Thursday 24 March 2011

Boundaries of Acceptability

Hi again,

This will be a quick post, since I've been doing a bit of editing of my writing tonight, and it's late so I really ought to go to bed.

But I wanted to comment quickly on the concept of what's acceptable and what isn't in a book - as a writer.

And by that I mean that something happens in a book which is abhorrent or just deeply unpleasant, but it is something that you have to write, describe, imagine and - in a sense - savour. You need to be able to feel the texture of the thing, imagine the feeling of the perpetrator as well as the horror of the victim (assuming of course that it is something that has both a perpetrator and a victim, but stay with me on this).

It occurred to me when I was thinking about a particularly distasteful event (which I've decided to remove from my book for entirely different reasons) that happened "offscreen" as it were. It was never
described graphically, but it was there and in order to write that it happened, you have to imagine it and everyone's reaction to it.
As I said, I've decided to remove that event for character reasons, but the general theory is that it is still a weird circumstance to put yourself in.

Obviously if it is a part of the plot and is true to the characters, the event has to be described - and I've done this before in short stories, and to a small extent in the book so far - but how far can an author go in describing it without crossing into an area where it becomes gratuitous?

I think it's easier to do it and not care if you know you have a wide audience of people you don't know who will read it. If you are writing for yourself and people you know, there's always the chance that they'll look at you different afterwards, wondering if you're a psychopath or a deviant.

I'm not sure if this is a particularly coherent post, and I know that the idea is only partly formed, but it popped into my head, so I thought I'd put it out there.

Take Care,

Mad Iguana.......


  1. This is a very interesting idea Mad Iguana. I am not a writer and have never been tempted to be but i am a reader and would therefore like to share my thoughts on your last blog. I read all types of books from fantasy to gruesome murders and never once has it crossed my mind to question who the author is, let alone how they are able to write such unpleasant things,from rape to torture to murder. And yet just recently I have read a book that contained some quite disturbing scenes but this time the authors identity was known to me and YES i would have to admit that I did (all be it momentarily) wonder how he was able to write such realistic pieces on torture/murder etc. Another example of this that just popped into my head is about the first part of a trilogy book I was reading. I loved every bit of it and couldnt wait to start the second book. However just as I started it I found out that the author had died AND I JUST COULDNT BELIEVE IT. Why it bothered me I have absolutely no idea cause I certainly was in no way interested in who the author was before this. I do believe I didnt even know the writers name and yet to this day I havent been able to bring myself to read book 2 or 3 and really dont know if i ever will. So basically my point is that for me as a reader, knowing the authors identity or having more information about them other than their name at the bottom of a book definately has an impact on me. Paula

  2. Thanks Paula.kizzy!
    Knowing something about the author is a double-edged sword. It can make the book more enjoyable sometimes, and less enjoyable other times.
    I suppose the main thing is that a book should be able to stand independently of the author, and if we all wrote our books anonymously, it wouldn't make them better or worse.
    I still feel weird sometimes when people I know read something I've written - someone once said to me "It's like showing people your arse; you can't see it properly yourself because you're too close to it. You hope they'll like it because if they don't there's not a lot you can do about it."

  3. I agree but ur born with ur arse and cannot change it and therefore dont have to be responsible for it or live with the fear of rejection that someone wont be overly impressed by it. Creating something be it a book or a bag and asking people if they like it is almost like a personal attack if they dont. Which in reality is so stupid,i mean its just someones opinion. If some1 said they didnt like up top,wud u keep wearing it or wud u throw it in the bin even though u liked it on u.I think its all about self confidence. Dont shy away from telling people of ur talent and be proud that u have the ability to create something unique. And if some people dont like it,i bet theres others that will. Every1 has different ideas opinions and tastes, wud u believe I even know someone from ireland who doesnt like potatoes!! Iknow,its utter maddness! But i also know that for every spud i buy,this other madman will buy something different,so 2 crop growers will be pleased. U shud just go for it,stand tall and be proud. Wudnt it be gr8 to think that ur kids or even grandkids will have a copy of a book u wrote be it overly successful or not. Ye never know,he could even be their inspiration to start writing themselves!!!

  4. True. You have to do that thing that's inside you and put it out there for people.
    Because it could be great and other people might just enjoy it.
    And even if they don't, if it's not out there, it'll sit inside you and make you ill instead. And that's not a good idea.