I pulled no punches in my latest thriller SNUFF TAG 9, but some people seem to think the violence is too graphic. I don't think it's gratuitous, but I have to admit I probably crossed the border into horror a couple of times. Any thoughts on this? As a thriller author, how far should one go in graphically depicting the violent scenes?

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Is that "snuff" as in "snuff films"?  I've always had some problems with that subject, as it might give people ideas.  God knows we have anough crazies.

As for the level of violence:  that depends entirely on the readers you wish to reach and what they like.

Every year, in the United States alone, over 45,000 people disappear without a trace.

Nine of them are forced to play a game...

SNUFF TAG 9

There's a word for the player who wins: Alive

It's not about snuff films, but I wouldn't have a problem approaching that subject either. I loved the movie 8mm. Books (and movies and TV and videogames) don't cause people to do those kinds of things. People do those kinds of things because they're sociopaths.

But sociopaths are interested in such subjects, read and watch them, and may well be stimulated to imitate them.  We have had many instances of crimes that were based on some movie or book. The victims would disagree with you.

Sociopaths don't need media or pop culture to come up with crazy ideas. Much of the time, the work doesn't match the nut anyway. Some examples would be Catcher in the Rye (Mark David Chapman), Lord of the Rings (neo-Nazis) and Horton Hears a Who (religious fanatics).

I'm not going to worry about what people might do based on a work. You have no idea how a person is going to interpret something.

I've got a thriller that crosses into horror in a handful of scenes. It's rated 4.2 stars on Amazon after 38 reviews, despite a 1-star review and a 2-star that both complain about the violence. My thinking is the complaints help to scare off the squeamish--a good thing--as well as attract those who like violence in their entertainments.

I'm not going to go into the "if it supports the story and isn't graphic for the sake of being graphic" derailment. We know each other pretty well, and I think we fall pretty close to the same position there.
I find I like the suggestion of violence more effective as my tastes evolve (I get older.) I watched LONDON BOULEVARD the other day. Didn't care for the movie--loved Bruen's book--but there were a couple of murders that occurred off-screen that were depicted quite well. Cringeworthy, even. They didn't show us what happened, but, to cite one example, when a woman leaves the room to answer the door and the next person to enter is the chief bad guy and the camera pans down to show a ball peen hammer with blood and hair stuck to it, that's even better than watching him do the job on her. Let's the imagination take over, and no one can ick you out like you can.

Right on.

But sociopaths are interested in such subjects, read and watch them, and may well be stimulated to imitate them.

I see. Well then, since crime fiction makes people go out and commit murders, I suppose we should all stop writing crime fiction. Eh?

I don't think most violence in books and movies is meant to titillate, I.J. And if a sociopath does decide to imitate something from fiction, it doesn't mean he or she wouldn't have thought up something equally horrific otherwise. It's an interesting subject, though, and one I'm sure each of us wrestles with from time to time in our own way.

Maybe that's your answer to how far is too far - when it starts to titillate. Of course that doesn't really help because it'll still be a different place for almost everyone so you're back to using yourself as a guide.

Personally I'm not very interested in reading violence, but then I read very few thrillers so I'm not the target audience for this kind of book.

In some ways this relates to your previous question about the quality of the writing - are you asking how much is too much for the quality of the book or for the sales potential?

Briefly:  I did not read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS based on what I heard.  I did read Val McDermid's THE MERMAIDS SINGING and thought it very well done (unlike the rest of the series).

My objection is to graphic and long descriptions of gratuitous violence, torture, and gore for the sake of pleasing a certain audience.  I'm not that audience.  The use of snuff films as a central subject suggested to me that such activities would be front and center in the novel.

A thought on this matter of the literary use of violence: is the filming/detailed description of the torture murder of an adult preferable to rendering the rape of a small child?

In any case, didn't you ask for our views?

Let's the imagination take over, and no one can ick you out like you can.

Great point, Dana. Hitchcock's famous shower scene is another excellent example of that.

My thinking is the complaints help to scare off the squeamish--a good thing--as well as attract those who like violence in their entertainments.

One of my reviewers says, "The author really seems to like chopping people up and torturing them."

Hehe. That should scare off the squeamish.

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