story the way it needs to be written. But there's some stuff that's outside my comfort zone, that I'll choose not to write if I don't have to. Violence against children, for one--but when your fiction is set in the Dark Ages, that's hard to avoid. Violence against pregnant women, rape, torture for the fun of it--all subjects I'd prefer not to have to write, but I'll probably have to in order to tell my story.

I used to say I wouldn't write anything I would not let my kids read. I've backed off that position a little. Now I hope, if I write something I don't want my kids to read, I've done it because it has to be in there. I'll make damned sure it's not in there for some gratuitous thrill.

Wait--I just remembered one. I don't think you'll ever catch me writing a despicable protagonist. An antagonist who's as admirable as the good guy? Yeah, I'll probably do that. But I'm not gonna write a "good guy" I can't respect. I gotta have a little white hat.

For what it's worth.
HN

JeanneTGC
08-06-2008, 07:43 AM
I haven't found any limits yet. It depends on what's right for the characters and the storyline.

mscelina
08-06-2008, 07:55 AM
Nothing is off-limits to me as a writer. As a reader, there are things I usually won't read-- if I find them gratuitous. Rape is a good example of this. IF the rape forwards the plot or helps to develop a character, then I will write about it--and have. IF, however, the rape serves no purpose at all and doesn't help the story, I won't write about it.

As a reader, I can cringe my way through a rape scene that is well-written and necessary. But also as a reader, a gratuitous rape scene will make me throw away the book and discard the author forever...as I did with a very famous fantasy series several years ago. *shrug* JMO, of course.

MoonWriter
08-06-2008, 08:08 AM
I don't think I could ever write anything disrespectful of any religion. And the thought of any kind of child abuse breaks my heart - I wouldn't even attempt it.

JoNightshade
08-06-2008, 08:11 AM
No subject is off limits. In fact, I consider it my duty as a writer to illuminate the deepest, darkest corners of the human soul. That's where the "real" stuff happens. In my opinion, it's all about how it's handled. You can write about rape in a way that glorifies it (not okay), or you can write about rape in a way that shows how devastating it is (okay). This applies to anything. It's not about subject matter, it's about how you look at it.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I love science fiction is because it often explores the boundaries of human taboos. It often asks the question: in what circumstances would ___ be okay? At the moment my next planned project is a sci fi epic which involves, among other things, incest being morally okay. Yep, that sounds disgusting and wrong, but in the context of the book it's right. (Trust me on this one. ;))

brokenfingers
08-06-2008, 08:12 AM
Hmmm, I can't see me having any limits as to what I write about. If I write about it, it's cuz the story takes me there and/or I'm interested in it.

If there is any personal limit, I'd say that I won't write stories that have bad endings or negative themes. I like to write stories that, even if dark, are ultimately uplifting or have a positive theme.

I had a writer friend who had a nice, normal life, a happy childhood with a loving family and a happy home life etc. with hardly any cares or worries, and she loved writing dark, twisted stories where bad things happened to good people.

I always marveled at that cuz I've seen, in my own short time on this Earth, such darkness and evil and horror that I can't write about that stuff in a way that glorifies it or trivializes it.

With me, the good guys need to win, the bad guys need to lose. Even if the good guy dies, their death must mean something. I can't write a story where evil wins. It's just not in me.

I've seen it enough in real life, I have no desire to propagate it further through my writing.

I guess this ties into what I feel writing is about traditionally. I feel that fiction writing is descended from myth-making. And, to me, myths (and all stories, really) are designed to help people deal with the brutal cruelties of life. By inspiring and offering hope and showing examples of how humans have overcome adverse situations and maybe lending a little strength by doing so.

To me, a good story is like a beacon of light that helps light the way in dark times. The power of a good story is incredible and it's why they are such a major factor in human's lives.

We need them. We need that hope, that inspiration, that reservoir of strength, that comfort that we can sometimes derive when our own personal situations become too much for us.

So yeah, I guess I do have limits. I'll never write a story that doesn't, in some way, embody the beauty and strength that is the human spirit. I'll never glorify evil or wrongness.

Good, ultimately, always wins in my stories because, even though that's not true in real life, people still need to believe. And that's what stories are all about.

Making people forget that maybe they can't and getting them to believe that they can.

jkcates
08-06-2008, 08:13 AM
Maybe the question isnt what limits you have in what you write, but rather whether you want people to read it. I think child torture is a pretty good way to gurantee a lot of people wouldnt engage it. But again, it depends on whether you are writing for yourself or for an audicene I suppose

Just my few cents worth

mscelina
08-06-2008, 08:15 AM
What if child torture stemmed from the religious practice of a particular culture? There are plenty of examples of that in world history. Is the topic still taboo?

Jenifer
08-06-2008, 08:16 AM
Maybe the question isnt what limits you have in what you write, but rather whether you want people to read it. I think child torture is a pretty good way to gurantee a lot of people wouldnt engage it. But again, it depends on whether you are writing for yourself or for an audicene I suppose

Just my few cents worth

I'm not at all concerned about that. :) I have quite a bit of faith in this particular WIP and didn't post looking for advice.

So the question really IS: what personal limits do you have in writing?

rugcat
08-06-2008, 08:17 AM
A related question is, "What does the publisher consider off limits?"

