David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 11, 2011 - 12:03pm

How far are you willing to go in your writing? Is there any topic you consider to taboo to write about? There's nothing I won't write about and absolutely nothing is to far for me so I guess id like to know from those of you who have some how retained morality throughout your life what things are to far for you?

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like December 11, 2011 - 12:19pm

What I'm able to bring myself to write is not the same as what I would actually want to write.

Someone possessing the will to write something reprehensible is not an indicator of does not indicate how morals actually inform their personal actions.

Do you really believe you've lost all morality?

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 11, 2011 - 12:21pm

It was more of a sarcastic remark but, no, every moment of my life has robbed me of morality. The blame for this rest solely on me but still i am a heartless bastard. I guess I should re-state my question to avoid confusion. I'd like to know, if you aren't like me, what is to far and do you ever feel in violation of your moral code by what you write? Do you feel it is wrong to write about certain topics?

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like December 11, 2011 - 12:24pm

I think it's wrong to support things that are wrong, but I don't think it's always wrong to portray them.

mutterhals's picture
mutterhals from Pittsburgh December 11, 2011 - 12:36pm

Someone, I forget who, said writers are the last people you have to worry about, because while others go out and commit crimes against humanity we actually just imagine them. That's how I look at it. Just because I write about it doesn't mean I think it's cool or would actually do it. I don't tend to write about really foul shit, pedophilia, for instance, just because it's too tragic and there's no way for me to make it humorous. Other than that, it's a free for all.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 11, 2011 - 12:47pm

It depends on if I have something worthwhile to say about it.  If I have a story to tell, I'll tell it.   But I won't push myself to tell a story that isn't in me. 

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch December 11, 2011 - 1:17pm

Agreed with Avery, if there's a reason to go to an outrageous topic, a point to make with it, then nothing should be off limits. But the biggest problem I see with some writers is that they are either too lazy or too irresponsible to give a perspective outside of the one contained in the outrageous world and characters. A hint of a perspective, even, helps give it a reason to be written. Otherwise, it's just shock value and I have no use for reading it.

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic December 11, 2011 - 1:27pm

I agree Liana. Shock for shock's sake is tiresome. If there's a reason for it though, and the shock reveals something important about a character's motivations or reveals something about the human condition then I'll go for it. It's a fine line though.

As for the general question. I think nothing's taboo and every subject has been tackled in literature. Brave writers look in all the dark corners. But some subjects are best handled with care. And if you hurt someone as a result of something you've written then it might be hard looking at yourself in the mirror again (unless of course you're heartless). 

.'s picture
. December 11, 2011 - 1:46pm

Pedos, drugs and violence are a common theme in everything I write. It is what I know. It is all around me.

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce December 11, 2011 - 1:47pm

I would write about shocking stuff  like graphic paedophilia, on the condition that I can meld into it something nice, like romance or failure. A good rule to stand by is, always mix in with your shock an ammount of humanity.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters December 11, 2011 - 1:54pm

Typewriter - yes i agree with that.  Because otherwise you end up with something no one will relate to.  It won't strike a chord. 

Liana - completely agree on shock for the sake of it.  Not my thing.

cowboywerewolf's picture
cowboywerewolf from DC is reading Homage to Catalonia December 11, 2011 - 2:24pm

I look at writing the same way I look at humor: nothing is off limits, but the further you go, the greater the responsibility you have to make it good. That's how you avoid shock for shock's sake.

Continuing with humor as an analogy, racist jokes, sexist joked, holocaust jokes, 9/11 jokes are all permissible, but they'd better be funny. The funny has to always outweigh the shock.

I think intent is also relevant. What's the goal? If you want to make your protagonist a gleeful, remorseless baby-fucker, have at it, but there should be a good reason for it. Just doing it because it will offend people is an awful bore.

And, to be clear, by "intent" I don't mean it has to teach a moral of some kind. It just needs to be a necessary element to communicate your message to the reader.

