Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Using Children in Adult Themes: Guest Post by Stephen Tremp

Writing for children is a huge responsibility. However, children often play a part in adult books, as well. Today, Stephen Tremp is here to discuss a pretty important topic: using children in adult-themed books. His guest post demonstrates that we all have limits in our writing--those things we absolutely will never do as a matter of principle. Be sure to stick around after the guest post to learn all about his awesome new scary book, Salem's Daughters--the perfect book for October!

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Using Children in Adult Themes

by Stephen Tremp

Using kids in books. No Problem. Simple, right? Straight forward? Whoa, slow down a bit. It’s not as easy as it looks. Some of the most successful writers such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson and many others have no problems doing all kinds of crazy things to kids. But the material, some of which is so far over the top, I’ve had to ask, why? Was that really necessary? I know, I know, they’re merely writing about the world we live in. Okay, fine. It’s a free country.

There are three things I never put in my books:

I do not use God’s name in vain.
I do not use F-bombs.
I do not kill or exploit children in order to make the bad guy badder or progress the plot.

If other writers want to, go nuts. I’m not here to judge or criticize. There are many books and movies I have no problem with foul language: Good Fellas, Casino, and Training Day. But for me, it’s hard to stomach some of the terrible things that happen to children in books and movies.

That being said, I have a lot of kids as minor characters in Salem’s Daughters. The first family to arrive at the bed and breakfast are Eugene and Beatrice Barnett.

Bob looked at the rust around all four wheels. One of the doors was a different color than the rest of the car. The hood was held down with a bungee cord. Red duct tape covered one of the broken rear parking lights.

Bob watched as three children piled out. Triplets. Red haired, freckled faced, pasty-skinned boys all under the age of ten. Their energy demonstrated they’d been cooped up in the truck for a long time. 

They ran past him before Debbie could say ‘hi’ and into Murcat Manor. Within seconds the sound of screaming cats filled the air. Something glass broke.

The cats, terrorized by kids, have met their match. And not just the red-headed triplets of terror. Each new wave of guests bring at least a few kids who can’t resist pulling the cats’ tails and doing other mean things to them. 

“I really hate kids now,” Jacqueline said as she walked to the large arch that led to the kitchen and peered in. 

“The Barnett triplets were the worse,” Chloe said. “The ones here aren’t so bad. But that freckled faced girl at the end of the table pulled my tail again last night. I almost lost it and levitated her right out her second story bedroom window.”

Annie spoke. “I considered speeding up the synaptic transmissions in her brain receptors to the point she’d take in every piece of information her five senses detected. Give the little brat a case of sensory overload that would drive her and her parents crazy.”

“Too bad Rebecca’s not here,” Scarlett said. “She’d catch that kid’s pony tails on fire.”

“I can short circuit the thoughts of that brother and sister,” Helen said. “Make them think they’re each other. And if we see those Barnett triplets here again, I’ll rewire their brains so every month they’ll think they’re one of the other brothers. Their parents will never be able to tell which one is which ever again.” 

In my opinion, there are ways to use kids to further the plot through dark humor rather than torturing and killing them in all kinds of weird and grotesque ways.

What’s your take on using kids in mature books and movies?




Bio:

Stephen Tremp writes Speculative Fiction and embraces science and the supernatural to help explain the universe, our place in it, and write one of a kind thrillers. You can read a full synopsis and download Salem’s Daughters by Clicking Here.








Contact info:

77 comments:

  1. I'm with you a hundred percent on your three rules, Stephen!
    But of course the kids will pull the cats' tails. That's a given.
    Congratulations again and hope it's selling great!

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    1. I agree with those rules, too! Of course, in kids' books you can't get a way with much of anything. If I ever wrote an adult story again, I'd have to remind myself that everything isn't off limits!

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    2. Thanks Alex! I have some huge promos coming up for Halloween since Amazon doesn;t allow for reviews before release date this "down time" is critical to get reviews in. I know, it sounds crazy to plan down time upon release, but that's how important reviews are to have before the big promos.