Do you write what you want, and publication be damned, or do you take a step back and consider how important it is to you to see your work on bookstore shelves?

Jenifer
08-06-2008, 08:19 AM
What if child torture stemmed from the religious practice of a particular culture? There are plenty of examples of that in world history. Is the topic still taboo?

In my case, the children fall victim to a man who is well-loved by the town... when something tragic occurs in his life, demons from his younger years come bounding forward to play. He develops a split personality, and his "alternate" is convinced beyond question that the children of the town have organized against him (and his wife). The torture is a method of interrogation.

It all comes together quite well, I think- slick little beastie. I'm happy with how it's coming along. :)

To answer my own question: I don't have a lot of hang-ups in writing. The story is what it is... my job is to tell the story, not pace around wringing my hands.

Fraulein
08-06-2008, 08:27 AM
Yes but where is the SEX. :D There is sex, right?It worked for Oedipus. ;)

mscelina
08-06-2008, 08:31 AM
A related question is, "What does the publisher consider off limits?"

Do you write what you want, and publication be damned, or do you take a step back and consider how important it is to you to see your work on bookstore shelves?

I think you always have to consider the publisher's limits--not when you write, but before you submit to them--when you're just starting out. As you go along, however, you're going to have to make some hard choices. Even erotica houses have strict rules about what they will and will not permit in a work published by them--and rape is a prime example of that. (Funny that it's taboo with some erotica houses but considered normal by literary houses, eh?) Write what you want, but if you want publishing house A and they refuse to publish stories with rape scenes then why waste your time if publishing house B takes on that sort of thing.




In my case, the children fall victim to a man who is well-loved by the town... when something tragic occurs in his life, demons from his younger years come bounding forward to play. He develops a split personality, and his "alternate" is convinced beyond question that the children of the town have organized against him (and his wife). The torture is a method of interrogation.

It all comes together quite well, I think- slick little beastie. I'm happy with how it's coming along. :)

To answer my own question: I don't have a lot of hang-ups in writing. The story is what it is... my job is to tell the story, not pace around wringing my hands.

Amen, sister. Although the wringing of hands bit worked really well for Lady Macbeth...

...and somewhere, an actor just broke his leg onstage...literally...

Rena Andra
08-06-2008, 08:35 AM
I leave the children out of what I write, if it's anywhere near brutal, but mostly due to my own emotional experience with the loss of a child. Devastation can be surpassed, but I find it too clinical now. Maybe in the future that will ease, but I doubt it. Aside from that, I'll write anything, up to and including outright gross human behavior.
RA

Mom'sWrite
08-06-2008, 08:51 AM
I won't write about celebrity train wrecks or clowns or anything pertaining to eyeballs. There are people I can't write about because of the gag order but I'll have to tell you about them later ;)

BlueTexas
08-06-2008, 11:19 AM
I'm on board with most things, except animal abuse.

Except, I just remembered a short story where I mentioned bashing an animal's brains in with a shovel. I didn't show the scene, but I mentioned it.

So I guess anything goes, really.

gypsyscarlett
08-06-2008, 12:35 PM
Nothing is off limits to me. If it is something that the character must do- it goes in.

That said- if it is something that makes me sick, like sexual abuse, I might not write it out in detail. I'll imply what occured and concentrate on the emotional rammifications.

Elodie-Caroline
08-06-2008, 01:01 PM
Nothing is off limits to me; there are things I wouldn't write about, like gay love, but that's because it doesn't interest me, not because it's off limits.
I love the French film genre, so I write the kind of stories that I see belonging to that; stories that interest me. My sister reckons I write Barbara Taylor Bradford kinds of stories.

In my very first work, I had a serial-rapist/murderer running through the background until near the end, then he was very much at the forefront of the story.
My second work was about a grown-up woman who had been sexually abused as a child. The sequel is how her and her new love cope with her past in their own very different ways.
The work I am doing at present is about a woman who despises men, especially her father, her brother, and her dead husband. As the reader will find out, those three men abused her in their own sordid ways.


Elodie

donroc
08-06-2008, 03:08 PM
Nothing is off limits for me, but as the cliché goes, it is in the writing not the subject.

citymouse
08-06-2008, 04:09 PM
I personally don't have limits. However RugCat is spot on. For example there are agents and publishers who tell you up front that if you have underage sex (18yo) forget it. It's not about the merits of your writing/story it's this element that delivers the death blow.

I'm always amused that so many think 18 is some magic number. Even in the USA 18 is not the standard in all 50 states and globally it varies widely.

You can murder, maim, lie to, seduce into satanic worship, and even make an orphan a child (under 18) but don't pull her/his pants down while you're at it. The dreary fact is youngster's bodies and yes even their souls are bought and sold everyday in every country. Often they are the vendors themselves. Whether these topics are worthy of a reader's eyesight and $$ is up to them. I despise censorship of any kind. Also, if an author avoids controversial topics, the decision should come from his/her own conviction and not from fear of negative reactions.

And I don't think this is a moral issue on the part of publishers but rather one that may, in some minds, impact sales or lawsuits. After all we may be artists but $$$$$$ is what drives business.

