This applies to readers, writers, movie-viewers, etc.: What's your limit on sex, violence, and profanity in a story?

How much does the content of the story affect how quickly you reach your limit?

What's worst-- sex or violence or crude language?

I'm one of those people who tolerates just about anything so long as it works in the story. But, if the story doesn't work, I nitpick like crazy. (Probably because I'm bored. =)

What about you?

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What? New to me, though it makes sense. I've always simply called it image (symbol, simile, metaphor, allegory etc) and meaning, respectively.
I don't have a problem in reading it, although maybe it depends a lot who is writing it.

If a virile young man writes it, I assume that is how virile young men are doing it these days, and how come I missed out. If it is a woman writing, I just assume that it represents how sex ought to be done, rather than how it is actually done, and therefore don't mind.

If it is an old fella writing, I just feel that it's a bit sleazy, and I put myself into that category, as I am 43, and I would make sure that the people doing it were much younger!
Good points! Truthfully, I never enjoyed reading either graphic sex written by a man--
nor did I ever enjoy the bodice rippers with their sex scenes that I found so over the top--I mean one author of that type of book said she got tired of thinking of different over the top adjectives to describe all things sexual--like passion erupting--and pulsating this and that!
With me--I'm actually applying this discussion to what I'm writing right now. My characters are a bit sleazy and been around the block types--so I;m going to include sexy scenes--I'm on my third draft now--so I'm editing in stuff.
As for reading that--I don't mind sexy scenes if I feel comfortable reading them, if they're integral to the story. Oddly enough I never judge myself by what I read others doing. Don't know why that is--probably a woman thing.
As an author, I take a very different approach to this because of ten years in law enforcement where I've been immersed in crudeness, vulgarity, dead bodies, etc. I don't care to perpetuate it any further, hence I steer heavily away from it in my mystery series, THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY. These gals are there to support each other through real situations with humor and grace.

The more books I publish, the more immersed I get in the mystery world, the more I see this bizzare tendency by mystery authors to think that they have to be graphic and crude in order to be respected. I just don't get it...

Felicia Donovan
I understand totally your point.
I don't like things too graphic either. But I think if a story is about low-lifes for instance, don't we have to write about how low their lives really are? I mean to a certain point--so that there is enough realism.
I'll have to read your series (would love to anyway), and I do certainly take on board your criticism.
For me--as far as writing goes, I try to depict sleaze and amoral people without being too graphic. It's challenging, but I learn from that.
Carole, thanks for the kind words about the series and I appreciate your efforts to not be overly graphic.

I just feel that if people really had to deal with this day in and day out, they wouldn't want to perpetuate it any further. I'm tainted as an author from having been in law enforcement for so long so I'm probably not being objective, but I think authors have some social responsibility to stop perpetuating violence for the sake of sales. At what point are we not responsible for teaching the next generation that violence is wrong? Just because it's a book and not a video game does not mean we are not still responsible for our words and our messages.

You make a good point about being realistic, but I think too often writers write about what they "perceive" as being realistic, not what they know from experience. If writers are willing to spend time getting to know people who live on the streets and understand their history, fine. I think they'd be surprised to hear the stories. If they write about what they think "low-lives" are based on Hollywood's portrayal, that's not really reality, is it?

Thanks again for your reply.

Felicia Donovan
you just won me over! and that doesn't happen too often!
although I always try to see the other side.
in a sentence? you're right. who could possibly disagree with you?
Most of the time, I don't even want to know what video games have come out, they're so disturbing.
And as for film--well, my husband loves action films--and frankly, some of those are too violent for me.
As for novels, yes-I agree there as well. sometimes the body count is just unreal.
I think (in reconsidering what I said before) a novel can have crime in it without being too violent. Would you agree to that?
One thing I noticed years ago, when I first saw the Godfather--I found the violence horrific-and then when I happened to catch it on tv some years later, I thought, God! i must have gotten used to a lot of violence because it doesn't bother me the way it had!
Also, I suppose we are influenced (in our writing) by film.
As a matter of fact I recently heard, somewhere, that the perecption by editors and critics was that novels were getting more visual--that is, they were being put together with a cinematic kind of look--short bursts of chapter action, like scenes in a film. hmm . interesting.
As for me, because I'm so close to finally finishing my wip--I will go ahead but I'll go ahead with more awareness about what I'm doing and why--
Felicia! You got me thinking!
one more point though--I did live in Miami from 1980 to 87 and I did see a lot of violence and terrible crime. Both on the news and not on the news!
So it happens, but! we can choose how to write about it, bearing in mind we should maintain some moral standards.
Can't the portrayl of violence (or other unsavory things) be done without glorifying the act?

Can a fight scene that leaves both sides in tatters, unhappy and displeased with the whole deal be a good thing?

I would think a reader would empathize with a character who does what is necessary, but is disgusted or displeased with that same act even though it had to be done (say, for self-preservation?)

While a lot of films, and some books I've read, glorify violence-- I don't think it has to be that way.
Merely having sex or violence in a book, does not inherently mean it's a good messsage about those things that's being sent.

For what it's worth, I've dealt with more than a few 'low-life' kids. That's not really how they want to live.
clair, just going to jump in here.
I agree. violence should never be glorified.
and my term "low life" might sound strong, but I only used it to apply to what I'm writing. there are characters in there that have sunk to pretty low depths (and for good reasons)--fate, circumstance--poverty, illness--bad luck--hell! it can affect any one of us (as I know from personal experience)! hope it didn't sound too strong!
You're not the only person who uses that term.

I'm more looking at how it's often assumed that sex is written to tittillate and violence is written as a GOOD thing, pariticularly when it's violence amongst the low-down, scoundrel types of people who are just mean, dirty, evil, etc.

The people who are the most desperate, the most hurt(ing) are often the ones who are the meanest and cruelest and most violent. Sometimes, they really just need someone to care about them-- someone to show them that they are worth more than what they have. We see that so much in the alternative high school where I teach. Kids will turn their whole act around (giving up drugs, crime, etc) when the realize that someone does care, does want them to graduate and do good things. It's remarkable, really.

I'm not going to pretend I'm all politically correct. Some people act like asses-- and I write asses in my fiction. I also write sex, violence, and profanity. Not glorified in some Hollywood style, but closer to the real, hardscrabble lifes that I glimpse in my classroom.
A good crime book would still be a good crime book without sex. However, a good crime book can be lessened by having unnecessary sex.

I've just read a book by Greg Iles, which involved the spirit of a bad person who could take over another person's body and manipulate accordingly, but the transfer could only happen at the point of orgasm! Sounds like a bad porn film. Instead, it was just a daft idea by a writer I quite like, and I couldn't shake the sense that the writer just fancied perving out for a while.
sounds like it to me.
btw can never tell who you're replying to so forgive me if it's not me!
actually, when I think about it--most crime fiction doesn't include a lot of sex or perv stuff.
I think possibly when it does--as in the example you mentioned the writer wanted to try something different--as you say--he was perving out. hey! interesting name for a book or a discussion! Perving out!


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