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  2. Yeah, I never do gruesome things to kids or animals in books. I only ever dropped the f-bomb in the newest book I'm doing, cop one so its a given.

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    1. Definitely no harm to animals! I don't write books where harm comes to anyone, though. That would be a tough one. Just a couple of "almost harm" moments that the kids get themselves out of.

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    2. I'm trying to think of words that rhyme with $@#!
      Felling like a schmuck and not having the best of luck
      I need to get my brain unstuck
      So for now I'll go with yuck

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  3. I think there's enough horror in the world where kids are concerned without making more up, animals too. I think the three rules are good ones to stick to.

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    1. I agree! Sadly, we can keep harm from coming to kids in our writing but all you have to do is turn on the news. It's a scary world for kids these days.

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    2. Jo, I don;t kill animals. I'll eat them to survive. Sounds like a contradiction, I know.

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  4. I don't have many rules, for me it is a matter of what suits the story I'm telling. Although I do think it is good to know where your lines are and when/if you ever want to cross them.

    Great post.

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    1. And where your readers' lines are...I've known people who won't read books where harm comes to kids or animals.

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    2. Thanks Brandon. To each their own as it's a free country. Run it up a flagpole and see if anyone stops to salute.

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  5. I'm with the poster above. If you kill a dog in a movie or book, I'm out! I hate that!! I love horror, but killing dogs? Noooooo.
    Horror is my jam...so kids being evil or dying. Eh, I'm used to it. I listened to a radio interview with Guilliarmo del Toro after Pans Labryinth came out and he talked a lot about the issue of killing children in film. Anyway, doesn't bother me as long as it's part of the story!

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    1. LOL, see my reply right above yours! My mom wouldn't read Pet Sematary (or however he misspelled it) because a kid died in it. In fact, that book is the poster child for "harm to kids and animals," but I guess it still did very well despite that.

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    2. Of course the question arises, what happens to the thirteen cats as the story progresses? Do they escape unscathed, or as Stephen King states you owe it to the reader to really stick it to the bad guys in the end. What happens to the cats? No spoiler alert here. But I did have a blast writing the ending!

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  6. I totally agree with not exploiting kids in any way. Interesting post and from Stephen, looks like an interesting book!

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    1. Thanks Christine for stopping by and saying hello!

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  7. Thanks Stephanie for hosting me today! I'll be stopping by throughout the day to say hello.

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    1. Thanks for your thought-provoking guest post!

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  8. A good rule indeed. I've read some of these books you're referring to and they do some dark things with kids.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Dark things aren't good! I'm glad most writers stay on the right side of that line.

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    2. It's a tough call. I suppose some stories demand the plot moves in that particular direction. Fortunately, mine don't. But again, I don;t judge writers that kill children. I do like many of Stephen Kings stories where kids die. Weird, I know.

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  9. I admit, I don't read too many 'adult' books. Certainly not anything in the horror genre. I'm kind of the reverse, I write YA and rarely use adults. I agree with your rules though.

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    1. LOL, I know! Adults are more involved in middle grade and chapter books. An editor mentioned that at a conference I attended recently--in YA, adults are pretty much nonexistent, but parents and teachers are always secondary characters in younger books. That's life, isn't it? The older your kids get, the less of a role older generations play in their life, except as bosses and college professors.

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    2. Jeffrey, I'm thinking of Harry Potter and a lot of teens died, although not in gruesome ways. At the end of Goblet of Fire the series takes a dark turn for the rest of the series and kids die from then on. Love Harry Potter.

