NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Responsible Writing

We interrupt National Nail Polish Day to bring you this blog...

If you know me, I had originally intended to write something light and humorous because I never take myself too seriously. But, recent events sobered me.

The grandeur and in your face quality of motion pictures is very impressionable. Visual impact on someone not mentally prepared to handle it can go askew. A prime example is youth. As a child I must have been in the living room to catch a glimpse of a scene on TV. A man was standing out in the snow in front of a ski chalet. He was throwing rocks at the upstairs window. When a woman came to the window, he shot her and there was blood in the snow. For months afterwards I would call my father to check my bedroom window at night because I swore I heard someone throwing rocks at it. 

As an adult I stumbled across that movie by recognizing the very same scene that plagued me as a child. It looked extremely cheesy and the ‘blood’ in the snow ended up being a spray-painted message by the killer. The point, however, is that as a child I was not mentally prepared to handle that scene.

It is not often that a book is responsible for acts of violence, but it does happen. Steven King had to take a book out of print due to violence that was perceived to have stemmed from one of his stories.

As a writer we are responsible for preaching safe sex. What other responsibilities do we have? With the nature of romantic suspense, danger and violence are often part of the package.  Granted, our audience is an intelligent, mature and beautiful group, but how far do our liberties as a writer take us? Do you ever find yourself toning down a scene because you feel it’s too graphic, or do you feel that the graphic nature makes the scene?  As a reader, has the violence of a book ever lingered with you afterwards?

In romantic suspense, I like to believe that the HEA overshadows the impact of evil. But I'm a romantic. :)

12 comments:

Wendy Soliman said...

Very thought provoking, Maureen. Yes, I sometimes tone down for fear of overdoing it. It's also a case of what a publisher will accept that ties our hands, of course.

Personally, even as an adult, I can't watch horror movies or read Stephen King. Yeah, I'm a wimp but that's just the way it is!

Maureen A. Miller said...

Mom knit this blanket that had gaps in the yarn, and during really scary scenes I would throw it over my head and peek out the gaps. Hahaha

Toni Anderson said...

Great post, Maureen. I struggle with this. Whatever is in my head is worse than however I write a scene. I spend a lot of time trying to infer things that are too graphic. But I like reading graphic and gritty so...getting the balance right is difficult.
I'm with Wendy, I can't watch or read horror now but I did as a young adult.
I'm a huge believer in age appropriate material, but my kids have read and will see THE HUNGER GAMES. I think my son is too young so it is hard to control. But I think guidelines are important :)

Shirley Wells said...

Great post, Maureen. I feel your terror too. As a child, I somehow caught a glimpse of hooded skeletons 'walking' around and was convinced for months that they were outside my bedroom window. I've never come across the film as an adult but perhaps I should look for it.

When I'm reading, I like gritty, dark stuff. However, I do sometimes tone down my own writing.

Maureen A. Miller said...

@Toni - I can read graphic and grisly scenes with a strange sense of disassociation. But when you see them on the screen, it's a whole other story!

@Shirley - Eeek! Now I see hooded skeletons running around throwing rocks at windows!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Interesting post, Maureen. I don't tone down the violence or fear in my stories, principally because I don't write graphic violence. Don't like reading it, either. And I don't watch or read horror.

I have enough gibbering voices in my head without adding to them.

Cathy Perkins said...

Thought provoking post.
I remember reading The Exorcist as a young teen (shakes fist at older brother who said, Here, read this) and didn't sleep for a week afterward.
I've never been a horror fan, but I wonder if our life circumstances also play a role in our reactions. When my children were small, anything that seemed a threat made me lie awake for hours, working out scenarios where I could 'save' all of them if whatever I read or saw threatened them.
In my stories, I've deliberately left violence 'off-page' and focused on the aftermath because the gore isn't what's important to me.

JB Lynn said...

I'm not blaming either, but I tend to think that the visual impact of movies and video games has a greater effect on young minds.

Sometimes I think a novel's story calls for graphic scenes, others not.

Maureen A. Miller said...

@Marcelle - I am most likely one of those gibbering voices in your head. :)

@Cathy - Horror books are one of my guilty pleasures admittedly. I'm okay reading them, but not so much watching them.

@JB - Violence and graphic scenes are necessary to convey the story sometimes. The First Victim would not have made me so nervous without certain scenes...and that is why it was such a success.

Wynter Daniels said...

Good post. I've often thought that including instructions on how to do something sinister - like build some deadly bomb - would be irresponsible, but pretty much everything is available on the internet now. I do consider a few types of scenes off limits, like rape scenes. I just can't bring myself to write them.

Elise Warner said...

I still remember a movie from my childhood where a doctor shrinks people. Read all types of mysteries but usually stay away from the gory ones. Perhaps that's why I write cozies. Oh, dear--self-analysis. Fascinating blog, Maureen.

Dee J. said...

Great post, Maureen!
I do think I try to tone things down because I think in many instances, the reader will fill in the blanks with their own imagination. I was at a sleep over a tween and the kids turned the TV to a movie. Turned out to be A Clockwork Orange. I still, to this day, am afraid to watch that movie even though I know it would probably not scare me now and maybe take some of the demons away. Shiver to think about it.

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