I don't watch 'Lost,' but last night I was waiting for Life on Mars to come on, and caught the last few minutes, in which one of the characters shoots a boy of perhaps ten years old. I think this is the first time I have actually seen a child shot and killed in a dramatic series, and I find myself really disturbed by it, even though I'm not generally a 'think of the children!' type.

In the old mystery/thriller canon, one of the 'rules' is that children are off-limits as victims, or, if they must be victims, the actual killing of them should not be explicitly shown. Are those 'rules' of good taste and fair play with the reader/viewer out the window now? What do you guys think?

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Children are killed or die in real life every day. Nothing wrong with depicting it in fiction, film, TV, whatever. A ten year old boy getting shot should be disturbing. What's really disturbing is that an adult getting killed on a TV show or in a novel is not.
I'm generally not disturbed by the fictional deaths of fictional adults, and I don't find it disturbing that I'm not disturbed. In fact, I'm often entertained by fictional murder, and sometimes root for the deaths of certain characters. I don't find that disturbing, either--I find it intriguing.
I realize that people, some of them children, are killed in real life everyday. However, TV is not real life (for most sane people, anyway), which is what allows us to be entertained instead of horrified when someone is killed - especially someone who 'deserves it.' The same goes for books.

To me, killing children is not playing fair with the reader/viewer. It's a lazy way of eliciting horror, without having to do much work. I guess in some circles it can be passed off as 'cutting edge realism,' but it strikes me as symptomatic of a not-very-creative mind. And it pisses me off.
How is avoiding or sugar-coating real life playing fair with the reader/viewer? It's exactly the opposite of playing fair. I understand that some people don't like to see or read that stuff and that's fine. We all have different views. I just prefer a story to be honest to its subject matter, no matter what.
I'm against gratuitous violence in real life as well as in fiction, but this particular fictional murder was brilliant. It was extremely well-motivated, and any fan of Lost would know that. My heart nearly exploded in my chest when I saw that, I nearly jumped off the sofa, both appalled and fascinated, and I ultimately wondered if I would do that in such a situation. Really made me think, and how often does a TV show do that? Not very. Cliff hanger of the year for that show. Got no problems with it, only a salute!
Well, perhaps since I haven't watched the show and don't know the story behind it, I'm stirring up trouble for nothing. It's just hard for me to imagine a situation in which showing a bullet entering the chest of a child, and said child falling down dead, is tolerable for the average viewer. I'm curious about the storyline now... any way to spill it without spoiling it for 'Lost' fans?
In short, Minerva, there is time travel involved here. The murder takes place in 1977. Sayid shot and presumably murdered a boy named Ben who would grow up to be evil (at least in Sayid's eyes and probably in the eyes of most fans of the show), thus preventing the deaths of many and altering history for the better (again, at least from Sayid's point of view).
It should be worked around at all costs. If you absolutely must, then do it. I entered a writing contest with an extremely dark crime piece. It involved a child - and his dog - getting shot by a hired gun. I lost the contest. I regret my entry not because of the failure, but because I could have wrote around the death. It was as senseless in the story as it was for me to write it.

The same goes for children in sexual situations. Sexual abuse is a theme in some works, so it is tolerated then. Go outside those boundaries and you're entering Pervertville, population you and no publishers.
My victims mostly get what's coming to them, so there are no circumstances in which I'd do violence to a fictional kid. I'm also not interested in writing about the sexual exploitation or other abuse of children in a book that's intended as entertainment.
My thoughts exactly. There are a whole lot of things about real life that don't belong in MY books, and killing kids is just one.
On the whole, I'm with John D. on this. However, let me add that I find murder very disturbing, even sometimes in fiction. It depends on how it's handled. I can stomach an assassin killing a man who has blood on his hands and has escaped the legal system. But the killing of an average person, an innocent victim, should resonate.

Mind you, if you're writing cozies, you not only cannot kill children, you also cannot kill cats. A few of the hardboiled male readers also get very uncomfortable when you kill a dog.
In theory, I agree with John D. and Ingrid.

However, I have a different issue. I have a VERY difficult time dealing with kids in bad situations. I can't watch a realistic depiction in a movie - remember the Mel Gibson flick Ransom? I couldn't finish it.

I wrote and published a story - "Jessie" - which was published and for which I received a lot of excellent feedback. However, the strong underlying theme of child abuse - and a teen's reaction to it - were disturbing, even to me as I wrote it and rewrote it.

I think it is the graphic nature that disturbs me. I've watched/read plenty of fiction in which there are children who have died. And I've put down plenty of novels and walked out of plenty of theaters when the depiction was too graphic for me.

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