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  10. I had just mentioned in a comment on someone's blog last week when she was highlighting movies with children, especially children that were a bit evil. Made me wonder how their parents would let them play a role like that, so this is another interesting thing to consider. Definitely don't like exploitation of children in any form. I think sometimes we get so detached when reading or watching something we might "forget" what is really going on to a young one. Might be a good warning here to be a little more aware of things and maybe stay away from that which exploits or abuses precious little ones. Along that vein, in talking with son/wife recently, they mentioned when they went to see 50 Shades of Grey in a theater, behind them was a 4 year old boy with his mom watching the movie. Apparently it was lady's night out and her husband couldn't watch the little one at the last minute, she didn't want to miss the adventure so she took him along. Sad.

    betty

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    1. Yikes. When I worked in a movie theater as a teen, we watched a mom drag three or four kids into "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2" (or 3 or 4 or whatever). That's the movie where Santa is a murderer. I wondered how a mom could do that! Maybe she was tired of buying Christmas presents and wanted to scare them off Christmas for life?

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    2. betty, good point about becoming detached. Sometimes it comes down to garbage in garbage out. There's too much garbage in video games and rap music and movies and other forms of entertainment today.

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  11. Hi Stephanie and Stephen - yes I'd agree - we need to keep our writings within the genre we're dealing with. Love some of the ideas you've got going here ... I'd love to see the freckle faced girl levitated ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Sounds like an interesting plot point to me!

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    2. Hilary, I never saw this side of you. And I like it.

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  12. Thank you, Stephanie for never putting the 3 things in your book. You will be blessed!

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    1. These are Stephen's, but I agree...never in any of my books!

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    2. Close enough. I think. Thanks Nancy for stopping by!

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  13. Perhaps if more people decided that violence and sensationalism aren't (or shouldn't be) entertainment we would live in a different world. Perhaps.

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    1. I think you're probably right about that!

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    2. Our world today is so different than when I was a strapping young lad. It's like there's such little sanctity of life.

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  14. It's so hard for me to read books where kids are hurt. Or in trouble. I get too dang panicky.

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    1. Me, too! Unless it's lightweight trouble like, "Oh, how are they going to get themselves out of this one?!"

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    2. Life's hard enough without messing up the youth, which is the leadership of tomorrow.

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  15. I haven't really involved kids in the adult books I've written, or where I have they've been secondary to the plot rather than central. I'm with Steve in that I wouldn't like to do gratuitous things to harm kids.

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    1. No, especially if you can produce the same effect in other ways.

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    2. Nick, the key word here is gratuitous. Too often we see this just to make the bad guy appear badder. To me, that's just poor writing.

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  16. It's nice to hear that people still take a stand and use limits in their work.

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    1. Bijoux, some people will sell their souls to get ahead. To me, it's just trying to write a darn good book.

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  17. I swear with the best of them but there is a time and a place and it always stops me in my reading tracks when the F bomb is done. If one is reading about the mafia ok but I don't need to read about it.I am one who does not like violence for violence sake no matter what their age, but kids are usually innocent and animals also. I don't like reading about animals being killed either. The only time I would say it is ok is if the child is literally The Omen. Otherwise if they get a good spanking at the end-that's all that's needed

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    1. Birgit, I have to say, just remember the cats are really people who have hijacked the cat bodies. There is my disclaimer.

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  18. I like that the kids turn the tables on the cats!

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    1. HR, kids have a way of doing that and getting away with it.

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  19. I've never been one to shock for shock's value. There can be too much. As for hurting kids in a story--I'm generally against it unless it forwards the plot somehow. Then again, I avoid stories where kids are hurt, so it's not like I've read many of them.

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    1. Liz, me too. Except for Harry Potter where a lot of teens die at the end, I stay away from stories where kids are hurt.

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  20. I can't deal with kids or animals getting hurt in a read. Love books from a cat's perspective.

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    1. Sandra, this was a fun book to write as even the witches inhabiting the cats bodies admit they are taking on some of the cats characteristics.

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  21. Since I have two cats and love them, and I also like kids, this sounds like a must read. I hate to see kids, cats or any animal abused, and won't read stuff like that. Congratulations, Stephen.

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    1. Thanks Beverly! I really think you would enjoy this story.

