View Full Version : Do you write "Family Friendly" stories?

Kate Thornton
09-25-2006, 12:09 AM
I am writing - under commission - a short series of "family friendly" mystery stories.

I never realized how violent/graphic/etc. my stories are. If I take out the raw language, the situations don't make sense. If I cool down the situations, the stories lose their punch.

Writing mystery/crime/thriller stories without my usual language and adult situations is very difficult for me. I don't want to write these as YA or Juvenile stories, but keeping it squeaky clean is hard for me.

Fortunately, the editor wants some sci-fi too, and these are a lot easier for me to keep family friendly.

So, does anyone else write mystery/crime/thriller and deal with graphic language and adult situations? How do you do it?

Linda Adams
09-25-2006, 02:04 AM
I'm currently finishing up a co-written action-adventure/pursuit thriller.

Raw Language: When co-writer and I started writing the book (which is for women readers), we decided that we weren't going to use swear words. And we didn't. Truth is that we didn't need it, and it would have just gotten in the way of the story.

Violent/Graphic: I personally like action, but I don't like graphic violence. One of the things I really wanted to stay away is someone's eye getting gouged out. This has been in nearly every thriller I've read that's written by a woman. Ick! Likewise, we stayed away from any other kind of "ick" violence (James Rollins' book where a character gets his mouth sewn shut by a head hunter comes to mind. I could have really done without that, and worse, it was unnecessary). There is clear danger to the characters and lots of action, but none of it graphic.

09-25-2006, 10:57 AM
I nearly always write "family friendly" stories. I find explict langauge and explicit violence are far too often a crutch, an excuse for not writing well, and for not telling a strong enough story that's filled with strong enough characters.

How do I do it? The same way good writers have done it for centures. It's really this simple. I read writers, most of them very famous and long lasting, who did the same, and I emulate their methods.

Kate Thornton
09-25-2006, 06:09 PM
Good advice, Jamesaritchie - and I have been experimnenting with writing the story as it lays, then in revision, re-writing for family-friendliness. It seems to have worked very well on the first one.

Soccer Mom
09-25-2006, 06:21 PM
I faced this issue when I decided to write juvenile fiction. I didn't want to dumb down the stories, but I don't allow my kids to read things with strong language and violence and I won't write it for other people's kids under a pretence of making it "edgy." It was hard a first, but it did make me realize that I was going for the cheap shock sometimes. I think avoiding the crutches have made my stories stronger and more exciting. You're a good writer and your stories can carry enough weight without being bloody.

Kate Thornton
09-25-2006, 07:44 PM
Good words, Soccermom!

It's not so much bloody - it's really just the adult situations - sexual tensions, domestic abuse confrontations, that are difficult to write out. I go through and take out the "F" words first- then see if the plot turns on a particularly distasteful event. If so, can I allude to it without being specific? Will it take off the edge? If it will bland out the story, then maybe that one isn't right for that particular market, and needs to stay more raw.

Maybe not every story can be - due to subject matter alone - a family friendly one.

Thanks to you all for your help!!

Sheryl Nantus
09-25-2006, 07:46 PM
*blatant plug*

my novel coming out next year is what I'd call "family-friendly" - even though it has a vampire in it there's very little actual violence, a single swear word (and we'll see if that survives editing!) and while it's romantic (IMO) there's no hot and heavy sex scenes...

obviously *someone* thought it worked!


09-26-2006, 03:42 AM
So, does anyone else write mystery/crime/thriller and deal with graphic language and adult situations? How do you do it?

Yes. Deal with it? Easily. Always written for the intent of adult readers when I decided to write crime/mysteries.

Could I write squeaky clean and be just as impacting?

Yes. Why not? Holds no interest for me.

Writing without adult situations and doing it for family oriented readers isn't as hard as it may appear.

It's a choosing of words, the setting of tones, the realism of situations can be done without language and graphic scenes.

Family oriented stories comes from a different place inside than the crime/mystery.

"Find that place my child. It is there, and only there will you find the final level, there, you will find--the Glow." to ad-lib a quote.


10-02-2006, 08:14 AM
So, does anyone else write mystery/crime/thriller and deal with graphic language and adult situations? How do you do it?

Yeah, I do. Mine would be cosies, except that they don't have a private eye as the sleuth. The detective I write about lives in a small rural town, has a
S.O. but doesn't live with her, and watches his mouth in company. I sort of turn off the light on adult situations. "They refilled their wine glasses and moved to the other room to discuss more personal matters." Adults will catch nuance and inuendo that kids won't pick up. When it comes to graphic language, I merely say, "Stoddard swore softly to himself," or something like that. I also avoid plots involving stuff like child porn, sex crimes, etc. and in true cosy fashion, my murders take place off-screen. It *IS* frustrating at times, but eventually one gets the feel of it.