On a personal note, I wouldn't enjoy reading a novel that has a plot devoted solely to a single topic--of any kind. Non-fiction is another thing altogether.
Now I need my morning coffee.
C
I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. ~Thomas Jefferson

KC Sunshine
08-06-2008, 04:35 PM
I've always wanted to write a novel about a mass shooting but I just feel like you would be damned no matter what angle you took.

willietheshakes
08-06-2008, 04:39 PM
I've always wanted to write a novel about a mass shooting but I just feel like you would be damned no matter what angle you took.

Hmm... I'm sure there's someone here you could talk to about that.

kct webber
08-06-2008, 04:54 PM
I've not found anything that's off limits yet. If it happens in real life, if can be put on paper--and lots of sick stuff happens in real life. As always, though, it should only be there to move the story forward in a productive way. That's my view.

Sassee
08-06-2008, 05:21 PM
I haven't yet found a topic I won't write about. My only rule is don't glorify the horrible stuff. Write about it, show it in its raw form, but don't glorify it.

NicoleMD
08-06-2008, 05:21 PM
I've learned a lot as a person and a writer by tackling sticky issues in my writing. I like to see how far I can push myself. There's no reason to censor yourself during the creative process. No matter what I write, I've read much worse in everyday mainstream novels. Finding a publisher might be a little more of a challenge (as if it isn't already), but if you've got a well-written, engaging story, who cares?

Nicole

Elodie-Caroline
08-06-2008, 05:24 PM
Me neither, but as KCT said, sick stuff happens in real life. For me, I go mostly for characters and what makes them tick; people have got to have lived and seen things happen or have been involved in them for my writing about them.


On a personal note, I wouldn't enjoy reading a novel that has a plot devoted solely to a single topic--of any kind. Non-fiction is another thing altogether.


Of course it should only be used to move the story forward, writing stuff just for the sake of it, or for shock value, doesn't seem like good writing to me. A bit like films and all they show is shooting and no actual story behind it. Bleh!


I've not found anything that's off limits yet. If it happens in real life, if can be put on paper--and lots of sick stuff happens in real life. As always, though, it should only be there to move the story forward in a productive way. That's my view.

DeleyanLee
08-06-2008, 05:29 PM
A related question is, "What does the publisher consider off limits?"

Do you write what you want, and publication be damned, or do you take a step back and consider how important it is to you to see your work on bookstore shelves?

Considering all the things I've already seen on the shelves, there's no great limit there either.

I haven't found a limit on what I'm willing to write yet. Might some day, but who knows? Exploring the heights and depths of human existence is what this gig is all about, after all. The moment I think I can't do something simply tells me that's the next area of humanity I seriously need to explore when the story goes there.

Might be right for everyone, but it's right for me.

CaroGirl
08-06-2008, 05:50 PM
I haven't hit a limit yet. I've written about some pretty horrific stuff, sometimes as part of a scene and sometimes offstage, but I don't balk. I'm a voyeur by nature and fascinated by how cruel and strange humans can be.

Don't be afraid or anything. I'm mostly normal, myself. Mostly.

inkkognito
08-06-2008, 06:56 PM
I am a counselor and true crime fan, so those two things have made me immune to most subjects. Because I counsel online, I often deal with things that someone is afraid to discuss face to face. Those things might bother me personally, but I am able to separate that from my professional persona and handle it cognitively if there is spillover to the personal side.

Quite frankly, a very technical subject would probably bother me much more than sex or violence. I hate math, and engineering-type things make my head hurt. I wrote technical training courses for a few years, and that was the roughest thing I ever slogged through...thank God I had great subject matter experts.

James81
08-06-2008, 07:00 PM
Boring, tired, rehashed shit.

Those are subjects I shy away from.

You're a writer! It's your JOB to incite emotion from your reader (positive or negative makes no difference).

Shadow_Ferret
08-06-2008, 07:02 PM
Nothing is off limits for me.

I'll echo this.

Nothing is off limits for me.
----------Nothing is off limits for me.
-------------------Nothing is off limits for me.

If I can think of a good enough story line to go with the idea, I'll write it.

tehuti88
08-06-2008, 08:31 PM
I just tend to not touch the things I'm not even remotely interested in, like sports for example. :D

There are certain things I won't touch in particular stories, but I focus on several different storylines, and in my adult writing, it seems I've touched on just about everything that logically fits into the plot, and the things I haven't touched on, it isn't usually because I'm too squeamish to but because it just doesn't fit anywhere or I'm not interested in writing it. There are ALL KINDS of things in my adult writing that I would never put in my other writing, not even a mention of them. When one such subject which I deal with frequently in my adult writing came up in a more PG-13 story, I had to kind of skirt around it and refer to it only vaguely, it made me too uncomfortable to just bring it up and say it.

I guess I just kind of compartmentalize it all--touchy subjects are fine in one of my stories, not fine in another. Aside from that I don't shy away from most things, even though I might find them heavily disturbing and can't talk about them. (Writing and talking are two different things!)

That being said, even with my more adult writing, there are particular situations I can't seem to write because of the characters involved. It's not the SITUATION I can't write--it's THE CHARACTER being in that situation. For example there are a few characters of mine who I will NEVER put in any adult writing for various reasons, and others who've had nasty pasts which I can't write, just because I'm so close to them and can't look at them that way. Like one character of mine--he's adult, and in a healthy relationship, perfectly normal and vanilla, but I just can't write any adult aspects of that relationship because I'd never be able to look at him properly again! It makes me too uncomfortable. Whereas with other characters I'm fine with doing all sorts of nasty stuff to them and writing it all out. Just not with certain characters.

