1. thalorin19
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    thalorin19 Member

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    Do the death of children cross the line for you?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by thalorin19, Apr 9, 2011.

    In my novel, there is a sequence where a young girl gets killed. I'm not some odd individual who writes about this stuff, it's just meant to have a large impact on a specific character and the plot to the story.

    It's a somewhat gruesome scene, and I've toned it down as much as I could without taking the shock factor out of it completely, and thats where I wondered if anyone would continue reading after reading a scene like this.

    I myself don't put down my book when a child dies, gruesome or not. As long as it fits the tone of the story, and I see it as necessary - as in it's not excessive or anything. But I also know others, including my grandpa, who will put down a book. He won't even read Stephen King novels anymore cause of a specific scene in Pet Sematary (if you have read it, you know what I mean).

    So what are you thoughts on the death of a child in a novel? Would you put down the book? Continue reading?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    well i killed twenty of them in my last story - so can't be against it.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    No...
    Children die in real life. Recently read an article on daily mail about a gruesome killing of a year 6 old child.
    As long as it fits in with the story, you should be okay.
     
  4. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    There's been an on going list of articles about a woman in my town who let her autistic son die of cancer by refusing to give him his chemo medication for several months.

    Not that you asked for lists of local news about children who have died, but the point is, yeah it's awful. But for me death doesn't really have an age limit. It'd be less believable if the story involved everyone but the children dying.
     
  5. dnsralg
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    dnsralg Senior Member

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    If you deem it necessary to the plot, you have the creative authority to include it. It's your story, after all.
    I think that the kind of people who would put down a book because of one scene should go back to the Children's section. Pardon me, but f*** 'em! They don't deserve to read your story if they can't appreciate how you present it. :)
     
  6. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I can't remember reading or seeing anything with children dying, but I think my response would be "Ooh! Right in the instincts!" and keep reading.

    Actually, I was watching a vampire show recently, and my hot-button was that someone turned a kid into a vampire to KEEP him from dying. I have this thing against granting non-aging to a pre-pubescent. (And if you do it to a mid-teenager, you deserve to have them keep brushing up against your life.)
     
  7. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    It doesn't cross the line at all, most likely. However, what you do need to be careful of is whether the kid dies just because you want to make the story tragic/depressing/bloody/gory just for the sake of it, rather than actually furthering the plot or character development or something useful.
     
  8. prisonchild
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    prisonchild Member

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    In my opinion, censorship has no place in writing, although I am sure there are people who would find it a little perverse.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree. As sickening and heartless as this post may seem, if it furthers the plot to have the child die, then so be it. Doesn't make you a cruel person.

    I know at least one of my own stories where a child dies. It isn't bloody or anything, but still...
     
  10. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    Wasn't Being Human, was it?

    I wouldn't put a book down because a young child was killed. As long as it was handled effectively, it could really give of the atmosphere of 'No one is safe', but that might not be what your going for.

    If the child was murdered (Intentionaly or not) then it would be good to have the Killer show some regret or somthing.

    And think about your audience aswell.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    children dies in thrillers every day, so I don't think that is a tabu in any way. Terrible, yes, but as someone said, children do die in real life too...
     
  12. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Yeah, it was Being Human, the BBC version. I seem to recall some spoilers that indicate that child vampires have special problems. Then I watched Cirque du Freak, though it seems like maybe they do age.

    Back to topic, killing anyone just for the sake of killing them is probably not good. The victim should be chosen for a purpose.
     
  13. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    If I was reading for myself, I would continue to read a story as such. Except if the child was murdered. Alton Reed has a good point though. You need to think about what audience you are writing this story for. Is it for children's lit, middle school, or YA? In children's lit and middle school, you would want the death to not be so completely jarring. But in YA, it can be more graphic. In YA, material like that isn't censored as much.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Death of any character should serve a purpose in the story. If it serves the purpose, go for it.

    But there is always the chance that a reader will close the book and chuck it in the trash.

    When I first read Pet Semetary, I quite literally threw the book across the room when Gage was killed, and I didn't go back to reading it for months. The scene with the empty sneaker was a little too graphic, and too close to home - I had a young child at the time.
     
  15. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    Oddy enough, I'm fine with Children dying, but not Animals.
     
