What to Read and Write

I read once where someone stated they would not read anything where a child was harmed or killed. I can't remember if they were referencing news stories or fiction. 

Because of my school job, I'm made aware of child abuse and neglect cases almost daily. Understandably, I'm on a short fuse about child abuse and neglect. In real life, evil people harm children, use dogs to fight each other and hurt the elderly. These issues push me beyond the edge of ugliness, but that is another vigilante kind of story, for another day.
When done properly, using bad situations in fiction can give a voice to certain issues and could be beneficial to society.
Off the top of my head, a couple of books that include a child murder (and or abuse) are:
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Where are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark
A few stories (of mine) that deal with sensitive content and vulnerable populations are cover:
  • A dog who dies,
  • A serial killer of teenagers (sci fi),
  • A child who decides to disobey parent rules and is abducted, and
  • A child who kills another accidently, but grows up to (possibly) kill again.
There are plenty of tense or sad moments in those stories, but nothing graphic or torturous against these populations.
What do you think? Have you read The Lovely Bones or Where are the Children and what do you think about the content? If you are a writer, what are your limits on dealing with sensitive subjects?
If you need more reading, don't forget about The Ruralhood where there are new stories posted every 150 years or so.  😎 I promise.


  1. It depends on how the death/harm is treated. Harm for entertainment? The book would get thrown away, or the movie turned off.
    However hiding from ugliness doesn't make it go away. I believe that things hidden in the dark fester and grow.
    I have read The Lovely Bones. And other books which explore child abuse. Heart breaking and sometimes a powerful lesson.

  2. I've read both of those books and thought the subject was handled really, really well. I usually have a really tough time reading books where small children (not so much teens) are harmed (had to stop reading Stephen King after having kids...he's always doing something scary to kids, ha). In my genre, I can't tread into those waters as a writer.

    But I do think that books have the ability to heal, too, and that tough subject matter, well-written, can help others feel they're not alone.

  3. I can understand someone wanting to avoid those topics, but sadly they are a part of real life.

  4. Hi Teresa ... I haven't read either of those books ... and it's not one of my chosen reading topics - yet as Alex says it is part of life - and there's way too much of it now. I'm sure you see more than you need to - in this day and age ... we really should have got over hurting people. Take care - Hilary

  5. I've read both of those books and others that are similar. They disturb and shake up the mind, but there's nothing as dangerous as a mind left to slumber in perceived safety. There's a world out there filled with these non-fictional stories, and we should know about them or we'll never be able to take informed action. I'm glad you posted this today.

  6. I definitely think it's important for these topics to be covered because they are a part of life, sadly - and like Elizabeth says, it might help someone. But it's all about getting the right tone. It should never be glorified or sensationalised.

  7. Thought-provoking post, Teresa. I was an elementary teacher for twenty-five years, and the abuse of children is at the top of a list of things that make me crazy. I've read a number of books about these subjects, and I think that they should be covered because it's part of life. Some of the memorable books I've read are: "Room" by Emma Donoghue, "Sophie's Choice" by William Styron, "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult, and the "Hunger Games" series by Suzanne Collins. Oh, and "Song of Kali" by American writer Dan Simmons. I don't know if all of these would be considered about children's murder or abuse, but it was the predicaments of the children that made them unforgettable. I have read "The Lovely Bones." Unforgettable and powerful. Literature has the power to move and motivate people in a way few things do.


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