Love and Death: Is There ANYthing Else to Write About?

A self-published author has put himself on the hotspot today by criticizing Frank Bill's Crimes In Southern Indiana: "From what I could tell," writes John H. Byk, "Crimes in Southern Indiana, is to crime fiction what the film, Saw, is to horror movies — a mindless string of sensationalism connected by the thinnest of thematic threads. I felt insulted as a reader by the clipped, non sequitor dialogues and two dimensional characters that reminded me of porn stars. Yet this tripe attracted the attention of a major literary agent and secured Mr. Bill a contract with a giant in the publishing industry (FSG). Congratulations to him and sour grapes to those who embrace this new trend.

"These authors, who write like Bill and who are featured in popular crime fiction ezines across the web, don't have the stamina to write a full length novel because there is no suitable framework to contain continuous splashes of blood on page after page.  But a society numbed by violence feeds upon these stories like frenzied sharks or masturbatory adolescents unable to control their urges or to satisfy their needs. 

"Sex and death. That's always what sells. Ask any freshman Marketing student."

My question for fellow CrimeSpacers: Violence can be overdone, sure, (I don't think so in this case from what I've read of Frank's short stories) but is there anything else to write about but love and death? Mr. Byk keeps deleting the angry comments, but his whole blog post is here.

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You all are so encouraging for the prospects of ever having a successful book based on anything that interests me. lol

You really have to consider what you mean by "successful." With ebooks keeping your work available forever that longtail might actually be possible. And then there are all the non-money rewards for writing.


Oh no doubt. lol Just commenting on how the trends seem to bend more and more to what essentially amounts to trash. (Not naming names, but I've seen a few mentioned in this thread.) Definitely makes getting into print/ebook at all more daunting, let alone finding loyal readership.

The loyal readership is, in fact, what you need to build with e-books.  This is all still so new and so volatile that sucesses like some of the ones discussed on blogs with dollar earnings may not last out the year.


I write because I cannot not write.  Traditional publishing has let me down, so I've turned to self-publishing.  It was the only choice at the time, though, to be honest, I've become so disillusioned with the publishing world that I doubt I should accept another contract. I'm not, in any case, marketing to anyone.

Indeed. It's definitely disillusioning. I cannot not write for too long either. Just wish I could have a little more luck with sharing it. lol

It's possible to write about felonies other than murder - take the Taking of Pelham.

A hostage situation illustrates my point, seems to me. The threat of death -- if the hostages run or resist, or if the police charge -- is present throughout the story. It creates a tension that couldn't exist otherwise. I'm not suggesting all stories are strictly about love and death, I'm saying love and/or death, or sex and the threat of death, are elements of just about everything fictional save small children's books. And believe me, I am not the one making this up. If you nice people keep telling me I'm wrong, I'm going to drag out my Bartlett's and show you some very very famous dead writers who say much the same.

No, you have a point. I fully agree. The human experience can be simplified into just a few categories. (Although I'd argue that sex would be the easiest to eliminate from a story. ;) ) The challenge is getting others to embrace our written approach to these themes.

Why the sex and not the violence? That seems to be where this discussion started. I agree with Jack, love and death drive everything (now I may have to go watch the Woody Allen movie again ;).

But it seems the complaint of the blogger that started this discussion was that there is too much - and too detailed - descriptions of violence in a lot of noir or crime fiction today. For some reason descriptions of violence are okay but decriptions of sex usually get their own category.


I always see a clear distinction between violent details and sexual details. The purposes and necessities of both seem to be quite different, because they are indeed very different animals. 

As for why sex is easier to get rid of, I'd say because a lot of the times, sex isn't really as necessary to a plot as violence. A lot of times, you could take sex out of a story and the story wouldn't really be lacking much. (Not by any means all the time, mind you.) Try taking out violence from stories. While I am sure some stories would be left relatively intact, most stories rely heavily on the violent encounter as a major moment in the story. That's my take anyway. :) 

Also, "love" to me also doesn't necessarily equal sex. I can have a story that features a lot of love and no sex. I don't think you can really take love out of a story; somebody has to care about something or else it's pretty difficult to have a good conflict.

Violence can be taken out more often than most think. Higgins made a living not describing things and keeping the reader in the loop through conversations taking place after the fact. Our own John McFetridge does this very well in SWAP (LET IT RIDE everywhere but the US), leading us up to a police raid on a biker headquarters, then skipping the raid itself,letting us find out what happened by listening to both sides talk about it later.

I am sure it can be taken out. Never denied that. Yet, even if you skip over the scenes with the violence, violence is still a part of the plot. I arrange it in terms of tiers. Violence can be taken out often, sex can be taken out even more often. Love/caring is the only thing I feel you'll have a hard time taking out and still having a story left. So of the three (love, sex, and death), I feel love THE most essential. 


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