What are the Taboo subjects in fiction?


I have found that my mom and I have very different ideas on what’s considered too dark for a book. When going over my writing she became upset that the main characters dad is a bad person who completely betrays the family, something I thought nothing of, but obviously offended her. I can only imagine what she will think when she reads the rest of the book! What I’m curious about is this; what is taboo enough to make the potential audience avoid the book? I have looked over the internet and many people have suggested that rape, abortion, and homosexuals should be banned from young adult books, but is it? No. I have read books with one of each, and some with all three and never been bothered by reading it. It seems to be how tastefully it’s written that counts. There are few subjects that I would completely avoid, and that’s only because I know it would be passing along the wrong message to potentially impressionable teens. If you write about murder do I think a teen is going to go out and kill somebody? No, but if you write in depth about the joys of getting high do I think they will think it’s fun to try? Definitely. Is there anything you wouldn’t cover in depth? Anything you wouldn’t cover at all?


About Everyrosehasathorn

So I have finished my first book, Every Rose Has a Thorn, which is available on amazon for free if you have an amazon prime membership, or 2.99 otherwise. This is a book about Emily Rose who is drawn into a battle between angels that want to not only destroy the world and human race, but for some reason want her on their side when they do it! She must learn that doing what is right isn't always easy, especially when you fall in love with a very dangerous angel! View all posts by Everyrosehasathorn

34 responses to “What are the Taboo subjects in fiction?

  • treewithroots

    .You write, “It seems to be how tastefully it’s written that counts.”
    I agree. I’m dealing with the taboo subject of child soldiers in my fourth book. I want to let my young readers know about this horrible situation without freaking them out so much they’ll stop reading. I’m treading very carefully.

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      OOh that sounds fascinating! I loved historical fiction when I was younger and reading about people that were similar to me and yet so different. Has anyone ever told you not to write about it? My mom always tells me to make everything comical if it deals with any serious subject ( I love comody), but sometimes comedy takes away from the tension in a bad way instead of a good way.

  • Johnny Ojanpera

    I had a great childhood, but like most, it had some dark parts. I don’t write ya, but there were some topics about family that I scratched. It wasn’t so much inappropriate, it was more of an issue of thinking of all the people who know us that made these topics wrong. I think of them as trade secrets that I can draw from instead of writing them out, even though some of it would make for great drama.

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      Oh my goodness, I so know what you mean. I have the habit of unintentionally putting in details of my life and not even realizing it because its subconscious. I will go back through it and realize it was drawing on my feelings of this or that event, that I hadn’t even really been thinking about when writing. I don’t think I would ever put something point blank as right out of my life, I agree with it potentially being awkward with family members, but drawing from it makes such vivid and dramatic scenes because you know EXACTLY what it feels like to be in that situation

      • Johnny Ojanpera

        Yes, they come so naturally for the writer, but can be devastating for others, exponentially. I had to be very careful in my first novel that deals with religion, particularly the antagonist; the leader of a missionary trip. I had pre-readers coming back to me asking if this characternwasbthis guy and so on. It makes me want to only publish to my foreign audience.

      • Everyrosehasathorn

        OOOOh yea religious figures can be very sensitive. They are always the source for rumors anyways. If you want to be able to let loose why don’t you only release it to a foreign audience? If it’s going to people close to you though I could definitely see why you’d have to be super careful!

      • Johnny Ojanpera

        Well, the second draft is finished, and this leader is the antagonist -unmistakably. To balance his pompous nature, I gave him some redeeming qualities through situations that he was comfortable with and made others feel safe. I felt better anyway. He is truly an ass that was very easy to develop. 😉

      • Everyrosehasathorn

        Lol well at least he was good inspiration!

  • robakers

    I am not afraid to cover anything, but unacceptable is something that is boring and uninspired.

  • stanfordnl

    In my opinion, there can be no taboos in writing. Isn’t the point of writing to open the mind and imagination? Yes, we must be mindful of our target reader, but we have to say what is in our heart to say also. We sometimes walk a delicate line there, but to have a taboo? I don’t think so.

  • dantewilde

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, books are neither good nor evil, they are simply well written or they aren’t. I don’t think anything is taboo, a book I once read ‘should be the pick axe that breaks the frozen lake’ in us all. If I may be so forward, I would tread carefully around assuming teenagers are easily impressionable. I’ve noticed that adults on the whole don’t tend to give teens enough credit for being headstrong and intelligent.

    As writers, if we don’t speak up, who will?

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      Well I’m only 21 so I still know quite a few teenagers, and while on the whole they are strong, they are still not compleatly confident in themselves and so they pick stuff up easily. I’m not saying put them in a bubble, but I don’t want to encourage them to be wild hooligans lol.

  • axiomatika

    for me the bar is set much higher than you rmom’s i’d hazard to say

    as long as the book is well–written and has a meaningful message, there isn’t much taboo for me–hell some of the most popular and beloved authors have covered incest, rape, homosexuality, matricide, abortion, patricide, infanticide, etc

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      I agree with it having to be being meaningful. Violence for violence sakes is repulsive. Violence that is a side product of a dynamics characters interactions with the world can create a whole flood of emotions in the readers.

