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Does unsettling subject matter bring heightened catharsis for both writer and reader?

When a writer explores the dark and disturbing — think rape, pedophilia, abuse, addictions, and so on — the subject matter makes the writer penetrate the side of life we so often like to leave alone and, in turn, the writer must come to terms with his/her personal views of the subject matter. However, when readers then take the work up and read it, they are given only so much of what a writer knows to be true about the world created within the story or novel. Do the readers really have the chance to work through their own views on the subject matter in a way that enables them to experience catharsis? How does this work?

  • By definition, catharsis means to experience release from a repressed emotion. To experience a release from horrific actions like this works from both ends. Your feeling is like the center clearing of the forest with two roads leading to it from completely opposite ends. What makes this difficult is writing it in a way where it is experienced by both parties. You need to find that point of commonality between both. In the end, even readers are touched ad hit. Perhaps it works best if the story is told from a first person viewpoint. In that way, both the reader and the writer get similar tastes of what it means to be in that situation. It is challenging but effective. – SpectreWriter 5 years ago
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