One of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of transgressive fiction has to do with how it treats descriptions of the human body, specifically the processes and functions that are not often discussed in polite society. Sometimes this treatment is exaggerated and hilarious, as is the case with much of Chuck Palahniuk’s work, and sometimes it’s chillingly precise and realistic, as with Bret Easton Ellis. Either way, it’s almost always just plain gross. The willingness of the author to test the reader’s limits by being what I would call “exquisitely disgusting” is how you can tell that the writer is purposefully exploring the territory of the transgressive. In other words, it doesn’t happen by accident.
Different strains of transgressive fiction experiment with how to ignite the greatest level of recoil in the reader in different ways. Transgressive fiction that falls into the genre of crime/thriller/suspense will most often detail the gory reality of what it takes to dismember and dispose of a human body, while transgressive fiction that is more fantastical or experimental might describe murder or massacre with vivid beauty, painting it as an artistic scene. What I have noticed though, is that most transgressive fiction explores the theme of violence when the author begins to experiment with the power of repulsion and what it can do to a brave reader.
Most transgressive fiction, it should also be noted, is written by men.
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Most of you know me as an author who writes about INFJs, INFPs, introverts, empaths, and Highly Sensitive People. But intuition and introversion are not my only passions. My creative fiction side tends to come out in the form of transgressive fiction, a genre which not many people know about, but which has also made a resurgence in the past few years.
Transgressive fiction is fiction that pushes the extreme edge of boundaries. Some transgressive fiction is autobiographical or actually memoir, and some falls more into the realm of crime fiction or dark satire. It’s a fascinating genre full of talented writers and if you’ve never heard of it, I do urge you to check it out. INFJs and INFPs tend to be eccentric and odd in our tastes and transgressive fiction fits the bill for that like nothing else.
Today’s guest post comes from the satirical G.C. McKay, author of the anthology Sauced up, Scarred and at Sleaze and his recently released novel, Fubar. G.C. is one of my favorite writer friends because he always pushes limits and questions the status quo. Plus, he manages to be totally irreverent and profound at the same time. The following is his take on the writing “rules” for transgressive fiction authors.
Transgressive fiction gets a pretty raw deal. In fact, it gets the same treatment by the world we live in as its characters often do inside their stories. This is probably to be expected, as the themes it explores are normally on the, shall we say, darker side of the human spectrum. Whilst we can argue till our faces turn blue (sexual-innuendo obviously implied) about what actually defines transgressive fiction, I’d venture to guess that we can all agree that it… unnerves us, as Lauren Sapala so adequately put it in her post Why are so Many Writers Afraid of Transgressive Fiction?
On that note, here are seven sin-ridden writing tips to keep in mind when your gunk-filled fingernails sit poised over the keyboard:
West Is San Francisco is the sequel to my gritty addiction memoir Between the Shadow and Lo. It’s weird, it’s dark, and it covers the first four years I spent in San Francisco working for a private detective, getting sober, and finally almost losing my mind to a cult-like startup and its sociopathic founder.
If you’re into transgressive fiction, autofiction, memoirs on alcoholism, or anything to do with narcissistic abuse, extreme codependency and/or fucked up toxic relationships, you’ll probably like it. You can now get it on Amazon in paperback or ebook.
I got an email from a writer the other day asking about transgressive fiction. She had seen my previous article, What It’s Like to Be a Female Author Who Writes Transgressive Fiction, and she was curious about a couple of things. Number one, she wanted to know how I fueled my ideas to write in this genre, and two, she wanted to know how I handled the reactions of my friends and family members. In particular, did any of my friends and family think I was just writing about my “twisted fantasies”?