ReneeAPickup's picture
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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig December 11, 2011 - 8:12pm

I agree with a lot of what has been said here--I'll write about anything if it lends itself to my story, and does so in a productive way. I once reviewed a transgressive/horror novel for a friend of a friend, he wrote about pedophilia, drug use, torture, child murder, rape, and a few other unsavory topics--but that was it. There was nothing to it, just punch in the face after punch in the face of disturbing topics held together by very tenuous threads, it wasn't very good, I was honestly surprised it found a publisher. On the flip side, I have read books that dealt with all those things in one narrative and been really pleased with the result, because it added something to the story and the way it made me sort of uncomfortable was pleasing in a "you got to me because you have something to say" way, and not a "yeah, child molestation and rape are really bad" way.

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 11, 2011 - 10:05pm

I used to be guilty of writing awful things for the sake of shock, there was nothing to it but filth and looking back that depresses me but i guess that was just my starting point in writing. I've learned to tell a story with these things put in now and make the fucked up side just a part of the character and something that just gives them and the story more depth. I don't like stories written with nothing more to say other than," look at me I'm disgusting!" but I'm just curious if any one has ever just felt wrong after something they wrote. I did once after writing a short story, more like ten pages of graphic murder, and I just felt bad about what I had written because there was nothing to it and that disgusted me about myself that I wrote such a thing just so I could say no body can write more fucked up things than me. That was the point that I decided to be what I consider to actually be a writer now. While things like that don't really offend me in any moral way they have nothing to offer and it furthers literature in no way what so ever. There's merit in disturbing things but only used to further your character and when it had a point. Now if in my story a child gets raped it's soley because it's essential to the story and there was no other way for it to be written. The story should never have it's voice taken away for the sake of being shocking, it's a tool just like everything else in writing and needs to be used only when appropriate.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. December 12, 2011 - 11:34am

I will read about almost anything if it has a point and write about it,if it serves the story. That being said, I have no interest in reading rape fantasy if the writer seems like they are getting off on it. The same thing for pedophiles like the recent Piers Anthony scandal. That is like writing children's books just to get close to kids. Or people like Tucker Max who write "books" to get laid or women fuck him in the hope of ending up in his next book. The taboo subject matter has to make sense to the story. The story has to drive the events and not the other way around, otherwise we are just writing pornographic soap operas. There is a reason soap operas are considered lowbrow art, they are just about shock value.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings December 12, 2011 - 11:50am

Same, as long as it fits. Again, with funny, it has a valve so you can kinda say anything. My latest has a sexual compulsives support group situation, the guy you are reading about has a sponsor, who is using the support group to feed his habit. This habit is sex with people with learning disabilities or brain trauma. He volenteers with a charity and is pursuing a 'client' whom he describes as a 33 year old virgin with two perfect pillows of fuck-meat. This only works because the character you are following is disgusted, yet has to admit the person does have nice tits. This bit of plot is simply a side line, but nothing is out of bounds. If well written, I think anything can be made to work, be it designed to offend, shock or bring about hatred.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. December 12, 2011 - 12:03pm

Plus if you are all shock then you really aren't taken seriously. Example: Friday the 13th parts 1 through Jason X.

bassgdae13's picture
bassgdae13 from Winona, MN is reading Under the Dome by Stephen King December 12, 2011 - 3:58pm

Honestly, if there is a point being made by a controversial aspect of story, then I think it's perfectly acceptable. Many stories need those disturbing parts in order to make the author's point strong. Brett Ellis Easton's "Less than Zero" is a wonderful example of this. If you have read the book, you know why. The whole book is filled with many disturbing and terrible things. But Easton does this in a very effective way which makes the novel very powerful.

So whenever I'm writing and I want to make sure that I get my point across to the reader, I will try to think of the best way to do that. If I think that something that could be considered offensive or controversial is the most effective way to bring my point across, I try to use that controversy to show my point in the best way I can in a way that doesn't just seem like I'm just rambling about terrible things just because.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 12, 2011 - 4:13pm

@aliensoul - Say what you want about the Friday the 13th series, but do not speak ill of Jason X!  Jason X was awesome...

