Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Not goin’ there.

by Vicki Delany

I’d like to address last week’s question about what’s off limits.

The suggested off-limit items were serial killers and child predators.  To which I would reply: Yes.
As a reader as well as a writer there are somethings I am just not interested in.  Serial killers rank right up there. Particularly books in which the serial killer has a POV.  Sorry, no, I don’t want to read your explanation of why this person is bad.  I have found too many books in which the use of a serial killer is just a way of upping the violence and sadism quotient.  I’m not interested in going there, or in taking anyone else there.

Having said that, of course, a serial killer story can be well done.  Maybe the cops investigate a murder.  Find there’s one similar.  Start digging: find another.  Those books can be well-executed and really work at building the suspense.  I won’t slam the book shut and put it down.  I might even think of writing one like that one day.

But if the book opens with the serial killer pondering his next evil deed or following some beautiful young woman, or the blurb reads,  “Detective Jones must stop the dreaded XX Killer before he can kill again” Or “Before Detective Jones (beautiful young woman) becomes his next victim” then count me out.

The one thing that is strictly off limits for me, again as a reader is excessive violence, particularly torture or sexual violence.  Not only is it unnecessary, but (in my opinion – no hate mail please) can be used by a certain sort of author and reader as a way of getting titillated.  That’s a softer version of the word I am really thinking of.

So as a writer, I am not going to write it, because I do not intend to imagine it, thank you very much.   My books are not cozies and my cops face some tough things in life. But no one needs it lovingly described.   Violence against children certainly fits in here.

I have an unpublished MS that did the rounds of the major publishers by a major agent.  It’s a dark book about trafficking of teenage girls into prostitution.  What happens to these girls is left entirely up to the imagination.   In the book, the focus of the protagonist is more against the men in her community who use these disposable girls, because that’s an area that is almost never addressed, than the ones who are simply making money off them.

But it couldn't find a publisher.  One publisher wrote to my agent to say they didn't like the contrast between the plot (as described) and the setting (small-scale vegetable farm in Upstate New York).  And that was kinda the whole point.

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