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Sex and Violence – not for cowards

This weekend the Decatur Book Festival is in town and some real interesting people are in the line-up.  Every year I read about the festival, but this year I’m going to get off my duff and go.  On Friday, they have a writer’s conference at Agnes Scott College and  I’ve decided to attend the seminar, “How to Write about Sex and Violence without seeming like a Virgin Pacifist.”  I must say that in writing my first book, those two issues did give me pause.  With the sex scenes, I kept thinking what happens when people I know read this.  What will they think?  Will they change their opinion of me? Will they think I am saying something about myself? What would my mother say?  Silly, yes.  But I’m sure many writers wonder what their family and friends will think about certain things they write.  It doesn’t help that when I tell people about my book, many ask, “so what character or you?”

Writing the violence scenes were not much better.  In my day job as a defense attorney, I have read many police reports describing horrific events and looked at too many photos of of abused or dead victims.   I have developed a thick skin and can handle my cases with enough detachment to do what I need to do.  But some how in fiction, it still bothers me.  I remember recently reading Triptych by Karin Slaughter (a terrific book), and actually skipping over a few paragraphs depicting a woman being attacked.  Needless to say my own book is pretty PG.

Walter Mosley wrote a great little book called This Year You Write Your Novel.  I highly recommend it for anyone writing their first book, or their second for that matter.  In it, he has a section on the importance of writing without restraint.  He makes the point that it is necessary for writers to overcome the bonds that keep them from exploring the dark side of their characters.  I get it.  We don’t live in a nice, neat or kind world and to create a interesting fictional one, these things need to be explored.  So hopefully, this writer at the festival will have the scissors to help me cut  my restraints.  Check back next week to find out if I’m still a Virgin Pacifist.


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