Kind of weird, yes. :o

Sorry this was all so vague, I'm never sure what mention of what subjects is allowed in these forums or not. Keeping it PG-13! :o

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 01:45 AM
Peak oil.

(:D)

:tongue


I don't think I've found anything off limits so far except for the time period 1910 - 1935. Won't touch it, won't read, watch movies or TV programs set during those years. Don't know why, but it gives me the creeps.

If reincarnation is possible, maybe something bad hapened to me then.

God, I so totally LOVE that period of history!

I don't know that I've ever had a fear of a time period. (Is there a precise Latinized or Greekified term for such a phobia?)


I won't read descriptions of child rape, cannibalism, and pretty much anything on that level. Yup, I got lots of limits. Having them occur offstage, I can usually handle. But I don't want to witness it. And I'm not going to write it.

I did write a scene in which a child was terrorized, another with a messy murder, (not overly described) and that's about as far as I will go.

Yeah, I can go with this one. I'll make fleeting mention of something as happening off camera or in the past, but not present-tens and not full-frontal.


No subject is off limits. In fact, I consider it my duty as a writer to illuminate the deepest, darkest corners of the human soul. That's where the "real" stuff happens. In my opinion, it's all about how it's handled. You can write about rape in a way that glorifies it (not okay), or you can write about rape in a way that shows how devastating it is (okay). This applies to anything. It's not about subject matter, it's about how you look at it.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I love science fiction is because it often explores the boundaries of human taboos. It often asks the question: in what circumstances would ___ be okay? At the moment my next planned project is a sci fi epic which involves, among other things, incest being morally okay. Yep, that sounds disgusting and wrong, but in the context of the book it's right. (Trust me on this one. ;))

The thing about incest is that it is UNIVERSALLY abhored throughout the entire human race, in every culture, and on every continent, both past and present. I'm pretty sure that virtually no exception exists to this axiom.

Atlantis
08-07-2008, 02:11 AM
I'm writing a short story at the moment that would have to be one of the saddest stories I've ever written. My main characters are a 75 year old woman and her 85 year old husband. I'm about to start a scene where the two of them are beaten and killed by a demon. I'm going to have the demon throw Baucis, the old woman, around the room, slamming her into the walls and into furtniture and when her husband tries to come to her aide using a sword he gets killed almost instantly. Its going to be interesting to write. It has a happy/sad ending...Zeus busts in and rescues Baucis (he's too late for her husband) and kills the demon. He gives Baucis a single wish before she dies. She wants to be with her husband forever so he turns them both into trees. I'm not afraid to shy away from most subjects...although I do admit I am a little nervous to touch on some of the major religions...even though I write about gods and goddesses I would never EVER include Jesus or God in any of my books not even in a tounge-in-cheek way. The closest I'm going to go is in a book I have planned called Unleash the Fire. I'm going to include the
arch-angel Gabrielle and his soul mate who come to aid my main characters with an army of angels.

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 02:29 AM
I don't know that I've ever had a fear of a time period. (Is there a precise Latinized or Greekified term for such a phobia?)I despise the Victorian era and anything with Victorian sensibilities.

That means I can't appreciate a wide range of "classic" literature and I'm mostly unable to read certain types of modern steampunk.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 03:22 AM
I despise the Victorian era and anything with Victorian sensibilities.

That means I can't appreciate a wide range of "classic" literature and I'm mostly unable to read certain types of modern steampunk.


Wow. I have never in my life heard of such a thing. This is such a revelation to know that different people have the heebie-jeebies over different time periods.

Searching my own heart, I find the 1970's to have been one huge mistake. But I do not actually FEAR the decade, merely roll my eyes at it.

kct webber
08-07-2008, 03:26 AM
Searching my own heart, I find the 1970's to have been one huge mistake. But I do not actually FEAR the decade, merely roll my eyes at it.

I'm the same way with the '80s. :D

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 03:34 AM
I'm the same way with the '80s. :D


I totally LOVE the 80's. :D MTV was born and groomed under the auspices of MY generation, baby!

Big hair!

Tight pants!

The return of glamor and romance!

Ah! The 80's!!!

kct webber
08-07-2008, 03:37 AM
I was raised in the 80's too. Unfortunately.

KTC
08-07-2008, 03:37 AM
I write my story. Whatever happens in it is what happens in it. I don't censor myself while writing and I don't consider anything that works with the story as taboo.

KTC
08-07-2008, 03:40 AM
I love the 70s and the 80s. My last novel took place in the 70s and the one I just finished took place in both decades. I did one that was completely 80s...focusing on the punk rock scene, which I lived through. It was a blast to write it. I probably did 10,000 things in the 80s that others wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. For me, they were all grist for the writing mill. Live it...write it.

E. Arroway
08-07-2008, 03:50 AM
The only thing I absolutely will not write is animals suffering in ANY way.

I'll put my humans through every torturous experience I can imagine, but in the world of my fiction, every animal is safe, pampered, and showered with love (because that's not realistic given the dark nature of my writing, I tend to simply leave them out).