I'm fine with disturbing matter in novels so long as it's done well.  Very few times have I read it done well, though.  Often, it seems like it's just there to push sales and it's exploitative.  Exceptions to this rule:  American Psycho, Lolita, Blood Meridian, and Fight Club.  All of these dealt with very controversial subject matter, but in a way that was really geared towards a larger point. 

However, most of the transgressive fiction I've read has really gone heavy on shock value (e.g. - Snuff) and I just kinda got bored of it after a while.

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 12, 2011 - 6:07pm

Say what you want about American psycho but I'm positive he wrote a murder fantasy set in the eighties and just kinda went with everything people said about it. Reading the book I see no deep meaning, no real story. I see a crazy man murder woman and freak out over insubstantial matters. It's fun to read but taken to seriously I think.

.'s picture
. December 12, 2011 - 8:00pm

I loved Ellis' depiction of writing American Psycho in the first chapter of Lunar Park.

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 12, 2011 - 8:24pm

I think I'm the only person on this website not a fan of Ellis. I don't doubt I'll be shunned after this post and run off the site with death but he bores me to tears. His style is just so, i don't know but I can't get in to anything he writes. American psycho is the only thing I've been able to finish of his and that's just because the inventive murder scenes and hilarious restaurant scenes are infinitely entertaining.

.'s picture
. December 12, 2011 - 8:39pm

He is like Chuck Palahniuk but more subtle when it comes to his satire. I won't be one of those people to say "you don't get it" but the thing about Ellis is that his work is meant to be boring. That is the point basically, at least with a couple of his books. I haven't read Glamourama though so I can't speak for it. But I think Ellis is extremely talented. Or used to be anyway...

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 12, 2011 - 8:42pm

I know what they are meant to be and I understand them, it's just not my thing. I recognize his talent but he's just to boring for me.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 12, 2011 - 8:43pm

I wouldn't consider myself an Ellis fan.  I thought American Psycho was a work of genius, but I don't particularly like the rest of his oeuvre.

Brian Ingham's picture
Brian Ingham from Stillwater Oklahoma is reading There is No Year by. Blake Butler December 12, 2011 - 10:21pm

I agree with David, American Psycho had no real meaning or purpose until the readers started looking too deeply into it and created one. It's just a yuppie in the 80s killing people...but boy is it an amazing read. Ellis is my favorite author, I pray he writes a couple more books in the future, I just don't see it happening.

As far as my writing is concerned, nothing is off limits or taboo.

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound December 13, 2011 - 4:28am

I disagree with the statement that American Psycho has no deeper meaning. If anything, I'd argue that it's one of the only Ellis books that does have themes that can't be summed up so easily. Especially compared to his other books, it's definitely his best work, and most carefully planned. Although I did enjoy his other work.


As for writing, yeah, anythings fair game. Although I don't run into anything too weird that often.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts December 13, 2011 - 6:24am

Just because baby rape is essential to your story doesn't really mean you're doing it in an interesting way, that's pretty much what I keep in mind when doing something like that. That and, even lit nerds, not many people want to read or identify with characters that deal with subjects like that. Though from a writer's perspective, your personal taboos are probably the things you should be writing about, if by the end you find out why you hate something or see something horrible in a new light on the page, you've probably written something pretty interesting. To write like that though requires a level of soul searching that I usually don't have on the first draft when I'm just thinking of spinning yarn and entertaining myself. I should probably start doing that though.

My writing taboo, I will not write something that I both have no knowledge of and don't care about whatsoever. Likely I couldn't write it anyway. No government political dramas from me. I could throw gender/sexual orientation or racism into a story, but really I have no social commentary I would want to make on those subjects.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 13, 2011 - 2:32pm

I won't make characters do something that seems fake for the sake of the plot/social commentary.