XXX – Taboos in Storytelling

I don’t remember where I heard it, but somewhere I heard there was a general rule in storytelling : you never kill pets or children. I’ve already broken one of those rules in my second novella, and it got me thinking – is there anything I wouldn’t do in a story?

My first instinct is to say no. If I feel it serves the story and it has to be done, so be it. But I still wonder…

Quentin Tarantino has rubbed people the wrong way with his liberal use of the N-word (even before Django Unchained). I haven’t had to approach that topic yet, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. But I can’t think of any other words that would be off limits.

The example of breaking taboos that keeps popping into my head is the movie Funny Games. I won’t spoil anything, but all I’ll say is no one is safe.

Is there any line you feel shouldn’t be crossed, as either a writer or a reader?

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5 thoughts on “XXX – Taboos in Storytelling

  1. I wouldn’t go so far as to write a gruesome depiction of the killing of a child or animal, but I’ve written about some terribly sociopathic characters, and some of them would do these sorts of things. I’ve written rather gruesome depictions of the offing of adult characters, particularly if it was a character I disliked.

  2. I think it depends on how you write it. I have written stories where children were killed but I try not to give details that are not required for the story. I think if I were to give details about any violence agaist a victim that were not necessary for the story, or were there strickly for shock and offensive value rather than scene building, that would be crossing the line. I think, as a writer, you have to write that stuff with the intent of connecting the reader to the victim, not the act itself. That way we can hold on to our compassion and it doesn’t read like smut.

    1. That’s a great reply. I found myself in the position of having the death of a child being the impetus for the whole rest of the story, so that was unavoidable. Thank you for your input!

  3. I’ve read that some agents won’t touch books with these certain aspects in them. I guess it depends on what you as the writer are comfortable with.

    Have fun with the rest of a-z.

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