Pushing The Bloodsoaked Envelope

August 3, 2011

Articles, Arts & Literature

by Richard Jay Parker

Do you try to shock yourself? It was a question I was asked recently and I’m sure they were referring to my writing and not my private life.

It’s true that there are some very mild-mannered authors out there who create the most outrageous material. When you read their twisted and creatively violent stories it’s sometime a surprise to find how (outwardly) normal they are. Is the only way to produce such material to challenge the limits of what they find acceptable?

I enjoy sex and violence in books but it has to be in context. When there’s no plot or human intrigue it can sometimes feel like flicking through a catalogue.

I was pretty restrained in my debut because the focus of the story was about loss. The activities of the serial killer had to remain in the shadows for reasons obvious to anyone who has read it. If a story calls for more explicit content I think you should be soliciting a reaction other than titillation or horror for the sake of it. I have no qualms about material that gets a visceral reaction from a reader but it has to be triggered by the story.

Nobody’s right about this. I know some readers who are appalled by certain thrillers but will quite happily wade into the cannibalism of Thomas Harris without batting an eyelid.

Knowing when to hold back and when to let the reader have it are skills the best authors have mastered (and I’m still working on) but if you look at reader reviews of every thriller classic you’ll see they’ve never got it right for everyone.

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One Comment on “Pushing The Bloodsoaked Envelope”

  1. Kate Monroe Says:

    A good point – I think that sometimes, the most difficult thing to do when writing is to show restraint, but as you say, it can be absolutely crucial.


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