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  22. I don't really read many adult books... I think what you put in your story has to be true to the plot and true to the character. Congratulations on another book, Stephen!

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    1. Sharon, long time no see! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello.

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  23. I really like Stephen's philosophy and that he doesn't use F-bombs, take God's name in vain or exploit children. I congratulate you on the book, Stephen, as well as your rules! I love animals and children (well, I love people and animals, let's just say), so much so that when I began my blog I wanted to make it a family friendly one where young children could also enjoy the things I post. I don't use foul language (and don't accept it in any comments on my blog, either), because I feel that the English language is elaborate enough that we don't need to resort to foul language. Great post, Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Linda, I do have some mild swearing. I tried to make it flow with the dialogue and not plug in swear words for a PG-13 rating in hopes more people will read it.

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  24. I really like Stephen's philosophy and that he doesn't use F-bombs, take God's name in vain or exploit children. I congratulate you on the book, Stephen, as well as your rules! I love animals and children (well, I love people and animals, let's just say), so much so that when I began my blog I wanted to make it a family friendly one where young children could also enjoy the things I post. I don't use foul language (and don't accept it in any comments on my blog, either), because I feel that the English language is elaborate enough that we don't need to resort to foul language. Great post, Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Linda, I feel English is fast becoming a second class language. I sure hope something changes soon in this country.

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  25. It's refreshing to know that Stephen doesn't use God's name in vain, of use the F bombs and does not kill or exploit children in his books....

    The cat on that cover really give a spooky feel to the book just in time for Halloween... I wonder if I would be brave enough to read it, lol.

    I'm not brave like you Stephanie.

    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Julia, be brave! It's a fun read with lots of snarky humor.

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  26. I guess for me it just depends on the audience. Some books call for certain elements, but only if he reader can handle them (as in, not children's writing).

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    1. Meradeth, you have to give the people what they want. Hopefully people will like my book. I think they will.

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  27. Your rules are great and I want to thank you for sticking to them! The world is full of plenty of nastiness that I hope kids get to avoid. Anything we, as adults, can do to improve that is a win for all.

    But Stephanie, you made a GREAT point about "Pet Semetary" - I hadn't thought of that. And I'd read that one but I probably wouldn't suggest it for a kid. And that is totally self-serving: you know they'd have nightmares!

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    1. Have to admit I thought Pet Semetery was a great read and movie.

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  28. As a professor and a part of the publishing industry for ten years now, I absolutely despise people who would use kids in horrors and violent scenes especially in a graphic brutal and violence glorifying ways. I'd ban such books and shows and films. Back when Del Toro stabbed a girl openly in a scene in PAN'S LABYRINTH I said it was devil's business because it would break a taboo and open the doors to even more disgusting things and that is exactly what happened. Just look at latest THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER series in which, only in the first episode, they've graphically slashed a lil' boys throat, then his mother's, then cut open the belly of a pregnant lady and took her unborn baby out and left her to die next to the butchered mother. Only in America would such things actually be allowed on TV.

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    1. and as a translator who works on books from all over the world, I can tell you that the mindless usage of F-bombs in books (even in YA ones) is mostly present only in American books. English ones tend to have more depth and less of such primitive brutality

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    2. Dez, I don;t know what to say. Unbelievable people pay good money to watch something like that.

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  29. Congratulations Stephen. I really hope your sales go well. I'm not a big fan of using children in my own writing, but I agree about no kids getting hurt. Also, not hurting of animals:)

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    1. Murees, thanks for the well wishes! I greatly appreciate them.

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  30. I agree! Somethings just aren't needed and are over the top!

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    1. Grandma Kc, glad to see I'm not alone.

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  31. I write adult fiction (R to NC-17) so I can't imagine or fathom using children in my stories. I have issues in general with children popping up in adult fiction if they're used for anything beyond making a very brief appearance (like two second).

    Keep the children in YA or high end YA and leave the adult fiction to the adults.

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  32. G. B., well said. Could not have said it any better.

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