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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Having been informed of the storyline, I guess I can understand the 'necessity' of killing the kid, but I still argue that it wasn't necessary to show the bullet entering his body and him falling to the ground, a la Sam Peckinpah. Even if it was paranormal, and even if he's going to come back to life, something about the graphic visual element strikes me as wrong at a very basic level.
I'm beginning to be a little worried about your reading DRAGON SCROLL, Minerva. :)
Uh oh. Why? Do kids get killed in it?
I'd better not give away details. As always, the hero fights evil where he finds it.
Killing ought to be disturbing. My first book, The Living Room of the Dead, disturbed some readers who complained about that to me. My reaction was, "Good, it was supposed to be disturbing. If you weren't disturbed by it, I would have failed in what I was trying to do."

If killing a kid, or a dog or a cat or someone's favorite granny advances the plot or helps develop a character, I say go for it. And if you want to do it explicitly so as to advance the plot, develop a character or raise the anxiety level of your reader, well that's just fine, too.
My book Goodnight Angel centres around the murder of a little girl. I don't actually show the murder - but I do describe crime scene shots etc. It was hard for me to go into detail, but I had to for the sake of the plot. To make my protagonist care enough to investigate the murder, I had to make it pretty horrific.

Sometimes it is necessary to be graphic - to show the bullet going in and see the kid die - to make the audience feel it. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a scene where a boy gets kidnapped, and I did my absolute best to capture the helplessness and fear he was feeling. That way, the audience wants the protagonist to catch the bastard who did it - they're involved on an emotional level which keeps them turning pages. I felt kinda sick when I was writing it, but it had to be done.


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