Gritty YA Fiction

Guest Post by M.E. Purfield


Gritty is not always good. Traditionalists, fundamentalist, and Goody-Goodies do not like gritty. I’m not positive why. Maybe it undermines what dead generations taught. You see, gritty is a rebellion. It’s dirty, violent, and transcendent. In storytelling, gritty is the extreme setting and obstacle a main character may go through. And if you follow traditional storytelling where a main character reaches the light of change at the end, gritty can be a great dark tunnel.

Gritty is most commonly associated with the city, drugs, and crime. Before I came up with my Miki Radicci series, I had already written three stand alone Young Adult novels. Two of them took place in the city and all three had an element of crime to the story. So making a gritty series was a no-brainer. But why did I do it?

My background is vanilla. I grew up white suburban middle class. I was forced to do all the things my parents and society expects me to do. I hated most of my childhood. I hated being one with the crowd. Reality was a boring prison. To escape I immersed myself into horror and crime films and fiction. If I was born to be rebellious then writing gritty fiction is hardwired into my soul. I get off on it. I like to push buttons, upset the traditionalists, fundamentalists, and the Goody-Goodies.

Basically, I’m a dick.

Basically, I love my freedom.

The Miki Radicci series is a young adult, urban, noir, fantasy. The grit comes natural, but there’s always a conscious level I try to adhere. Primarily, my anti-hero main character is gritty. You can either love her or hate her. Based on reader reaction, that is exactly what people do. The funny thing is, they love her and hate her for the same reasons.

Miki is sixteen but an emancipated, self-sufficient artist. She doesn’t live under her parents’ roof or control. Miki is also an alcoholic. Her best friend is a former bum boy who now goes to school and lives with Miki. She is also a bit of a criminal herself. She makes fake identifications and is handy with picking locks.

All those traits are conscious and planned to make her gritty. She goes against the traditional teen girl who follows what her parents say and want; who has plans for college; who is dealing with a boyfriend or best friend or whatever.

Another conscious step for grit is her psychic ability. Miki can psychically feel another’s pain or death. Murder and violence is scary. I wanted to go against the norm that violence looks cool. When the reader experiences Miki’s pain or death, they should not enjoy it. The words should jumpstart a dread in their imagination that will upset them.

Her psychic ability also works on another level. It expresses Miki’s hero side. Because of the pain she feels from others, Miki becomes a vigilante and avenges the victim’s assault or death. Her ability defines her good core. I consciously try not to make it part of the plot or a thread in the series. You will not find out why or how she got it. There’s no final fight between good and evil.

So there you have it. Love me, hate me, that is the grit of Miki Radicci and I. It’s a rebellion. It’s a way of life. It is who I am. And I hope it is who you are too. Or I may piss you off.

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M.E. PURFIELD has done some script work for low low low budget films and even directed a few shorts. When it comes to writing novels, his strengths lie with Young Adult fiction, contemporary and noir fantasy. When not practicing the art of Potty Mouth, he spends his time raising his son, being married, watching horror films, and listening to punk music.

M.E. Purfield Online: Website | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads


Let’s talk about Sex, Baby

“Because, no matter how we write it, sex is very powerful.” — Mel Sherratt (author of psychological thrillers/suspense)

Female Serial Killers

Guest Post by Tim Ellis


Image of Asami Yamazaki from Gores Truly

Gender equality means that men and women should receive equal treatment, and should not be discriminated against based on gender, unless there is a sound biological reason for different treatment. Women are, however, under-represented in any list of serial killers. Why is that?

I’ve included a female serial killer in the novel I’m currently writing, but they’re as rare as rocking horse droppings. When we think of serial killers – we think of males such as Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrei Chikatilo, John Wayne Gacy and Henry Lee Lucas – not a female to be seen among them. Why is that?

Yes, there have been female serial killers throughout history – Beverly Allitt, Andrea Yates, Karla Homolka, Aileen Wuornos – to name a few of the more recent ones, but they represent a tiny percentage of the total, and to be honest, they’re not scary, and they don’t fire the imagination like a really evil male serial killer. Why is that?

Female serial killers are usually classified as black widows (Blanche Taylor Moore); angels of death (Beverly Allitt); sexual predators (Aileen Wuornos); or kill for revenge (Martha Wise), profit or in the commission of another crime (Dorothea Puente). A lot of the time, they act in partnership with a man (Fred & Rosemary West, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley).

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but women are different to men! No, I don’t mean on the outside, I mean on the inside.

Books have been written about these differences (Gray, 1992, Tannen, 1992), which is reinforced by societal stereotypes:

* Feminine Traits

Unintelligent and Incapable
Sex object
Attractive because of physical appearance

* Masculine Traits

Intelligent and capable
Sexually aggressive
Attractive because of achievement

And there’s the problem! Do you really see a scary female serial killer with those feminine traits? I don’t think you need to jump up and down to answer that question – the answer is obviously no.

If we look at the behaviours on Robert Hare’s (2003) psychopathy checklist (2nd Edition), we’re looking at masculine behaviours. As far as I recall, he didn’t interview any females as part of his research:

Glib and superficial charm
Need for stimulation
Pathological lying
Cunning and manipulating
Lack of remorse
Poor behavioral controls
Parasitic lifestyle
Sexual promiscuity
Early behavior problems
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Many short-term marital relationships
Juvenile delinquency
Revocation of conditional release
Criminal versatility

So, my advice – if you want to include a female serial killer (or murderer) in your novel – is to give the character masculine traits. They can look like Marilyn Monroe, but they need to kill like men.

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TIM ELLIS lives in Essex with his wife and five Shitzus and writes fiction full time. To date, he has written 25 novels (crime, historical, science fiction and fantasy), and sold over 400,000 copies of his books (as of March 2014). He was a participant in the London Book Fair 2014.

Tim Ellis Online: Website | Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | LBF