Okay, short post, quick question. I'm thinking about killing off a kid in my third book. Non-gratuitously. I have no real problem with killing off the kid -- as it's an act that drives the story -- but I know some will object.

I'm just curious to know where everyone stands on such things.

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I don't like it when kids are killed, but if it's part of the story, it's part of the story, and I would read on. Gratuitious explicit detail would possibly put me off reading an author's further works. I found Karin Slaughter's Kisscut quite relentless unpleasant, and gave up on that about 90% of the way through.
I killed off a teenager in my most recent book, and am killing off another in my WIP thriller. Someone said they write about what gives them nightmares... and that's the way I see it. However, I do think editors are more squeamish than we are. I was told repeatedly not to kill a kid. That it would turn people off. We'll see.
I feel I need to defend the squeamery of editors here. (Or, at least, my own.)

I have been quoted as saying something to the effect of 'I love a good dead baby [in a book]!' Ask Marcus, he wrote down the exact quote, I believe.

(Of course, as long as the dead baby serves the story. And I can't imagine you'd off a teen without good reason, Libby.)
I'll admit that I dislike children in the real world, so I don't have any kind of build-in gut reaction to child killing in fiction. That is to say, no more than my reaction to any well written or shot scene involving the murder of an innocent person. The age of the victim is less of a factor than the degree to which the writer has made me care about them.

I don't feel any topic should be taboo in fiction but strongly agree that it ought to be relevant and crucial to the story.


(I've brought this up many times before, so if you've already read my rant on this topic, feel free to skip to the end of this post.)

A really perfect example of this is the contrast between two films that feature scenes involving the death of dogs; Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Amores Perros. While I don't care much for kids, I do love dogs and find myself intensely moved and disturbed when they come to fictional bad ends. (Of course, being intensely moved is a good thing in my book and I love when a writer or filmmaker knows how to push my buttons and make me squirm.)

Lady V features what is, to me, a textbook example of throwing something in just for the gratuitous shock value. The scene where she shoots her kid's cute little puppy comes out of nowhere and is then totally ignored by everyone else in the story. I wasn't just disturbed by the murder of the dog, I was also totally baffled by the whole scene and had no idea why it had been included. There is a lot of other very intense violence and disturbing imagery in that film, but it all seemed to be organically connected and relevant, with the exception of that one scene.

On the other hand Perros features a really hideous and traumatic multi-dog death scene that is every bit as wrenching and awful (if not more so) than the one in Lady V, but it's brilliant and totally relevant to the story. In fact it's the emotional lynch-pin of the whole film.

So, to answer your question, I say do the kid. Just make it count.
I have no trouble with children in jeopardy if it is germane to the story. But then, I have trouble with anything in the story that doesn't actually need to be there (not at all to say I'm a minimalist, but...).

The other big taboo I've heard is about hurting pets.

There are a lot of readers who don't like to read about children being harmed. My last novel has a pedophile seeking prey. Got plenty of flak.
Kill whoever the hell you need to in order to tell the best and most honest story you can. Everyone has their biases. I, for one, will NEVER buy a book with a cat on the cover.
All the comments about you're going to get objections regardless of what you do are realliy correct.

Personally killing kids / women / men / adults / cyborgs doesn't worry me, but touch a dog and I'm hyperventilating :)

Seriously though - I always remember Mark Billingham's comments - he gets more complaint letters about the swearing in his books than anything else. Seems to him murder, mayhem and chaos is fine, just as long as you don't use naughty words
I'm just curious to know where everyone stands on such things.

I'm not sure I understand the question. Do you mean should you do it? It's your story. Do you mean, would I read it? Probably not, but I'm a major wuss. Would I read it if Oprah chose you for her Book Club?


If it won a Pulitzer?

Hoo boy.

If it won a Nobel Prize?

Yes, yes, yes. I'd read it. But only once, and I'll close my eyes at the squicky parts.

Will I talk about you for having done it? Hell, no. It's your story.
It was rather vague, wasn't it?

Really, all I'm interested to know is how you feel about kids getting killed in books. I will do it because the story dictates it. But I'm simply curious to know how others feel about such things.
I'm not exactly child friendly, so I have no charge one way or another on killing children. For me, gratuitous is when it just doesn't make sense, not if it's graphic or disturbing, on or off camera. If it isn't connected to the rest of the story then it just feels unnecessary and I wonder why it's in there.

Kill the kid.
At the risk of sounding harsh...just do it! It's your creation. I doubt you would do it for a gratuitous reason and it's going to be creepy, but effective for most folks out there. I remember reading The Treatment. I was horrified...but I was compelled to keep on reading. Hayder pushed the child envelope pretty horribly, as did Carol O'Connell in The Judas Child. Not a single normal person likes to experience the horror of something like that happening to a kid, even a fictional one. However, it is a part of this world. It is a part of Crime fiction. You write it well and maybe it will help effect a change! That's part of the bonus of being a writer.
As long as you aren't touching animals, you should be alright, depending
on how you handle it, of course.

I had an event with another author whose character's dog was killed off in her
debut book, and a reader publicly stated that she threw the book in the trash.
Apparently that response was not unique.


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