JoNightshade
08-07-2008, 03:54 AM
The thing about incest is that it is UNIVERSALLY abhored throughout the entire human race, in every culture, and on every continent, both past and present. I'm pretty sure that virtually no exception exists to this axiom.

Well, then, I guess you'll just have to read my book!

But if we're talking exceptions, there's a movie involving unknown brother-sister incest... oh gosh, it's called... uh... yeah, I totally don't remember. It's been a while. I think it's a murder-mystery-suspense taking place in Texas. Anyway the brother and sister fall in love, unaware that they're related, but find out towards the end of the film. After the initial shock, they both come to the conclusion that they're older (say 40's), not going to have any children, so... they decide to stay together. Personally I find this a totally acceptable solution and I'm not disgusted at all. In fact I was quite intrigued about how the movie handled it. By the time you find out, you're invested in the romance and you feel the same way the characters do.

My story involves a sci-fi element that changes things as well.

So again: nothing is taboo.

ETA: I knew I'd discussed this before. I even started the dang thread! As you can see in Jo's Thread of Incest (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=89484&highlight=incest), there are quite a few people who would choose to remain with a spouse-sibling even after the knowledge came out.

kct webber
08-07-2008, 04:13 AM
Jo, Cultural Anthropology calls what Plot Device is talking about "cultural universals". There are a few of them. Like marriage, for example; there isn't a culture on earth that doesn't have some concept of marriage. The incest taboo is also a cultural universal. But there are caveats.

It seems to be genetic, but there was a study done, for example, that indicates that there is other stuff to take into account as well. The instances of marriage among people who are raised as siblings are as rare as marriages between actual siblings. This seems to imply that, though it is a genetic taboo, kids who aren't related, but are raised like siblings, often fall under this general rule. Also, it can probably be concluded that if two people did not know that they were siblings, they would not fall under the taboo.

The taboo, of course, does not apply to the crazy bastards who rape their kids, and there is not certainty that it can be applied to non-humans or aliens any more than it can be applied to animals.

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 04:19 AM
Wow. I have never in my life heard of such a thing. This is such a revelation to know that different people have the heebie-jeebies over different time periods.

Searching my own heart, I find the 1970's to have been one huge mistake. But I do not actually FEAR the decade, merely roll my eyes at it.I'm not afraid of the Victorian era so much as I object to it in various ways, especially anything having to do with Victorian aesthetics, Victorian ethics, Victorian architecture, and Victorian high society.

Elodie-Caroline
08-07-2008, 04:28 AM
It's strange how some people don't like certain eras; i absolutely adore anything to do with the first world war, 1914-1918. I have tons of books on that particular spell in time.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 04:38 AM
I'm not afraid of the Victorian era so much as I object to it in various ways, especially anything having to do with Victorian aesthetics, Victorian ethics, Victorian architecture, and Victorian high society.


Not even the architecture?????


http://www.littlekidstuff.com/images/queene-anne-dollhouse-real-house.JPG

http://www.therealgalveston.com/Pics-Architecture/Galveston-Queen-Anne2.jpg

http://z.about.com/d/architecture/1/0/o/N/victorian-queen-anne-texas-3202596.jpg

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 04:41 AM
Gosh, JoNighshade, I guess my delicate Victorian-era sensibilities just won't allow me to stomach it.

And a great big :D at SPMiller.

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 04:45 AM
I see those houses and all I can think is, "How impractically ornate."

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 04:47 AM
I see those houses and all I can think is, "How impractically ornate."


I think they're all quite lovely! Ornamentation like that is what makes a house! And who doesn't love a nice wrap-around porch? (one of the hallmarks of a Queen Anne)









And congrats on 1,000 posts!



......... one post early.









.

JoNightshade
08-07-2008, 04:48 AM
I don't do the sixties. AT ALL.

Apparently era-phobia is more common than previously thought.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 04:50 AM
I don't do the sixties. AT ALL.

Apparently era-phobia is more common than previously thought.


This calls for a study!

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 05:25 AM
Anything boring.

Honestly, that's about it. I've written about child abuse, mental illness, glorified serial killing, drug abuse, alcoholism. Like's been said before here, I feel part of my goals as a writer is to illuminate the darker sides of human life. Question the limits. Whisper to anyone out there who might be going through something similar that you are not alone.

By the way, I'm curious here... it's seemed to be agreed upon that incest is a universal taboo? Since when? Honestly, what's morally wrong about it? There are certainly genetic consequences, and I think the possibility of having a deformed, mentally challenged child is more than enough reason for incest to be taboo, and generally a bad idea. But is there anything wrong with it morally beyond that? I don't see what's bad about it, honestly. If it's so universally reviled, how did European royalty get away with it for so long?

In other news...I love the 20's and 30's!

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 06:07 AM
Anthropologists go to very remote villages found in jungles and on islands etc. And whenever those anthropolgists raised the question about inter-marriage between siblings, the same answer always came back: "No. You do NOT marry your sister. Ever." And the taboo is so strong that many villages will at the very least shun such a couple, and at worst execute them.

This is universal. Around the globe. In every culture down through history.

