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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > May 2017 > TRUE GRIT


Readers always come back to gritty reality, but that need not always mean confrontational detail. Gary Dalkin weighs up the options and encourages you to play with reality

Sex, violence and strong language have always been part of life. Without the former none of us would be here, and human beings have a long-standing propensity to violence which sees no sign of abating. In every society there have always been words that were taboo, some causing greater offence than others. These things are givens, so much so that it is often argued that for fiction to be realistic it must be steeped in them, and in general face the darkest aspects of life with an uncompromising pen.

What changes are the standards of acceptability regarding sex, violence and strong language. For instance, I’m pretty sure the WM editor doesn’t want me to quote at length from The Wolf of Wall Street (the film which holds the record for the most swearing in any Hollywood movie) as an example to illustrate this article. Stark realism is often all about context, and what is acceptable in a deliberately hard-hitting film aimed strictly at an adult audience isn’t appropriate for a family magazine.

Reflecting society

Writing Magazine’s more senior readers were born into a UK in which DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned because of its very frank discussions and descriptions of sex. When Penguin issued a paperback edition in 1960 the company was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. A jury found Penguin innocent, a decision which can be seen as paving the way for the greater liberalisation of the arts in the 1960s.

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About Writing Magazine

Want to make sure your readers are hooked from the start? In this month's Writing Magazine, learn how to grab your readers' attention and keep it all the way to the end. • Have you completed a first draft? We show you how to polish it to perfection. • Would your life make a good story? We show you how to transform your inspiring ideas into writing material. • Read how our star interview, Lisa McInerney, went from blogger to bestseller. • Find out about the latest writing opportunities and win £51,579 in writing prizes!

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