There's an incredible irony about my writing. In my normal life, I am a lover of categories. I can spend hours upon hours literally doing nothing but fine-tuning the genre classification of songs in my iTunes library. I rarely enjoy casseroles, because of their unholy mixture of ingredients best enjoyed on their own. I prefer art that is hyper-realistic or utterly abstract. The fuzzy boundaries walked by impressionists leave me sea-sick. My own writing, however, exists between lines that are blurry, at best.
I'm wrestling with one of those blurry lines right now.
The sociopath story I referenced in yesterday's post... Last night I began writing it out. So far so good, about 1K words in. I love the opening hook. But the opening hook is also pretty graphic and disturbing, describing a couple of horrific acts of violence.
In my mind, there's a pretty clear line between slasher-horror and other fiction. There's also a pretty clear line between salacious darkness and vivid evil that serves an important literary purpose. In this case, the violence needs to be total, because the main character needs to totally destroy the other person. That's part of the Hegelian mechanism I'm playing out. But I keep wondering if I have crossed the line, if I have taken something that could be implied and made it gratuitously graphic.
Likewise, I recently completed a couple of existentialish short stories. In one, a character appears to find his special purpose in meting out justice to criminals who would otherwise go unpunished. To frame a critical contrast needed for the story, each act is described with a gruesome act of violence met by a beatific praise from heaven. In the other story, a character revels in death in order to feel alive. Because it is, again, a story of shocking contrasts, the descriptions of his encounters with death are at turns pretty graphic.
I keep telling myself that I wrote the stories that way for literary purposes. That they are important to the story. But I also think I might be blurring that line, and taking the intense subject matter as an excuse to make the violence or gore entertaining in its own right -- which is definitely not what I'm after.
(p.s. See what I mean about scaring myself?)