Like many of you, I have some stories that are deeply emotional that deal with traumatic experiences. They aren't gory per se, but they are disturbing stories.
For instance, one of my earliest shorts is called Digging. I have never tried to publish this story because I believe it is too visceral, too primal. But when I let people read it the response is consistent -- the story resonates. It disturbs. It has the intended effect, which is to show an ugly underbelly, the snake's belly, the scaly underside beneath the coiled head and body.
Specifically, Digging deals with incest. Oddly enough, that's a story so common among writers that publishers specifically say: No incest, no rape stories.
I say: Why not?
They answer: Too visceral. Too disturbing. Readers want fiction, not reality.
And yet and yet the Digging story got two responses that I remember in particular.
One was from an English teacher and she said this:
Your unapologetic brutality was disturbing.
The other was from an Army Ranger, one of those special force types who is the real shit. He's a Captain now, and he's a cutout Tom Clancy character a lot like Chavez. If you know who Chavez is, then you know what I mean, and you know I mean this guy is no bullshit. When he bought his house, for instance, he made sure he had a clear path of egress to gun down anyone who invaded his stairwell, even aligned the rooms such that he wouldn't be shooting into his daughter's bedroom.
I camp with him once a year or so and he brings a full trauma kit and a well-beaten rucksack and somehow he still convinces me to carry his fucking water for him so he has room for his camp chair.
Yeah, that guy. He read an entire batch of short stories and commented on one story only, one word, and it was Digging and it was this word:
So I ask you my fellow writers and knuckers specifically, is it too visceral to write what is real, what is savage, what is the basest in our skulls just above the spine. Doesn't the blood flow up through the neck and through the primal parts first, before it branches out to the thinking gray-matter that really doesn't matter at all?
I ask this because my current piece, the Marty piece, the one I alluded to here -- Dead Characters -- is primal. It is unapologetic.
It is real. It is savage.
It is visceral. It involves a mightily abusive and dysfunctional family unit. It involves rape and murder and personal treason.
Is that too much? Am I crossing lines here?
What do you consider too much? I don't mean ~gore~, I mean primal emotions. I don't appreciate gratuitous gore and won't write it. I mean primal and savage acts that leave a taste -- literally -- in the back of your throat when you read them.