Which scenario is worse?

I’m constructing a scene in the book I’m writing, and I have two scenarios in mind and am wondering which one people would find to be more upsetting/disturbing/etc. So, I consult you, teeming squillions. :slight_smile:

The story is about a teenage female murderer named Linneah. During the story, it comes out that she’s pregnant, but she does not have the baby before the end of the story proper. These scenarios are for the little epilogue at the end, when the kid, whose name is Adrian, is about three.

Scenario 1: Linneah is dragging Adrian through a deserted public park at dusk. He’s whining, trying to escape, doesn’t want to go, etc. She is trying to calm him by telling him about his father (her former accomplice, who is now dead), how much she loved him, etc. They come to a secluded area and she tells him that she is sorry they couldn’t have gone to his father’s grave for this, but it’s in the town when she committed her murders, and she might get caught there. She then pulls away a piece of turf to reveal a hole she has previously dug, and quickly buries the child in it, packing the dirt around him and laying beside the hole, expressing…errr…obvious sexual pleasure at the sound of his muffled screams as he dies. (Note that the sexual element is not really a surprise here…all her murders involved her being sexually excited by hurting and killing people, so the only twist here is that it involves her own child)

Scenario 2: We see Linneah and Adrian at home, in a sordid, crappy apartment. She has come home from the menial job she is forced to do to support them, and he is being three, basically – tugging on her, annoying her with questions, etc. She tells him he had better stop, but he keeps on, and she says “okay, that’s it” and straps him into his highchair, where she proceeds to cut his arms and legs with a razor blade (this was an element in all her murders) The scene fades on him crying out, “No, Mommy, no, stop it, it hurts” or something like that.

Even though the second one doesn’t involve the death of the child, I wonder if it’s not worse because you can imagine what the poor little boy’s life must be like, and how it will be in the future, if this is her parenting style. Anyway, I’m interested in what a bunch of people who don’t know me think is the more upsetting of these two situations, were they to encounter them in a book.

Thanks for any feedback in advance :slight_smile:

I think option one is more devastating. Nobody likes the thought of being buried alive, and that it’s done in a park makes it more creepy. Not to mention the kid’s mom is getting off of it. Creeeepy.

The second one has too much pesky hope. Child abuse is horrible, but whose to say this kid isn’t going to runaway? That a teacher won’t inquire about the scarrs and land the mother in jail? That cops will come knocking on the door someday because the neighbors were complaining about screaming and crying? The possibilities are endless for the bugger to lead a happy life.

No! You must bury him like a head of lettuce from the great continent of Asia, and wipe the smug smiles off of the literary public!

More disturbing? Both seem plenty disturbing enough.

I’m gonna go with the second. However, they really are both very disturbing. On a scale of one to ten, the former would be something like 9.8 and the latter 9.9. Not really a big difference.

Scenario 1 is worse. Nothing more shocking than someone killing one’s own kid, and a death that involves torture. It’s might also be the more unexpected ending since the kid was 3, and she managed to live with the child all that time without killing him. If you embellish the ending with examples of how their relationship has been somewhat normal in the last three years, the ending can be particularly devastating to the reader.

Good gawd meenie, what are you writing? :dubious:

Scenario 1 is more disturbing, IMO.

Hee. Like I said, it’s a book about a young female murderer. It will probably not surprise you that I am a huge Stephen King and Thomas Harris fan, and that I like to read about true crime, serial killers and other nasty things.

But I’m not dangerous :slight_smile: I’m actually very nice. hides freezer full of heads

Option the first. The second ain’t exactly pleasant, but the first …

I like option two because it leaves room for another book, Or at least it make one wonder if the kid’s going to be as f’ed up as his mother.
And may I say by the way, you make Steven King sond like Dr. Suess… :smiley:

I’d say go with whichever one is more believable in the context of what you’re writing. #1, shocking as it is, just doesn’t make much sense to me. The sheer outlandishness of it is hard for me to get past. So unless you’re going for a comic/horror effect, my vote’s for #2.

I found the second one more disturbing, for some reason, maybe because I read Sybil at an inappropriate age and the child abuse scenes were just horrifying.

A minor nitpick re the first scenario: why on earth would she tell her 3 year old that she’s a murderer and that’s why they can’t visit his father’s grave? And why would a 3 year old give a shit about visiting a grave? That makes no sense to me. If made a bit more “believable,” I think the first scene could be more disturbing than the second. Right now, it just seems way over the top with details that make no sense.

FWIW, there’s a book called In His Garden which is a true crime book about a couple of murders on Cape Cod in the late 60s. The guy killed his victims, engaged in necrophilia, dismembered them (I think), peeled the skin off the torsos, buried them, dug them up, masturbated on them, etc. Gruesome, gruesome stuff but in line with what you’re thinking for the first scenario.

I’d go with the first, but change it so the kid’s just a bit older, maybe 5 or 6, and have him turn on the mom, push her in the hole, bury her alive,…so on. The next generation of evil…bwah ha ha. :slight_smile:

Well, he wouldn’t care about going to his father’s grave. She’s the one who cares about that, because in her mind it would be nice symmetry to “send Adrian to see his father” in two ways at once. Just more of her craziness, there :slight_smile: And she’s already told him she’s a murderer before, anyway, since long before he could understand even a little. “Mommy hurts people who don’t behave. She makes them see that they are wrong…”, stuff like that.

I don’t find either one of them particularly disturbing, or engaging, to be honest.