  • kman756

    It’s about two things, really: the person and how the content is portrayed. For example, one of my sister’s favorite movies for a long while was 300, a veritable gorefest, yet she couldn’t watch the bit with the IV in the opening of The Dark Knight Rises. Realistic violence is what bothers her. The action in 300 is very over-the-top and stylized, even cartoonish. You can tell no real people are actually being hurt, it’s all done on a computer. The violence in TDKR on the other hand is much more grounded and believable while still being pretty brutal in parts.

    Personally, there isn’t much I can’t handle, so there isn’t much I’m opposed to writing about. One thing I absolutely can’t do, however, is realistic and sadistic violence against animals. Kind of weird how people being tortured generally doesn’t bother me but do it to a cat, dog, etc, and I can’t handle it

  • sarahremy

    Animals and small children, yeah. But that’s visually. As a reader, I’ve yet to come upon something that bothers me, although there are topics I avoid reading about in fiction (cancer would be one) because I’ve already experienced that ride in real life and don’t need to revisit it. Probably a rape victim, or a victim of torture, would feel much the same way.

  • ohheyitssam

    “Tasteful” is definitely the key word here, though obviously that’s so subjective it’s hard to describe exactly what tasteful handling of dark subject matter looks like. I really think you can write just about anything, as long as you do it well. I mean, Lolita is considered a classic (and is also one of my all time favorite books) even though it deals with probably THE most taboo subject out there. And it’s even from the pedophile’s perspective. So, there you go… write about whatever, just make sure you do it well, haha.

    • rod

      In crime books, people get murdered. If we think about it, that’s not very funny, so it may be a good idea not to describe extreme violence in graphic terms, with every drop of blood recorded.
      It’s even worse when such things are televised and we see extreme violence, sometimes over a protracted period, in graphic detail. I can see no good reason for this.

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      I don’t think I’ve ever read that book! I might just have too in order to see how it’s written, I don’t think I could ever write about such a subject, kudos to the author!

  • Brianna Boes

    I think it depends on the writer’s own beliefs and experiences and audience as to what they believe to be “taboo”. I’m not sure if anything is actually “taboo” in writing; you can find an audience for any genre. But, because of my own beliefs and values, I will never write about some things in detail, although if necessary I may allude to them or attempt to include them in a way that is tasteful and thoughtful and doesn’t cross my own boundaries.

  • annabanana12698

    My mom has the same problem. She read a poem of mine where a character died and got all concerned and started asking if everything was okay. (I really like killing off characters because I am an angry vengeful god MWA HA HA!). She is never reading anything of mine again. Ever.

  • danieltrump

    Maybe it is that deemed to be taboo that we should be writing about, that which is considered to be taboo is only a social construct, by writing about it we can challenge the reasons why it is a taboo. In doing so I hope that we can build a new progressive framework around the former taboo. I immediately look to work by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison etc

  • Malice O'Conner

    Raziel Winters goes over in his book the view of a character in a couple of aspects. Addressing an issue of villainy and villains entirely. Through the story he hopes that people would read along understanding the villain and his motives. Although he doesn’t go over to much of the worst of things there are descriptive points of violence. Through the medium of a character that is faced with the evil of the world and himself. I liked this idea and wonder if it may fall in a Taboo story because it won’t be everyone’s cup o’ tea. Still an interesting concept to think about considering the books I have read and know are out there.

    • Everyrosehasathorn

      Hmmm it seems like it was done well enough that instead of being revolted you were intrigued so while the concept may be taboo, I don’t think the author was breaking any taboo’s by writing it. It sounds like an interesting book, I’ll have to look into it!

  • Kate Rauner

    I read to learn or for for entertainment. There are subjects that don’t interest me enough to spend a whole book on, and books I don’t enjoy so I stop reading them. In movies or TV, I don’t like slap-stick comedy, so I don’t watch it. But I wouldn’t make those decisions for someone else.

  • beatniksifu

    I find that often times the subject matter presented to a family member who perceives it to be taboo or too dark. It is only such when someone they know is an author, and they don’t realize that your character has a transformative arc in the story. And if it were written by someone else, they may even be the first one to recommend that book or film. When you write it they latch on to the big bad villain aspect, and refuse to accept or acknowledge that in any story in which their family writes unless it is always gumdrops and rainbows. They seriously forget that even in romantic comedies the couples in the story have blow out fight before they reconnect to live happily ever after.

    I think sometimes you need to figure out how to share what your doing with a sensitively minded loved one. It’s only too taboo if it makes you to uncomfortable to write, or makes publishers too uncomfortable to publish.

    Because if the subject for a story is rattling inside you to get out. Than you have a need to get it down on paper. Whether it is for yourself, your therapist, friends, family, or the world.

    It’s the sensitivity that needs to be handled delicately, before one can truly regard the subject taboo.

    My 4 year old nephew gets to watch episodes of BONES, but heaven forbid he ever watch Disney’s SNOW WHITE. as if a Disney cartoon would be more damaging to his young mind than seeing flesh melt off bones. It’s one of those things that seems hypocritical in his upbringing, but I am not the parent, and cannot fathom or reconcile the logic of that peculiar sensitivity. And suggesting such spark a family war that I would lose.

    Family sensitivities can be hurtful to one’s creative mind, and difficult to navigate.

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