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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Will you have a scene where the young-un dies, or will it happen off-camera? I think you can get away with just about anything, depending on how you do it.
So long as it's necessary for the story and non-gratuitous, I don't think it's a problem.

Are there people who refuse to read anything in which a child's in jeopardy? Of course. But there are also lots of people who won't read cat mysteries, and they still sell in enormous quantities.

Do what your story needs.
Are there people who refuse to read anything in which a child's in jeopardy?

Oh, yeah. I hear from them all the time. I expect to catch some major flak from that camp over the next Keller novel, and they're REALLY going to hate BREAKING COVER.

But, as I alluded to in another thread, part of the reason I write the stuff I do is to try and process (and to some extent gain a measure of at least mental control) over some of the stuff that gives me nightmares. And one of the things I see in my day job that gives me the worst nightmares is violence against and exploitation of children.
Oh, I won't hesitate to do what the story needs, even if it means something really savage and disgusting -- which it doesn't. But I'm curious about other's feelings on the subject.

How far are you willing to go? Which, I suppose, is another question altogether.
I already got in trouble on this topic today, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut....
How far are you willing to go? Which, I suppose, is another question altogether.

Depends on why you are pushing the envelope. If the story demands the limits be stretched, then there are no limits in my opinion. If you are just pushing for the sake of pushing, that's another story. (How inane a comment is that?!?)
HH is right. I feel like I can always tell when a writer is doing
something simply to try and stun or shock the reader, as opposed to
serving the story.

As for how far I'd go? I won't know until my career is over... which may be sooner than I think.

What's interesting is now being a parent, it is much more difficult for
me to read books where bad things happen to kids. Before, it
didn't get to me like it does now. I can't help the visceral reaction I
have now.

Doesn't mean I don't read them, just means I do a lot of wincing and squirming.
It makes me cringe - particularly to see kids that are the same age as mine - but I'll read on. Good stories help us process the shit we see on the news, defining it and providing (forgive me for this) some degree of "closure."

Define "gratuitous," by the way. I've read a few graphic descriptions that brought tears to my eyes, but were absolutely essential to the story. Later events would not have worked (as well, anyway) without the reader having had a visceral reaction. However, I've read graphic descriptions that simply pissed me off, because there was no need for them.
Gratuitous and graphic are two different things. You defined gratuitous with your last sentence.
I should know better than to post when my kids are screaming in stereo. What I meant to say was, "gratuitous" depends not on the writer but on the reader. Several close family members think graphic=gratuitious. And now I'm starting to talk in circles. See what happens when I try to sound all intelligent and stuff...
My kids are four and two. Since their arrival, I almost can't watch the evening news anymore. Can't stand to see the car crashes, abductions, and other child jeopardy stuff that seems to dominate.

That said, there may be no fictive story more gripping to me than one in which a child killer gets what's coming to him. That I'd pay to "watch," so to speak. (Actually, don't think I could stomach it on the big screen. But somehow my reading stomach is way stronger than my watching stomach.)

It's funny how this parenting thing has made me more tender...and probably more ruthless..in one fell swoop. I'd die for 'em, and I'd kill for 'em.

Somehow the prospect of a child's death in a novel...makes me think, immediately, of justice. There'd better be some industrial strength justice a'comin', if a kid has to die...
Scott,

I am completely with you. The moment my first kiddo was born, it my view of the world completely turned upside-down. As in, driving home from the hospital, thinking, "Why are all these people driving like lunatics?"

Of course, as I write this, my two children are probably riding their bikes blindfolded down the street while someone shoots at them with a BB gun, so I guess I've loosened up a bit.

Still, I have a very hard time with anything that involves injuries to kids, and generally won't pick up a book I know involves it. I read a scene in a book the other night where a 3-year-old was killed, and I just about burst into tears on the spot. Which never would have happened before I had munchkins of my own.

On the other hand, I did keep reading the book, and it was (literally) a tear-jerker. And Elizabeth George did it. So I guess it really depends on the book -- and the kind of reader you're going after.

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