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A Gathering of Strangers Log # 2 - How Far is Too Far?

Too far? Or not too far enough?
Too far? Or not too far enough?

So much for writing blogs more often... still, two in three months is better than what I had going before. Besides, I spent most of that time writing my story, which is far more important.

I have finished the rough draft for A Gathering of Strangers, and completed the initial self-edits. Today I submitted the manuscript to my copy editor, which is exciting because it means I've finished two months quicker than last year, and for a longer book, too! (208,000 vs 150,000 words)

I credit the faster writing to a new strategy: Keeping track of my word counts each day. At 12 AM each morning, I recorded my total words for that day in an excel spreadsheet, then tweeted the results for the day. While I don't think that many people ended up caring, it was a good way to keep myself honest. It made me feel guilty to get at least a thousand words in a day, and as a result, there were very few days where I wrote less than that. I will continue with this strategy for future stories; it makes me write faster, and I didn't notice any dip in quality. To be blunt, it made me less lazy!

Upon sending the manuscript in for editing, though, a strange thought dawned on me: Had I gone too far at some points in the story? Were some scenes too disturbing? Too violent? Those who've read Gold Fever would probably laugh at such an assertion, and these books are Dark Fantasy, after all.

Much like Seven Seals, A Gathering of Strangers doesn't immediately show its horror elements. It might be best described as a layer cake: One layer is unquestionably rooted in traditional or Epic Fantasy, while the other depicts Horror or Thriller elements. The first half of this story is filled with much of the former. The protagonists slowly come together to form their group, while the antagonists gather their small army and make a plan to infiltrate the sewers below, where their goal lies.

There's a lot of comedy aspects and a "feeling out" process in act one. Act two is where battles and then feelings of paranoia start to set in. Act three is filled with horror aspects. After all, there are many monsters in the Dark Savior Series, and some of them are human. ;)

One scene in particular, I feel may have gone too far. I won't spoil it, but it did make me think twice. The violence of the series is definitely "Rated R", but everything else, including language and sexual depictions would be PG-13 at most. However, this scene probably takes the violence level beyond Rated R, if that's even possible. Some have taken to calling overly violent depictions as "gore porn" or "torture porn" (Do yourself a favor and never google those terms); basically when authors have explicit violence for its own sake and get too far into the gritty and gross details.

I have decided to keep the scene in, as it has important plot ramifications, especially at the end. Would it be possible to skip over the scene and then mention "______ happened." in so many words? Yes, but I truly believe that the ending to A Gathering of Strangers would lose much of its impact without the, frankly, disgusting details of the scene in question beforehand. That ending has to feel earned.

Maybe I'm overreacting. There are some nasty scenes in Gold Fever too, and I got little in the way of complaints about it. Just mentions in reviews that it could get violent. Perhaps I'm overestimating how gruesome these scenes are in comparison to other depictions in Dark Fantasy? It will be interesting to see how my editor feels about the whole thing. To be clear, she's strictly copy editing, but does like to make comments here and there about flow of the story, what's confusing etc.

I have many things that need to be done before book release, but with any luck it should be out on the market within the next month or two. I'll update with a new post around that time, I think. I've got unrelated topics to discuss as well, so maybe you'll be hearing from me sooner than that. :D

- Jim

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