1. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    On the subject of taboo...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Echoesian, Jan 12, 2014.

    Several years ago, a friend of mine was searching for an agent to represent a novel she'd written. It was about the abduction of a young boy by man involved with a child pornography ring, and her rejection letters from several agents said that the subject matter was too taboo. Her response letters basically said that readers didn't want to be faced with such uncomfortable situations, especially involving children, and some subjects were "not allowed" in fiction.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    The novel which I'm currently writing has a number of difficult subjects. It deals with child abuse, incest, and mental illness. I am a bit worried that it will be "too much," but it's not far-fetched by any means. This is something that exists in our world, and I'm trying to be brave and "just write." I think that despite the taboo material, it's a story with good elements as well, and shows the wide range of what humanity has to offer.

    ...I mean, American Psycho got published, right? (I'm nowhere even close to that kind of taboo!)
    ;)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Some publishers (or their representatives) won't touch novels with certain content. Also, anything that could be classified as child pornography could get the publisher into legal trouble.

    Also, rejection letters are not always completely honest abut the reason for rejection. The real reason is usually that the writing just isn't good enough.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while all cog said is true enough, as you noted, even 'American Pyscho' became a bestseller, as have other novels dealing with the less appealing aspects of human behavior... just consider how long ago 'lord of the flies' came out and became both a bestseller and a standard assigned read for high school lit classes, even though those were much more morally restrictive times...

    so go ahead and write the book you have in you... if it's well written, it will have a chance to interest some agent and publisher, no matter how 'taboo' the subject matter may be to others...
     
  4. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some publishers will touch it, others won't. There's certainly a market for the darker, morose side of human nature, but it's the risk factor: publishing that sort of material might damage reputations, cause unwanted controversy, or even lead to legal payouts. Child porn is definitely well into the 'erm, we'd best not, Chuck' side of things. In fact it's probably the 'child' element holding your friend back. Plain-old snuff porn or even extreme BDSM would be far more palatable.

    As for your novel, as long as it's handled responsibility then that should be okay (i.e. no child abuse for shock value). A lot of publishers might think it too risky, especially the big ones, but others would consider it a non-issue. Some might even specialise in works with a similar theme. There's room out there for almost everything, and your book's fairly tame compared to your friend's up there.
     
  5. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    Thank you for your replies. I appreciate your feedback.

    In this novel I'm not trying to be shocking for the sake of it. (As I imagined when reading AP.) It's sort of the opposite... I know I have some taboo topics and unlikeable characters, so I'm trying to handle them tactfully. But I also want to be sure that I don't shy away from important details, because these are important for understanding the characters, too. It's sort of a balancing act and I guess I'll draw my own line in the sand and hope for the best :)
     

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