Now your REAL question is: what's wrong with it?? My answer: it's gross and it's morally repugnant. But that's a culturally conditioned answer I am giving you, and it's also a circular answer.

So your REALLY REAL question is: what's INTRINSICALLY wrong with it? My answer: it's genetically dangerous and capable of harming our species on a biological level. So we have developed a universal and species-wide aversion to it that is probably driven on evolution and which then translated into a moral code that we never question and simply abide by.

As for the royalty of Europe, I believe they only married cousins but never siblings (well, okay, maybe SOMETIMES they married siblings, but not without a lot of legal finagling and arm-twisting). And they developed various in-bred weaknesses as a result, hemophelia being one of them as found in the Russian royal family.

maestrowork
08-07-2008, 06:14 AM
Let me get this straight? Because something (e.g incest) is morally wrong, it should be avoided? Hmmm? There are quite a few things that are "morally wrong": rape, pedophilia, murder, torture, cannibalism, etc. etc. All of which have been written about, discussed, dissected, fictionalized, etc. throughout history.

So I still see there should be no topics off limits here. Just because you write about incest doesn't mean you agree with it personally. I do try to separate the work from the person, thank you very much.

nighttimer
08-07-2008, 06:57 AM
I won't touch Scientology, the mob or celebrtards.

Everything else is fair game.
:Soapbox:

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 07:48 AM
Now your REAL question is: what's wrong with it?? My answer: it's gross and it's morally repugnant. But that's a culturally conditioned answer I am giving you, and it's also a circular answer.

So your REALLY REAL question is: what's INTRINSICALLY wrong with it? My answer: it's genetically dangerous and capable of harming our species on a biological level. So we have developed a universal and species-wide aversion to it that is probably driven on evolution and which then translated into a moral code that we never question and simply abide by.

As for the royalty of Europe, I believe they only married cousins but never siblings (well, okay, maybe SOMETIMES they married siblings, but not without a lot of legal finagling and arm-twisting). And they developed various in-bred weaknesses as a result, hemophelia being one of them as found in the Russian royal family.

Oh, don't get me wrong, the idea is quite repulsive to me, too. If there is no procreation or rape involved, though,--even thought I find it extremely gross, myself--I'm not sure what's morally wrong with it, if anything. I certainly agree it most likely came about to avoid the dangerous birth defects of inbreeding, which certainly explains why it's almost universally taboo. Most things I find morally repugnant, I can rationally see why it's morally wrong. Whereas with incest, I can't figure out what's so wrong as long as there's no procreation (other than the grossness factor).

Nakhlasmoke
08-07-2008, 12:23 PM
I've touched on many of the things mentioned here - i've written incest, torture, weddings, murder, abuse, rape.

The thing that was physically hardest for me to write, and I had to step away from the comp afterwards and just stop myself shaking, was when I had a character snap a baby's neck. One line. That's all, with no excess of description and still i couldn't handle it.

I'll write whatever the story needs though, and sometimes those things I find morally repugnant. But I'm not my characters so my own squeamishness is irrelevant

Elodie-Caroline
08-07-2008, 12:37 PM
Yeah, Virginia Andrews did quite well out of it, didn't she, a five book series in fact. I know people who don't read as a rule, and yet they've all read the 'Flowers in the attic' books.
In the novel I'm editing at the moment, there seems to be a little incest in it, but not everything is as it seems in the end.


By the way, I'm curious here... it's seemed to be agreed upon that incest is a universal taboo? Since when? Honestly, what's morally wrong about it? There are certainly genetic consequences, and I think the possibility of having a deformed, mentally challenged child is more than enough reason for incest to be taboo, and generally a bad idea. But is there anything wrong with it morally beyond that? I don't see what's bad about it, honestly. If it's so universally reviled, how did European royalty get away with it for so long?

Elodie-Caroline
08-07-2008, 12:46 PM
I have seen people, who claim to be writers, who don't even write about people having love affairs, because it's oh so wrong! Give me a break, just because you write something, it doesn't mean that you agree with it (as you said yourself).

I thought that writers wrote a story for entertainment and not as a tool to preach their own morals and ideas. I don't agree with murder and rape etc., but if my work needs it, it's going in there... I didn't expect my work to be sold at the church fête anyway. :D


Let me get this straight? Because something (e.g incest) is morally wrong, it should be avoided? Hmmm? There are quite a few things that are "morally wrong": rape, pedophilia, murder, torture, cannibalism, etc. etc. All of which have been written about, discussed, dissected, fictionalized, etc. throughout history.

So I still see there should be no topics off limits here. Just because you write about incest doesn't mean you agree with it personally. I do try to separate the work from the person, thank you very much.

Polenth
08-07-2008, 12:48 PM
There are lots of things I don't write because I don't find them interesting to read about. But they're not taboo subjects as such.

I still get a bit tingly about black holes, due to my childhood phobia. I think I could write a story with one in, though it would feel strange.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 07:06 PM
Let me get this straight? Because something (e.g incest) is morally wrong, it should be avoided? Hmmm? There are quite a few things that are "morally wrong": rape, pedophilia, murder, torture, cannibalism, etc. etc. All of which have been written about, discussed, dissected, fictionalized, etc. throughout history.

So I still see there should be no topics off limits here. Just because you write about incest doesn't mean you agree with it personally. I do try to separate the work from the person, thank you very much.


