Going Too Far?

I just wrote a chapter in my upcoming book, and now I have take a step back and reconsider what I did. In this scene, my werewolf character is captured and has one of her teeth pulled. This connects to a scene in one of my other books (they are loosely connected) where a character explains that someone stabbed her with a werewolf tooth to turn her into a werewolf. The tooth pulling scene turned out more graphic than I was expecting, with lots of blood and pain and fun stuff like that. This has always been my darkest story, but I still consider it YA/NA in terms of content. Do you think this takes things too far?


If you want your target audience to be YA, probably. I would focus more on the feelings of horror in the scene rather than actual gory bits.


Only if the detail doesn't serve the story. If it does, leave it in. Cutting something out because "it's a bit gory" is just patronising your readers.


We've also seen a ton of really dark stuff in YA, right? Tbh I'm not hugely familiar w/ the genre, but I feel like there's been a move towards confronting very serious, R-rated issues with an eye towards graphic realism. Of course, de-toothing a werewolf probably wouldn't be considered realism (lol), but I still don't know that I've heard the, "This isn't appropriate for YA," argument as much as I used to. We've seen realistic depictions of cancer, mental illness, abuse, dystopian violence, prisons, drug use, and more. To me, YA isn't necessarily "for kids." It's more for teenagers who are trying to confront realities they (hopefully) aren't exposed to in middle school.


It probably depends mostly on context. Has there been anything approaching this level of darkness before? YA probably starts at high school age; do you think you have many middle school readers?


A really brutal scene could weed out some of your youngest readers, depending on how young your audience skews. So it's really a gut thing. You have to decide: is this bit of the story worth it? Am I going to want to get this graphic again? And so on.


Here are some of the paragraphs describing it, for reference. Note: "[I/]" means I'm going to italicize that later.


"Beardie reached the pliers into my mouth, grabbed my top right canine, and...


Have you ever had a tooth pulled at the dentist? It feels like fifteen different kinds of hell, and that's when you're drugged up on painkillers. Now imagine going through that without the painkillers, a pair of pliers that smelled like oil and gasoline, and a tooth that wasn't the slightest bit loose. I felt like a volcano, and the pain was building up inside of me so much that I was going to erupt, sending pieces of brain and skull flying all around the abandoned gas station. I couldn't scream, all I could do was gasp like a fish on dry land, sucking in air while my brain tried to figure out a way to block out the pain, because it hurt, hurt, HURT, [I/]HURT![I/]


The second man finally let go of me, and I fell to the floor in shock. I reached up with a pale,trembling finger and touched my lips, and it came away coated with blood. Blood was filling my mouth, and I couldn't stop it. I spit it out on the floor, but it was flooded again within a few seconds. I kept my head down, knowing that if I titled it back I could choke on all of it. Usually the taste of blood made my wolf go crazy with, but this made me sick to my stomach. This wasn't prey blood, it was [I/]my[I/] blood.


With a moan, I leaned forward and vomited up everything I had in my stomach. When I clamped my mouth shut again, there was more blood on the floor than puke."


Yeah, that's pretty gruesome. Not too terrible in my opinion, but if everything else in the story is significantly lighter, it might be worth it to make some small changes. You know: do you really need the "pieces of brain and skull flying all around the abandoned gas station," do you need all the blood, do you need all the vomiting?


Ultimately, that's a decision you as the author have to make. What is the book your'e trying to write? Who do you want to read it? Does that scene make it a better book, or a worse one?


Well, this isn't the first time she's had to do soemthing like this. In the first book she gets shot and has to dig the bullet out of her arm (she glosses over it, but she still does it). And yeah, this is by far my darkest series so far. I don't know what it is, but pulling teeth out seems a little... MORE than what I've done before, if that makes sense. Like, something you'd see in a Saw movie.


Actually, I think that level of gore is fine for YA. I was imagining something way gorier. Then again, my frame of reference may be messed up because I started reading YA in early elementary and adult fiction when I was 12.


I'm with unice. It's fine.


Here's the rest of it, not that it matters... I'm just showing off now.


"I could feel Beardie watching at me, and when I turned my head to look at him he averted his eyes as if he actually felt sorry for me. The tooth he had pulled was still clamped between his pliers, and there was a string of red meat dangling off the...


I threw up again.


"For what it's worth," he said, pocketing the tooth and pliers, "I'm sorry that you had to go through this. I did not get any pleasure from having to do that."


"Screeeeew yooooou!" I moaned, more blood spilling down my face when I opened my mouth. The pain was so terrible that I was close to blacking out. Only the thought of what they were going to do next kept me conscious.


Beardie sighed and drew his curved sword again. "I'll make this as painless as I can. I'm sorry.""


This is YA level to me. All the internal monologue dampens the scene. "sending pieces of brain and skull flying all around the abandoned gas station" this part felt a bit off to me, not because it was gory but because it just seemed a bit too over the top for her/him to be imagining something like that. think it would stand on its own without it.