Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Ellen Hart writes:

I remember the first time I was asked this questions: Does it bother you that you're writing about murder as entertainment? It was at a Barnes & Noble and I choked. I'm sure I eventually said something coherent, but I remember going home with the thought that this was something I needed to consider. In fact, this question ultimately helped me form my philosophy about what I do as a writer.

So this time, the question is for you:

Does it bother you that you're writing about murder as entertainment?

14 comments:

Ann Godridge said...

It does bother me sometimes, especially at my writers group when the others sometimes look at me strangely...

I feel more uncomfortable reading true crime, actually...and then when I look at my research files I sometimes think how much it resembles an obsessive stalker's wall...

But fiction is to me a way of understanding the world and other people and how they tick, and crime fiction is part of that. It's also naturally an exploration of moral values too, and reflects issues going on all the time, all around us.

It is entertaining - but at its best it also makes us think and feel.

Terri P said...

I think we NEED it. A jungian way to calm that dark shadow we all have in a calm and positive way.

Sandra Parshall said...

I do think about this, and I try not to write about murder in a sensational, unfeeling way. There are plenty of crime novels that throw in tons of gore and include minutely detailed descriptions of torture (usually the victims are beautiful young women)that are clearly meant to "entertain" by appealing to the readers' basest instincts. I can't see myself ever going in that direction. But a murder investigation gives me a chance to examine the lives of the victim and the people close to him or her.

I don't want to write about middle-age angst or young people trying to find themselves. I want to write about people in times of crisis, and a murder is a crisis that tests everyone involved.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I'm not writing about murder as entertainment. I'm writing about people and what scsres them. I'm writing about what matters. I'm writing about how ordinary people can face extraordinary challenges--and triumph!

P.A.Brown said...

Like Sandra I don't like the stuff that seems to delight in the gore. But I think crime novels can serve more than one purpose, they can give a sense of order in a chaotic, dangerous universe and they can examine injustices and bring up issues that are ignored in other venues.

I can't imagine how dull fiction would be if it had to be violence free and devoid of the darker side of humanity.

Esri Rose said...

Absolutely. I'm only two books into this genre, and so far I've only killed off the very old and the very unpleasant. Part of the reason for that is that I'm writing comedic mysteries. I suppose those are even more tasteless, from an objective standpoint.

I want to write comedies and character studies, but those don't come with handy genre labels, so I stick a murder in to make it sell and also give it some narrative pull. It's kind of cheating, isn't it?

Steve Liskow said...

I'm still a part-time substitute teacher. I see writing murder mysteries as therapy.

Seriously, what is in the news today? Murder, crime, corruption. It's the way the world--unfortunately--seems to operate. History is full of assassinations and tragic deaths. Writing about it helps to put it all into a logical perspective so people can begin to deal with it.

Rosemary Harris said...

I think I'd have a harder time of it if I wrote very dark, serial killer books, or young innocent women being stalked and mutilated books. I have a hard time reading those books (although they can be very well done and compelling reads)and I can't imagine writing one. Because I write what I've started to call suburban noir I deal with greed, lust and revenge and the things that put people over the edge to get what they want.
There's a memorable line in the movie "Witness" where the grandfather asks the little Amish boy what he would do with a handgun and the boy says, "I would only kill the bad people." I suppose my answer is as ingenuous as that but, hey that's my answer.

susie kline said...

Great question! My first draft of a novel sits mocking me from the shelf. Part of my problem with "finishing" it is that there's so much murder! I'm worried what people will think of me when they read it!

Sheila Lowe said...

It doesn't bother me because of the context: I write about ordinary people getting caught up in circumstances. But I do have a problem with some humorous mysteries that I read about, as murder is never funny.

Melissa Fiskateer #2396 said...

In the past, my fictional murders have always been "revenge" crimes, giving someone their comeuppance. it doesn't bother me at all. In fact, there's a sense of self-satisfaction to writing this type of murder.

Now, I'm working on a "cozy" murder. No blood, no gore. Again, it doesn't bother me.

What does bother me is reading about the fictional murder of a child. Nothing is more heinous, more disturbing, more emotional than the killing of a child. And yet, in some books, it's exactly the kind of detail that drives me to hate the killer and root for for the hero.

Reading, writing or interviewing families about real life deaths (ie: murder, accident, suicide, illness) bothers me a great deal, especially when it's a child.

TH Meeks said...

Excellent question. I posted a link to your post on my Just Write Blog (http://tiny.cc/6M2AX); my writing group has many murder mystery writers. I'm more of a creative non-fiction writer, and some of the non-fiction I've written deals with murders, real ones. I don't feel bad writing about it. The lives and circumstances surrounding a murder often contain several thought-provoking stories.

Chaz said...

Reading and writing murder mysteries is our chance to exercise the justice muscle. A muscle that, alas, gets scant workout in real life. Crime fiction lets us feel real time satisfaction that true, albeit fictional, crimes are well solved.

P.A.Brown said...

No, it doesn't bother me. I think fiction about crime gives some order to an unorderly and violent world. In my world of fiction justice will prevail.

Should I feel bad about providing a from of entertainment people want? I don't know about other readers of this kind of fiction, but I need it.