Maestro, anytime someone misrepresents what I write, I will not hesitate to dress them upside and downside. So please read very carefully:

The question in the OP was: what would you avoid writing about? And my answer was that I would avoid writing about incest.

And then Kuwis asked: what is INTRINSICALLY wrong with incest. And I replied with my opinion of what is INTRINSICALLY wrong with incest.

Now, as for my response to the post by you that I have quoted....

I have no problem with other people writing about incest--let them. Their choice. But my choice is a big fat "No."

Meanwhile, I make it a habit (especially in screenwriting) to very strongly warn other writers AGAINST ever trying to JUSTIFY incest in their writings (especially film scripts), because ultimately there is no justification for it or allowance for it or tolerance of it found anywhere in human society. If writers (especially screenwriters) want to TRY to somehow come up with a story idea where incest is justified, they will probably fail, and that is why I try to explain why they will most likely fail (espeically screenwriters).

But if they STILL want to try, at least they were warned. And then they will hopefully embark upon the task with a newfound soberness.

I do NOT restrict what other people write, I only restrict myself. And then I try to give friendly advice and opinions to other writers ... when they ask for it.

Please do NOT ever ever say about me: "Plot Device tries to tell other writers what they cannot write about in their scripts and novels" because that it not true.

Not.

True.

Thank you very much.

Plot Device
08-07-2008, 07:22 PM
Oh, don't get me wrong, the idea is quite repulsive to me, too. If there is no procreation or rape involved, though,--even thought I find it extremely gross, myself--I'm not sure what's morally wrong with it, if anything. I certainly agree it most likely came about to avoid the dangerous birth defects of inbreeding, which certainly explains why it's almost universally taboo. Most things I find morally repugnant, I can rationally see why it's morally wrong. Whereas with incest, I can't figure out what's so wrong as long as there's no procreation (other than the grossness factor).


I think there are very few people who have passed through an incestuous relationship that didn't come out permanently damaged by it. Even if they were willing participants, the regret afterward most likely prove to be a life-long head trip and impossible to avoid.

If anyone wants to write about it, be mindful that there are people out there who have been victimized by it who are capable of being impacted by your words. I learned that the hard way in college when I made a casual comment about incest in class (I think either psychology or philosophy class, I don't recall) and a girl came up to me later and said I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. And I got told later that she had been a victim of incest. So I just won't even go there anymore.




Meanwhile, trying to portray incest with delicacy in a novel is probably far less of a risk than in a movie because novels are by nature introspective. But doing it on screen is more challenging and more prone to pitfalls and landmines because of the reduced opportunity for interior thoughts in a film, as well as the conflicting visual signals people get from watching physical intimacy on the screen.

CBumpkin
08-07-2008, 07:48 PM
I'm not getting too deep into this sorted conversation except to add my support to Plot Device's views.

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 07:56 PM
Meanwhile, trying to portray incest with delicacy in a novel is probably far less of a risk than in a movie because novels are by nature introspective. But doing it on screen is more challenging and more prone to pitfalls and landmines because of the reduced opportunity for interior thoughts in a film, as well as the conflicting visual signals people get from watching physical intimacy on the screen.

There's a very good Korean movie, called Oldboy (roughly corresponds to something like "alumnus" or "classmate"). There are spoilers ahead for anyone who feels like watching a great Korean revenge movie. Anyway, the plot involves a man--back in high school--who witnessed one of his wealthy classmates having an intimate moment with his sister. The MC told the rest of the school what happened, and essentially ruined the brother's reputation. Many years later, the MC is attacked and incarcerated in a hotel room that's a kind of mafia-like prison, where he is often knocked out with sleeping gas and has nothing to do but watch TV. Finally, one day, he escapes, and meets a beautiful young girl, and they fall in love. The MC embarks on a revenge quest to kill those responsible for his incarceration, eventually leading him to the incestuous brother. Here, he learns the brother's sister killed herself, and her brother's been suffering with the painful memories ever since. But just as the MC is about to kill his tormentor, the brother reveals his true reasons for locking the MC away...every time he was gassed, he was brainwashed into forgetting his former life, his daughter, and he discovers the brother had arranged that the young girl he fell in love with is his daughter. The movie ends with the MC in tears, and the brother walking away, his revenge complete--now the MC understands the pain he was in.

Anyway, I definitely think it can be well done. It was never justified, but it was never condemned but for the MC's tears, and I certainly felt rather sick afterward. Great movie, though.

I hope I'm not hijacking this thread too much....

KTC
08-07-2008, 08:06 PM
Maybe we can drop the incest subject??? I've read many books that had incest in them. You can either stomach it as a topic or you cannot. The thread was a great idea. What topics will you not write about. I don't think it was WHAT TOPICS ARE YOU TRYING TO CONVINCE OTHER PEOPLE NOT TO WRITE ABOUT.

Can we PLEASE return to our regularly scheduled programming?

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 08:09 PM
I refuse to write about KTC.

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 08:10 PM
Sorry, sorry.

In on-topic news, I've never wanted to write anything political before. Wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. Now I'm kind of wondering if I could do it. I'll still never write anything about economics, though. Eww.

KTC
08-07-2008, 08:11 PM
I refuse to write about KTC.


