Recently, I finished a short novella that's designed to be an origin story to one of my original characters. It started as a project to understand why the character was who he was. For a bit of background, this character showed up in my LEGENDS OF GALRIA mothership series in one of the original drafts. He's very boorish, constantly seeking stimulation through narcotics, alcohol, or other people, and is an unrepentant Blood Knight (for those not read up on TvTropes, he's a person who loves and LIVES for battle and killing). However, I never had any idea where this character came from.
So I started writing, and as the pen flowed, I found myself writing a tale about a child who had been abused by both society and those that he should have trusted. I found myself uneasy about writing it because I don't enjoy writing about this kind of subject matter, but at the same time, I found it gave justification for how a sweet, innocent child can be twisted and broken enough times that he becomes unashamed of the murderous personality that he adopts. I began writing about a person who had tried to cope, but failed, and in turn began looking to narcotics and alcohol as a means of coping with the slings and arrows thrown at him.
Unfortunately, as I finished the story, I found that things became graphic. I spared no detail in the endless quest to fulfill the objective "Show, don't Tell", and now I have a tale that might rival "A Game of Thrones" for unnecessarily graphic text (Please don't murder me. I just find some of the *ahem* details to be bordering on hard core pornography that I'm just not a fan of).
Granted, there's nothing nearly as terrifying as incest or pedophilia which can be found in Game of Thrones, but I'm sure people would take exception to violence against children. It's a sensitive issue, and when it comes news about Child Family Services, the media is full of examples of abuse that went too far.
My issue begins with not knowing whether I should scrap the story, or merely try to salvage it and make it better. It's such a tough spot to be in at this point, because after 40k words written in the last month, I don't want to give up on the project. I like the character, and the people who have read the story as its been put out have liked the character (and actually feel sorry for him, so that's a win-win!) but as someone who is supposed to be a professional and is in the public eye as an educator, I don't know how such stories would be perceived by other people.
Have I stepped beyond the bounds of what is acceptable and made a story too graphic?
That's the real question, and one I suspect I won't know the answer to for a long time. Fortunately, since this tale in question is supposed to be a side story to LEGION OF SYTAREL, and that alone is almost a year away from seeing release, I have plenty of time to figure it out.