It’s really not possible to say, without knowing more about what’s led up to this epilogue. But this plot device of having the killer suddenly turn on her child at the end seems, from what I can tell, to be nothing more than gratuitious shock, and it’s so over the top that it loses punch.

Why do you introduce this element at the end? What does it reveal – besides the “Omigod, not her own kid?!” factor – about this character?

It may sound odd for me to be asking about character development in a slasher novel, but character always drives plot and reader interest, even in pulp fiction.

Looking at the stories of real-life sadistic killers, ask yourself, for instance, why John Gacy became iconic and Dean Corll didn’t, even though Corll was even more sadistic in killing and torturing boys than Gacy? Gacy had a “hook” – the killer clown who was a pillar of the community. That image wasn’t really that accurate (and neither was Bundy’s public image as a dashing young law student who mixed and mingled well) but it sold.

My advice, as someone who’s written about killers as well as other topics, drop shock-value as an independent criterion when considering how to end this book. Instead, hold something back, something vital to the psychology of the character, perhaps something that explains why she is who she is, but certainly something unexpected. Once you’ve found that, then develop it in the backstory, provide sufficient red herrings and obfuscation, then find a way to spring it on your audience so as to maximize that feeling of “Yes, now I see!”

Alternately, you could have the authorities closing in, and use the plot device of killing her son as a means for her to elude them. When it dawns on your audience what she’s doing, and that she’s going to get away with everything, and then that she’s actually enjoying this, if you do it right you’ll get that wonderful “NOOOOOO!” from them.

Imho, the tastiest endings to this sort of book don’t make the audience feel more disgust and outrage at the characters, but rather make the readers themselves feel vaguely guilty and unclean. It’s tough to do, but worth it!

PS: How do you intend to do a fade-out in a book?

I don’t know. On the one hand burial alive is about the most disturbing things I can think of. On the other, the idea that whereas she used to go looking for victims now she has her own ongoing victim at home (yes, KSO, I was also thinking of Sybil)…shudder.

Perhaps you can combine the two…indicate that this is oneof the ways she punishes him…and he’s never certain if this time she won’t let him die there…

I agree with Sample about leaving some unanswered questions at the end.

But, the first scenario is the more disturbing one, to answer your question. The second, however, leaves more to the imagination and more that would stick with the reader in terms of “what is going to happen?” type stuff.

Both are wildly disturbing though, so mission accomplished either way. :smiley:

If you don’t mind, I’m going to change the title of this thread to make it a little clearer.
Also, I’m moving this thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

First of all, it’s not weird at all to ask about character development. This book is very character-driven, though less by Linneah’s character (which is purposely sort of mysterious – you never see things from her POV, etc.) and more by the characters of Paul (Adrian’s father, who dies near the end of the book proper,) and Julian (Adrian’s father’s best friend, who is the only person Linneah chooses as a victim who manages to escape.) Most of the emotional action in the book is centered around Paul slowly turning from a depressed but mostly normal teenager into someone who willingly and enthusiastically participates in Linneah’s sexualized torture murders, and Julian’s observation of the changes in his friend and his futile attempts to help him.

As the novel proper ends, the reader doesn’t know where Linneah has gone, what she’s going to do to evade the authorities, etc. The last time you see her, she seems very much ready to pack it in because Paul has died, and you almost think that maybe she’ll go turn herself in, or be so careless that she’ll get caught. This scene shows that she’s managed to evade the authorities for three years and that she’s basically “getting back in the swing” – particularly with scenario one, which serves the dual purpose of unburdening her of a child she sees as tying her down, and getting her back in the groove of her old hobby of killing. Scenario two would show her continuing urge to torture (in addition to torturing her victims, she also derived a lot of pleasure from hurting Paul; scenario two would probably contain some dialogue from her like “Oh yes, cry out…you cry just like your father did…you suffer as he did, so beautifully…”) and, on second thought, would probably contain some sexual abuse overtones.

Ah, mixing up my terminologies, there. :slight_smile: I meant that would be the last line of dialogue in the scene, and after a short bit of description, the scene would end.

Number two. Not that number one isn’t disturbing. Did I say disturbing? I meant disgusting.

Number one doesn’t seem plausible. In fact the whole female serial killer thing is a stretch for me. I’m no expert, but aren’t almost all serial killers male. And females committing sex crimes with children? How often does that happen?

Maybe I’m missing something. Is it Science Fiction? Parallel Universe? What?

I’d have to say number two. Both are pretty bad, but number two because it’s a stretch for me to believe that she dug a hole in the park. I can’t picture her doing that and getting away with it. Also, I just find straight razors to be freaky when used as a weapon, like in Stephen Kings Dark Half.

But with what you wrote a couple of posts above this one, the idea of torture would suit the character more, so I’m thinking of something from scenario number two, only nothing as drastic as a razor. Something horrible like that, but nothing that’s so permanent. Burns maybe, or something like that.

I don’t mean permanent as in scars, because one poster above mentioned the scars being noticable by authorities, but I get the feeling the child won’t be going to school as regular children would. By permanent, I mean that razors as a weapon means to me, death. Not torture. But that’s of course, highly subjective.

Most serial killers are male. For a list of some of the more famous females, see this site. Sensational, but they usually have the basics right.

As for women committing sex crimes with kids, depends on how you define sex crimes. (See this thread on female teachers having sex with boys, for instance.) As for sexual predation and murder, Myra Hindley is the only one who comes to mind, and she had a male partner.