You have no idea how LARGE of a group you are in.

maestrowork
08-07-2008, 08:12 PM
Plot, I was not addressing you specifically. It was a general musing on the topic. Chill.

I still can't think of anything I absolutely wouldn't write, if the story calls for it. Give me another minute...

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 08:13 PM
I'll never write about suburbs or "the country." It's either middle-of-nowhere Indian res desert (my home town) or big city. I can't deal with the in-betweens. I just can't bring myself to write about suburban life.

KTC
08-07-2008, 08:13 PM
Actually...upthread I said nothing is taboo for me. I will stand by that, but I agree...I just find politics so uninteresting and dreadful. I have never written about it and I am sure I never will. I sometimes have to stop and think to figure out who the current US president or Canadian Prime Minister is...that's how dreadful I find it. (Stephen Harper and George Bush right now, right???)

Danger Jane
08-07-2008, 08:25 PM
Political writing is a turn-off for me, too. If a book is very engaging, I'll read it even if there are strong political views (perhaps the author got a little overzealous?). But it takes me just that much out of the story.

I don't mind subtle political undercurrents in novels, but I don't like feeling preached to when I want to read a story.

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 08:29 PM
I also won't write about mermaids. Absolutely refuse. No way, no how, never...

Elodie-Caroline
08-07-2008, 08:29 PM
Oldboy is a good film, but I think The Brotherhood is better, this isn't about incest btw. ,There again, I love the foreign, non-Hollywood, cinema anyway :)


There's a very good Korean movie, called Oldboy (roughly corresponds to something like "alumnus" or "classmate"). There are spoilers ahead for anyone who feels like watching a great Korean revenge movie. Anyway, the plot involves a man--back in high school--who witnessed one of his wealthy classmates having an intimate moment with his sister.

Danger Jane
08-07-2008, 08:33 PM
I also won't write about mermaids. Absolutely refuse. No way, no how, never...

PFFT. Well GOOD. The market will be saturated once my book gets out.

HA.

(Hehe, saturated, get it? Water? Aquatic creatures? Saturated?)

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 08:37 PM
PFFT. Well GOOD. The market will be saturated once my book gets out.

HA.

(Hehe, saturated, get it? Water? Aquatic creatures? Saturated?)LOL I C WAT U DID THAR :D

maestrowork
08-07-2008, 08:40 PM
* GROAN *

That's the sound of a frog prince.

Danger Jane
08-07-2008, 08:43 PM
http://roflcats.com/images/0238.jpg


(note the low image quality...this is an ORIGINAL ROFLCAT.)

SPMiller
08-07-2008, 08:46 PM
Is that a Far Cry screenie in the background?

willietheshakes
08-07-2008, 09:33 PM
At this point, I'm avoiding Islam, the Prophet, and the US Bill of Rights.

Plot Device
08-08-2008, 12:16 AM
Maybe I will avoid writing about the Satanic verses found in the Koran, and also about the wife of Mohammed.




And for the record: Plot Device is always chilled (although sometimes shaken, yet rarely stirred).








.

Elodie-Caroline
08-08-2008, 01:27 PM
Sigh, Boring cats... Time to leave the thread, methinks.

Bayou Bill
08-08-2008, 01:46 PM
This post (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2623060&postcount=29) in this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=111819) woke up the old brain weevil... ;)

In my current WIP, a handful of children are tortured and killed. It is heavy stuff, hard to take emotionally, and- I suspect, not being a parent myself- it will be tough on parents. I do not, as a general rule, go into a lot of gory detail for the sake of turning stomachs... but if I'm to keep with the truth of the story, these scenes must stay in. The children and their fates motivate my MC and my villain and craziness abounds.

Thoughts?

Do you have a "stop" switch? What trips it?
Maybe it's because I'm a parent, a grandparent, and/or a big sissy, but there's no way I would/could ever write about the torture and killing of children. No problem with others doing so, of course.

There are several genres I have no interest in trying such as sci-fi/fantasy, horror and chick lit.

Bayou Bill :cool:

Melenka
08-10-2008, 05:24 AM
I don't know that there is anything I won't write about, though I would have a very hard time describing child abuse. Three weeks working a temp job at the state social services agency filled my head with enough trauma to last a lifetime - and all I was doing was updating files. I lasted two weeks longer than most temps. People do vile things to their kids and the last thing I want to do is repeat them, even if the story has a happy ending.

That being said, my last MC was a child soldier and was forced to do and endure all sorts of horrible things, most of which I never mention. The one rape scene is a memory, and he knows his teenaged brain cleaned it up to be less horrific than it really was. I struggled writing that scene, and warned one of my betas who had been sexually assaulted that she might want to skip it. She read it and said I handled it well, but it still disturbs me. I guess that's sort of the point.

Ol' 61
08-10-2008, 05:32 AM
The one thing that I have tried writing over and over again, because my novel is a romance, is the first time sex scene. I write it, and then I go back and read it and it just sounds so awful. I realized that I am uncomfortable even reading these types of scenes, so no wonder I have trouble writing them! I have since decided to merely allude to the consumation. I figured if I was uncomfortable writing it, the reader would be uncomfortable reading it. Besides, I think the MCs deserve a little privacy, don't you?