What Are Your Writing Boundaries?

Someone mentioned in a writer’s chat not long ago that a writer should stretch themselves beyond what they are comfortable with. Write things they don’t like and make them feel uneasy. I thought about that for a while. It might expand someone’s horizon and open their eyes to something they love even more than what they are currently writing.

I just don’t think that would work for me.

I’m one of those people who have to have to be careful what I read and what I watch because it comes back to haunt me. Even worse than the fictional accounts of horror are the true stories of what people do to each other.

When writing Far Rider, I ran across a disturbing account of Elizabeth Bathory. She was a countess of uncommon cruelty. Her father was as cruel, so perhaps growing up around this instilled her lust for sadism. He once had a man’s hat nailed to his head because he didn’t remove it in the count’s presence. Boiling children alive as punishment for their parents not paying taxes on time was a favorite sport. The list goes on, but you get the point.

Elizabeth was as bad, if not worse. She believed virgin’s blood rejuvenated her skin. To her own account, she murdered over 600 young women. It wasn’t until she started torturing and murdering young noble women that the King was forced to investigate this powerful family. She was convicted and imprisoned until her death. Some of her accomplices were executed.

Far Rider is based to an extent on real cultures and people even though it is epic fantasy. I researched the Sarmatian culture quite extensively as well as Celtic lore and culture. Both cultures had women warriors, so the M’Eirn people with their women warriors is not so far from what might have been.

I have two antagonists. One is a baroness loosely based on Countess Bathory and the other is a demon who was once human. Of the two, she is the far more sadistic. He kills without a thought, but he doesn’t do it for pleasure, it’s just something he needs to do for one reason or another.

Long ago, while researching something or another, I stumbled across a site that linked to sales of porn films. Apparently three black men (I’m not being racist, that’s who they were and very proud of their seduction of white teenaged girls) spent their time roaming the country looking for girls they might be able to lure into their motel room. They, of course, did everything they could think of and took great pride in their creativity. A blurb about one film available starred a homeless girl they found. They had her picture on the site. She was a very pretty little blonde girl with a frightened look on her face. The blurb went something to the effect: “She said she was hungry and would do anything for some food. She didn’t expect what we had to feed her. See what all she does before we throw her out of the room naked.”

That’s been years ago and that image still sticks with me. How can anyone be so cruel? How can anyone just spend their lives cruising for vulnerable girls? How can anyone enjoy watching this? Most important, what happened to the girl? Did she give up and commit suicide? Did anyone ever help her? How was her life ruined by not only what they did, but filming it for all the world to see?

I’m not sure if the filters have gotten better or I am just more cautious about my searches, but I haven’t run across anything like that in a long time. Well, aside from the search for dinosaurs that led to something really bad.

As writers we have tremendous power. We can take people to worlds they would have never imagined. We can make them feel love, fear, horror, happiness, sorrow and all the other human emotions.We can also leave them with scenes they wish they could forget. The imagination is a powerful thing.

I can’t write graphic sex scenes any more than I can graphic torture scenes. I touch on them in Far Rider, but it isn’t enough to give me, or, hopefully, anyone else nightmares. The sex scenes are very few and pretty tame.

I think it all goes back to that worn advice. Write what you want to read.


  1. I’m with you.

    I get “stretching your boundaries,” but I don’t ever want to even read graphic torture, or see movies that feature it. I can’t begin to imagine writing that stuff. Bad karma that would be.

  2. Jenn, thank you. I had to kind of shake my head at that tangent. Why would we want to write about things we hate just to say we’ve done it? I want to write things I’d be proud for people to read.

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