Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: How Violent Is Too Violent?

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: How Violent Is Too Violent?

As a young adult author, I sometimes find myself asking how violent is too violent? I mean, with adult books you can go into gory detail of what you do to a character and how badly they were injured, maimed or killed. You can describe the flow of blood and each individual cut you make to their body to drive home just how horrific their injuries or death are. However, when you're writing for a younger audience, there must be a line somewhere that states that the description of cutting someone's fingers off or burning them in acid are too much, right?

I don't always agree that that's true. After all, young adults probably see more violent things in video games and on the big screen than are written in some books. But I was doing a scene in one of my current works in progress the other day and it revolved around torture. While I wanted to hammer home just how bad the pain would have been for my characters, as well as how deranged my killer was, I was struck with the thought that maybe it was a tad too violent.

The same can be said with some of the DYING THOUGHTS books. Tara's gift allows her to watch someone die over and over. The whole idea is that she is able to see things that the police may have missed because they didn't get to witness the death and despite their best efforts, they can not talk to the dead. I have dealt with the murder of children, people being raped and abused, tortured and killed in the most violent of ways and sometimes as I write, I find myself wondering if it's too much. My editor is great and is of the same belief as me, that sometimes you need to show that gore and violence to really give the reader the feeling that they are watching and experiencing it as well.

I guess the difficulty is for me that while some things would be seen as too little in an adult crime book, they can be seen as too much in a young adult book. It's about finding the balance between the two because young adults are generally within the ages of thirteen and twenty-five, and at the higher end of the scale they can see eighteen rated films and see violence in the media. So, why shouldn't they be able to see it in books? I get that for some people they are of the belief that children and young adults should be shielded from the violence out in the world, but by toning down the scenes in my books,  I'm not giving them the full story.

So, yes, sometimes there is a line between how much violence and description to use when dealing with these matters, but at other times, it's the job of the writer to cross over these lines and show the reader the realities of life. When Tara is dealing with a grisly case, I try to make sure that I don't write things that will give the readers nightmares, but at the same time I want it to be as honest as possible, which means including some forms of violence. It's just about knowing where to draw the line, but that seems to be the case with the majority of writing. You need to know the rules so that when you break them, you know you're doing so in good faith. It's all a learning curve and I know I, for one, have a lot more learning to do.

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