Thursday, 10 June 2010

To Shock Or Not To Shock

We write for ourselves. First and foremost.

If you started to write for someone else, I'd worry, as you should.

We write to please ourselves, because, and it's true, you can't please everyone.

Bottom line; you try to write the kind of stories that YOU want to read, that you have been looking for, that make you go 'Finally, that's what I want to hear, or read, or whatever...'

When I write, a multitude of people cycle through my head.

My publisher, my friends, my wife, my mother and father. Recently I've realised that although an idea may spring fully formed from MY head, I may end up the last person I consult when I write.

Let me explain.

I get a good idea, on some nights, a GREAT idea.

Now this idea may flourish all by itself or it may need a little gestating. Some stories write themselves, others you have to drag kicking and screaming to the page.

So I start with a great idea, but no less than four paragraphs in, I hit a crossroads. I can go dark, down the safe road I know I am capable of travelling alone. I can flip side and go comedy, a turn post no one saw coming and may be all the more sweet for it. I can go romantic and anxiously try to avoid the pot holes that romantic vampire literature has to side step these dangerous days. I can go 'David Lynch' and twist it into something that has so many levels it would make a lesser readers' head spin.

And on and on and on.....

And I am only four paragraphs in!

So am I writing for me, or my potential audience?

Sometimes, most often, I tend to throw caution to the wind and say fuck it, it was my idea, I'll dance with the devil by the pale moonlight (thank you Jack Nicholson; copyright Batman 1989)

But recently I do question who will be reading this piece? Will I alienate my readers by going too far? And most importantly, will I alienate my readers by not going far enough?

I want to write dark stuff, I always have, but, as I have learned from films like Hostel, which concepts have scared me beyond the realms of my own imagination (not the film itself, that sucks), you CAN go too far.

When I drink and write, I always want to go further. It takes my sober mind to advise caution; is this RIGHT for the story?

I ask myself this question right now as I pen the seventh story in what will become part of a collection of twelve stories that will eventually become my follow up to my debut 'Swan Song' and it's a big question.

Am I going too far?

Or am I not going far enough?

To Shock Or Not To Shock?

It's a tricky one...


  1. Jevron, my friend. It's good to hear from you. I say pour us another drink and write the story that wants to be written. I think you're right; writing for someone else is not what we should do. Where does the story want to go? I sometimes wonder whether the story already exists on another plain, and I am somehow simply channeling it and writing it down for this world. What? Yeah, I know. It sounds as if I have poured myself too many drinks already! What I mean by that is this: I'm as surprised as the reader where the story is going. When it becomes stale or contrived, then it means that I have somehow lost my way and need to go back to where it was last good, and then try and figure out where the correct path is to continue.
    Good luck finding yours.

  2. Thanks James, doesn't it sound corny but it's real. How many times have you felt a story run away from you?

    I submitted a script to the Royal Court Theatre in London when I was twenty years old, a real character piece.

    I spent months on the dialogue between the boy and girl, so that they would seem real, connected, alive, and what did I get back? I got a letter from the head of development at the Royal Court saying I had talent but that I should let my characters 'loosen up.'

    Loosen up? I was confused, hadn't I done that for months before I sent it off? Bah! I still don't know what he wanted, and maybe I STILL don't know. I was told however that my heart is too cinematic and I took that as a compliment.

  3. I say just write what you love. If you try to write what you think other people want to read it will only end up being stilted. Stay true to yourself. And as Juliette Lewis says; 'if everybody likes you then you are doing something wrong!'

  4. I'm reading Michael Jackson's biography (for the fifth time) and he says he always tried to reach the widest audience possible. I'm not sure the 'average' person should dig dark, violent, sexual vampire literature. I do aim to please the 'Lost Boys' fans, with stuff that is dark, engaging, emotional and above all, passionate.

  5. Okay I'm going to put my two pence worth in here. You can't write for everyone. You can't predict what an audience wants and unless you know something I don't dark fiction has a massive audience, maybe not as big as the paranormal romance, but do you really want to write paranormal romance or vampire erotica?

    I'm rereading Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite for the Frightening Fiction Review Blog Hop. If you asked me I would say how could this be popular fiction, but it is. She found her audience and they, like myself, read and love her writing. Sadly Ms Brite has given up on her wonderful talent, but in the pages of her novels darkness lives and characters are born, not in a perfect way, but with warts and all.

    Write what you love, take your novels to whatever level you want and if you have something to say, I know you do, then others will see it, read it and be transported to your world. I'm against trying to box writers in looking for what might be commercial.

    That's my opinion, I was dazzled by your first novel and when I read Swan Song I knew your particular style and vision had something to say. Every writer should look for their own voice and not try to second guess what will be popular.

  6. Jevron, my friend! I was just given an award, and I'd very much like to now give it to you. I know that you would rather have a beer, but everytime I tried to send it to you, I just made a mess on the carpet beneath my computer! When you get a chance, please cruise on over to my blog and pick up your new hardware.

  7. Thank you AGAIN for the very kind words Gwen. They will inspire me, as always, to rock your very world!

    Lol! What's all this about my mate James? An award you say? Hmmm. And it can't be a beer? Very well, lead on....