My personal line is child rape. I write about uncomfortable things. Murder and torture are normal. I've used rape as a plot point to a number of stories, because I'm personally uncomfortable with the subject, and that discomfort comes off in my writing and makes the scene equally horrible in the exact way I want the readers to feel. But writing about the same circumstances with children is a boundary I haven't been willing to cross yet, and I don't think I ever will; it's never been necessary.
I try to steer away from anything sexual, due to this I have some difficulty with family lines at times; I intend for a character to have had sex with another character but I'm uncomfortable writing about it.
I really don't know what I would be uncomfortable writing about. I'm pretty much immune to violence and gore. For example, in my most recent story, a character got ripped apart and eaten alive by a carnivorous L-1011. I figured if I can write about that, anything is fair game.
I tend to have watchful eyes over my work, so my ability to be... off-colour in any meaning of the word is generally limited expressly. I can get away with mutilations (not of sexual organs) and some language, but nothing too much.
If I feel one of those things will go well in my story and fits in with it, I'd write it. Like Gyr said, they happen in real life whether you want it to or not. Writing about it doesn't promote it. If one doesn't feel comfortable to write about it, they have every right not to, same with if you don't feel comfortable reading about it. Yes, these are touchy topics, I understand that, so if you don't want to write this, don't. If I am faced with this, I usually just imply there was a sex scene, for example, if I don't feel alright writing it.
I believe I would write about all of these things. All of these things happen in real life, don't they? So why should I limit myself by choosing to not write about those things specifically?
Two of the stories I am working on now are quite gruesome. In one, the setting is following this girl who lost her memories, while trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world, and the other is following a man who was once a prince in a fantasy world and is now one of many slaves that a princess owns and trades in her castle. So far, both of these stories contain all of these elements, except perhaps animal cruelty. I'm sure though, if further down line either of these called for it, I could write it. After all, it is not unlikely that such a thing would occur in either of these stories, I just could not see myself going on about it. I don't really think animal cruelty would really do much for me or the reader, besides using it briefly to describe terrible conditions.
I'll write whatever the story needs. Out of the things you listed, I'd probably be less likely to write about animal cruelty. I'm currently working on something that happens to include the rest of those things, though--and not arbitrarily.
Rape and constant sex is where I draw the line. I might mention the last one but I wouldn't write about it really because I am writing a book that the character loses her virginity. But its later on, and want go in detail.
Far as murder scenes I have no problem with them or cusing. But usually mine aren't creativily heavy if you know what I mean? I'm a YA writer so it can't be.
I couldn't write rape. First, because I can't even write sex scenes, I don't know how. And second, because it's so much going on, it must be such a suffocating sensation that I doubt I could recreate properly. Also, because I've seen rape treated in many amateur works like a car accident or something. You know, no real impact. It just sits there. And it annoys the hell out of me. I fear, that some amateur writers only write rape for the heck of it. Instant source of dark and troubled, angsty past and they really don't do it justice. If justice can be done to such a horrible thing.
Animal cruelty. Because I don't have the stomach. The thought of a poor creature being hurt in horrid ways would stick to me for too long. If I wrote it, I would have to think about it a lot and imagine. No thanks.
I despise all gore it disturbs me, so I do not write it. My story takes place during war time and my main character was abused as a child. So I have written violent scenes, I don't sugar coat it. I just usually gloss over specific details as needed. I've written many consensual sex scenes, as they are tender moments between my main male and female character. Rape is a touchy subject. There are two accounts of rape in my story, one is part of another character's past, the other happens to my main character in the middle of the story. However I make her black out before it gets too bad. It makes me feel uncomfortable to write out the details. I mainly focus on the aftermath, her emotions, how the awful ordeal affected her, and how she mentally overcomes it. I have no problem using vulgar language if the scene or character calls for it.
I'm probably a sadist because of all the things that get incorporated into my stories. While I could probably go one for pages vividly describing some gory murder scene with the blood and innards spilling out galore, I can honestly say I cannot bring myself to write graphic sex. I can imply it or sugarcoat it, but I cannot write out the actual act in all its glory. Nor do I want to.
Murder? Yes, I'll write about that, in a ratings appropriate way. If the story is aimed at young teens, it will be glossed over. If it's a book meant for adults and is on the darker side of lit, it might be a bit more detailed.
Rape? I'll write that it happened, but writing it in detail falls into an awkward area for me. More on this in the section about consensual sex.
Consensual sex? I struggle to write about sex in general. I'm not a prude, I just really can't get my head around writing this kind of scene. Better to hint at it, using the same Hollywood trick *ClayCowboys mentioned, than to write a bad scene.
Mutilation or castration? No problem with mutilation. I'm lopping Etienne's hand off later this week. Certain mutilations I won't write - eyes are that big icky area for me. I won't write about anything bad happening to eyes. I'm iffy about scalpings too. Castration... that's a no-go for me.
Infidelity? No problem, but not in detail, same hang-up as consensual sex and rape.
Animal Cruelty? I'll write about it, but it won't be gory, and the character who abuses the animal will get their comeuppance. However, there's a definition hurdle here - I'm writing about warhorses in the Crusades - is there a point where differing horse husbandry practices and proper military strategy can be called animal cruelty in this case?
Vulgar language? Only if it's appropriate to the scene, or to the target audience. A soldier yelling fiddlesticks when he gets hit is just as bizarre as a six year old child dropping the f-bomb.
With the exception of vulgar language, unless it will move the story forward, or contribute some meaningful insight into a character, it won't appear in a story.
Aside from me never going to write explicit sex and rape scenes. Other than that vulgar language I use to the minimal and everything else, is something that is up to what I'm writing. Though I am more likely to describe a murder by the scene left and not the act itself. If I was writing a crime thriller it might be necessary. If I'm writing say a simple mystery whodonit, I'll just let my detective stumble on the scene. Extreme violence doesn't appeal to me at all. It's not something I have reason to write about.