  16. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    It really depends, some authors write the death of a child and it's truly heart wrenching, and you can see a ripple that effects all the characters close to the child through the rest of the story. It can be an amazing tragic experience if done properly.

    But most of the time I see authors just exploiting the concept desperately trying to get an emotional response from the reader. They'll dedicate an entire page to describing the bad guy murdering 'Random Nameless Child #462' in gruesome detail, then two paragraphs later the dead kid is just straight up forgotten about.

    So handle it well, use it to make an impact. You say it's a gruesome death, but sometimes, it's more gruesome to not show the details! A very good example of this is from Fight Club.

    There is a scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton's Jack character is punching the pretty boys face into pulp. The camera doesn't show the pretty boys face (much) during the scene, instead it's showing Jack's raging face, the crowd around him looking in horror at what was happening, some of them looking away. It's a powerful scene, not because it's showing the brutality, it's showing the reaction to it; These tough men can't stand to see what is happening, Jack has this animal rage and he's completely destroying this person who doesn't deserve it, just because he wants to destroy something beautiful. And the entire time you are hearing Jacks thoughts. "I wanted to put a bullet in the head of every panda that wouldn't f*** to save its species."

    So in your death scene, maybe think about changing the focus from the death itself to the reaction of the characters witnessing the death if possible.
     
  17. Velox
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    Velox Senior Member

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    Agreed. If it fits with the story and has a purpose, then I personally would not put the book down. I enjoy books that cause emotions to flair up -- sorrow being one of them -- and the death of a child, if done well, will definitely spark some sort of reaction. Basically, books that "make you laugh and cry" are good books.

    ~ Velox
     
  18. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm really touchy about this. I understand why not to do it and sometimes hate it when it's done but at the same time, why should a child's death by so taboo? Life is life, IMO. So I tend to go for it all the time and whack a child character. Better to have a good child character die memorably than a cliche and whiny brat survive again and again.

    I mean, if people don't mind my adult characters gruesomely meeting their end, then something is wrong. When I kill a character, I WANT an emotional reaction. I assume the reader does too, hence why they'd read a book. We want to FEEL something, but yet we seem so afraid to feel in certain situations. The reader can ALWAYS find an excuse to chuck your book across the room. If you walk around on eggshells to the point that there's no chance that they'll chuck it across the room, it's probably because you made the book so darn dull that they never picked it up in the first place.
     
  19. clockwise
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    clockwise Member

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    Like people have been saying, if it's necessary that a kid gets killed, then that's what you've got to go with - and I especially agree with what Show says, that if any character regardless of age dies and it's supposed to leave an emotional reaction and doesn't, you've got a problem on your hands. I think sometimes readers would like to believe that fiction is supposed to show the world as they'd like it to be, or even as the author would want it to be... and while that might have its place, fiction is also supposed to show life as it is.
     
  20. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    I'd keep reading.

    Children die in real life as well.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    But The Shack was a major success amongst some of the most conservative readership in the English-speaking world, and that hinges on the murder of an infant.

    Absolutely anything can turn somebody off, so there's no point worrying about it. Just write what the story demands.
     
  22. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    The fact of the child's death probably wouldn't turn anyone away from the book, but if the scene is written for a "shock factor" -- just to get a gut response -- then you risk turning off many people. Children die in many novels, and, when it is done well, it is typically done with sensitivity. Often a child's death takes place 'off screen', or is not described in detail.

    A gruesome death does not need to be described in gruesome detail to be effective.
     
  23. barnz
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    barnz Member

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    It all depends on your audience. If you're writing a pop-up book, well, maybe you should think really hard if you want to include the death of a child.

    But if you're aiming at more mature audiences, say in the horror genre, that shock can produce precisely that visceral response you wanted.

    Just write what comes to you, and worry about that later in post.
     
  24. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It's not a rule that you can't have a child character die. Heck even children's books have child characters die ("Bridge to Terabithia," "Harry Potter [ok they are teens but still]", plus "Old Yeller" had the dog die).
     
  25. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I don't think there's a problem with it as long as it's necessary to your plot.

    I do not like serious violence in books or on TV, regardless of whether it's against adults or children, if it's just there for shock value (plus, in my opinion, this can be used to cover for lack of plot and bad writing). It sounds like the death is necessary to your story and you're attempting to handle it with sensitivity, so I don't see anything wrong there.
     

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