I’ve heard many friends say they avoid content with specific topics. Child death is at the top of the list for most parents I know. Rape is another common, yet commonly triggering topic. Sometimes the topics are less grotesque, but nonetheless offensive still. Perhaps it’s the trope of the middle-aged woman desperate to have a baby, or the kid who finds out on his birthday that he’s special and “not like the other boys.” Hearing the people around me discuss these things has made me question, is there anything I would never include in my stories while on my journey to thrill, scare, and entertain?

There’s certainly topics I find distasteful. The older I get, the less interested I am in exploring any topics that include harm (mental or physical) to children. Slavery explored in any way that suggests benefits or net positives for the enslaved makes me raise a disgusted eyebrow for sure. On the overdone trope side, I am so incredibly tired of novels taking place in WWII. Dear fucking Christ, how pulverized is that poor remnant of a horse corpse already? At this point most WWII fiction more closely resembles disturbing fan fics rather than a representation of the human experience during a disturbing and monumental time in history. Can we pick a different war to romanticize already? Maybe one a little outside the typical American primary school experience?

Even then, when I think of all the things I’d rather not read about or write about, I still wonder; is there anything so bothersome to me, that I would never include it in my work? Some things seem pointless, for instance, the already well-established tale of the American love affair with fast cars. The idea of writing about a school shooting in this age comes off as particularly crass, and a little too realistic for many. I’d rather write about the scary subjects less likely to happen, and therefore harder to wrap our understanding around.

Ultimately, I can’t truly think of anything I can say for certain will never be in my stories. I know the most surefire way to force yourself into doing something you didn’t want to, is verbally refusing to ever do it. That lesson has slapped me around a few times, to the point where now I like to randomly yell out into the air: I refuse to ever be a multimillionaire! Or, I absolutely will not ever adapt one of my stories into a screenplay due to an incredibly generous offer from a very excited studio! Unfortunately for me, I think the universe is smart enough to tell the difference between me feeling entitled and me trying to pedantically use reverse psychology.

Even those things that have been the most traumatic to me personally, I find a catharsis in writing about from a different perspective. I’ve heard it can be helpful to sufferers of PTSD to reimagine their traumas. Ideally into a version where they got out safely, or had control of the situation. Writing allows me to do some of that for my own traumas, and all without the 150$ an hour cost of a therapist.

In that sense, maybe this post serves as a warning to the universe; don’t think that whatever you do to me, put me through, or make me do won’t end up in the pages of a book. This isn’t a threat, by the way, not a pen-is-mightier kind of statement. More that I know the best way to finish my voyage through any hellscape and see the other side is through writing. In that sense it is my chariot, my own ferry guided by Charon. Ensuring that I make it across and back out the other side. There is the famous saying that if you find yourself going through hell, then keep going. You just have to not be afraid to shed all your baggage to make it through.