I've written about all sorts of stuff. Women who are half human, half machine, selling themselves on the street with their mixed human/machine innards visible, plenty of violence, gore and murders, some sex, though I tend to not put much effort into it due to dA rules. Abusive men, abused women, neglected children
A lot of things other people find disgusting in books/movies tend to just make me grin and go "Cool!".
Oddly, I think that out of all the things on your list, vulgar language would be the one that I would be least likely to use.
All the others, I think, could have a place in some story or other, and obviously there are good reasons to use vulgar language in books as well. I'd probably draw the line at children's books, but the success of Go the Fuck to Sleep suggests that there is a niche for it. The thing is that, while using it in character speech might give an element of realism, I don't think that would really improve the book in any meaningful way. If I wanted dialogue to be genuinely realistic, many characters would have to say "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!" when they so much as stubbed their toes. Since toning it down to a simple "Son of a bitch!" would already lose that genuine realism, I see no reason not to go the whole hog and avoid it entirely.
Long story short, I guess that's the one I'd avoid the most because it's mostly down to style. You can write any book without profanity, but you cannot write a murder mystery without a murder.
It's easy to speculate where I'd draw the line - but I don't think I'd really know until I sat down and tried to push it. Maybe that should be on my to-do list.
There's another dimension to this question, too - to what degree would someone write about one of those topics? For example, consensual sex can easily be implied - and that might be easier for someone to do than write a scene explicitly.
I don't write explicit sex scenes or rape. Sure I'll mention them but I won't go into details. I am neither interested in it nor does it have any use to most stories I write.
Physical torture, mutilation, and murder I won't write to glorify them either, lack of experience/knowledge also comes into play. if I had more knowledge I'd be more willing to write them. I just feel like reading reports or documentaries on murderer's biographies it feels like I'm letting them justify or support their acts.
Cruelty to humans or animals. I admit, I'll write that but not in explicit detail.
A simple guideline is this one question. "is the information/detail moving the story forward?" if the answer is 'no' then I don't write it.
Rape is something I won't touch. I'm also not interested in anything to do with mutilation or castration, especially after seeing that Ellen Page/Catherine Keener movie "An American Crime" a few years ago. That case still disturbs the bejesus out of me. I'd also prefer not to go into detail about animal cruelty. Characters will mention it in passing, but I just can't bring myself to write a scene where an animal - even a fictional animal - is harmed.
Murder, on the other hand, yes...I'll include murder in my stories if its relevant to the plot. Consensual sex - I'll "include" it, but I tend to pan the camera elsewhere just as John and Jane remove their clothes. I refer to that as the Old Hollywood trick. Infidelity figures into a few stories. And vulgar language? I'm writing about blue collar families in Wisconsin when I'm not writing some steampunk-ish time travel or Old West tale. I grew up around blue collar families in Wisconsin. I think making them say "Fuck off!" to a particularly odious individual is more effective and honest to their background than having them say, "Take a hike." Now they don't sound like Jack Rebney, the guy who made the (in)famous RV camper commercial (you can find the video on youtube), but they'll cuss when it's needed.
I've written about a lot of things. Generally angst isn't my thing, as I tend to be emotionally attached to my characters, and seeing them suffer is sort of like making me suffer. It's...hard to explain. But I've written about most of the things under the sun...like sex, romance, prostitution, girl on girl sex, and even guy on guy sex and heterosexual sex. I've also written action, and drama...and coarse language normally only features in my stories if it has a particular thing attached to it, such as anger or isolation. But if I'm not comfortable with reading something, (horror in movies or writing isn't really my thing, but I'm trying to deal with horror stories/fanfiction) then I tend to...sort of go numb or "blank," as if when I'm reading it, I go: "Oh, someone's head just got chopped off. Right..." But...Mutilation or Castration may be a little too..."out there," for me. If I don't want something to happen to me, I probably wouldn't read about it. But hey, everyone has their own opinions as to what they like to read or write about, and this is just mine.
I get very uncomfortable when kids are in danger, let alone actually harmed. I don't even like seeing a child cry; I feel it too strongly. I haven't done much harm to my characters -- onscreen -- but I will sometimes imply nasty things happening to them outside the reader's view...
After finding out I primarily wrote erotica, I was once asked by a friend to write a sub/dom story. It was an intriguing idea, since I had never given the subject much thought. However, we wound up with a difference of opinion on it, since he wanted me to portray a woman crushing a man's balls like a grape, and I was uncomfortable with the situation. I wound up not doing it. Not for the disagreement, but more that I know so little about the sub/dom culture that I felt I couldn't give it the proper treatment it deserved.
i had someone accuse me once of writing an incest scene. it wasn't incest but he found incest in it. i don't talk to that person anymore and i think i deleted the story. that was offensive.
i will write what i need to write as the story dictates but i can't see myself purposely writing something that is as taboo as that. i won't write rape scenes. i'm not even that big of a fan of sex scenes in general that can't be delivered in just a couple of sentences.
A far as your list: murder, consensual sex, mutilation, vulgar language. I've also written about physical and psychological abuse, prostitution, drug use, lying, stealing, various criminal activity, and probably stuff I'm forgetting offhand. I draw the line at actually condoning or glorifying murder, non-consensual sex, exploitation, abuse, racism, sexism, and the like. But just depicting those things or acknowledging that they're real and happen isn't an issue. It really just depends on the story, what is necessary, and what elements interest me.
That's a lot to write about. But I do agree with you - there can be limits, based on people's preferences...and dare I say, their "squeamish" factor. How willing you are to go to write about the stuff that normal people tend to write about.