Before I started writing I’d always thought this was a pretty straight forward concept. If you’re a writer then you right for a certain genre and that was it, but once I started writing I realized this was much more complex then I’d ever imagined. Hell, I wasn’t even aware of all of the subcomponents of Sci-Fi and Fantasy until I had to self-publish my first book, but then I’ve never been much for titles and names of things unless it truly was needed for the function. Maybe that’s my Geek/IT mentality, but either way I learned there was more to this then I’d ever thought.
Some good examples of this are The Dark Elf Series, The Dresden Series, The Demon Accord Series, Natural Consequence Series or The Foul Mouth Series (definitely worth checking out by the way, don’t let the bad cover artwork throw you off). These series either fall into the realm of Fantasy, Urban Fantasy or Epic Fantasy for most readers, but you will still hear some readers complain that these stories are more Dark Fantasy or Erotic Fantasy (depending upon which series above we are talking about). What I especially love about these series is that there is a certain grittiness and realism to them. There are bad things that happen, there are difficult sexual situations/relationships and a certain worldliness to the stories themselves. These stories aren’t the Twilight Series books (Doesn’t mean I don’t like the Twilight Series because I do) or Teen/Young-Adult stories that keep away from some of the darker evils. It’s like Never Ending Story compared to Ironman the movie. Hmm I’m still trying to think if I can use that simile or not. Anyway if you’ve read any of the above I imagine you understand what I’m trying to say.
When I wrote Flight I wanted readers to really hate the Tuonellians. I wanted you to wish for the evil Clerics of Loviatar to be killed. But to get readers to this point where they think a person is so evil that they need to die can be difficult. I’ve seen movies where the bad guy really wasn’t bad. I could have cared less if he died or not. Even possibly I could have wished he defeated the good guy in the film. I didn’t want that to be in question in my own story, so when I wrote about the Tuonellian atrocities they had to really be evil. Like the worst German SS troops fornicating with demons while trying to take over the world, while at the same time not having a slasher or horror story. I wanted readers to feel the Werewolves’ pain and anguish as the Horned Demons tore apart the young. I wanted readers to see Startüm defeat these terrible creatures because it was ridding the world of evil incarnated.
This turned out to be easy and not so easy of a task.
It’s hard to write about dark subject and not dip into horror. I think the distinction comes down to the level of detail and inner dialog you include in the story. It’s like a sex scene and fading to black instead of going through with the whole sexual intercourse. One is Adult Fantasy and one is Erotica, although I will say that Natural Consequence Series does this unbelievably.
After getting some feedback on Flight and the story line from some people who find the evil parts difficult to read, there was a part of me that wondered if I shouldn’t have left some of the detail to the story out. It was something I discussed with friends who are avid readers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy to get their opinions and a diverse group. At the end of it all I felt like I needed to have that in the story. It is the basis for the hate of the Tuonellians, even though I pay for it sometimes in negative reviews from people who find some of the scenes too sad to read. At the same time, I will probably not dip down that low into the evil again throughout the rest of the series. It will always be there with the Tuonellians and I will refer to atrocities that drive the heroes in their fight. I’m sure there will be more horrors that I’ll have to put into the stories, but I’ll be more careful to the extent of how much detail I give it. Even then I’m sure I’ll push away some readers, but in my current universe and how I tell a story and look at a scene, this detail is important to me.
It’s just something that I thought warranted a conversation on and something each of us authors must think hard upon when we are putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys).
Some writers would like to say that they only write for themselves and this is there artistic expression, all of which is well and good. For most of us indie writers, we want to get our books out and share our story and ideas with our readers and build a following. For those of us who look at writing in this way, I believe it is important to keep in mind your audience. Whenever you explore those questionable story lines, whether it's evil, sex or violence then you will get be opening yourself up to criticism. Criticism is not bad, it can actually be very helpful depending on what it is, but no matter what I would say it's important to be in touch with your intended audience and that no matter what, this awareness "will" and to a point "should" affect your writing style.