When you can’t get past an experience

Boat in the fog copy


I had my first DNF (Did Not Finish) today. The reader couldn’t get past THAT Scene. You know the one that shan’t ever be mentioned here or over on Facebook.

I tried to encourage her to keep reading, to reassure her that life gets better for the people she had taken into her heart. But, no.

I understand why she was upset. Truly I do. I was a MESS writing THAT scene.  I was a MESS editing THAT scene.

Adding to her distress was a lot of physical pain, for which she was on medication. Sadly, it was all too much.

 “Tears fall and I ache,” she wrote to me.  And: “Why?” And: “Reading books isn’t supposed to be…torture.”

I’m sorry for her that she invested so many hours reading my book and didn’t get to experience that satisfying feeling that comes at the end of a book that you so enjoy. For prior to this point she was enjoying it. She messaged me: “I woke up looking forward to reading your book. That’s how good it is!”

I appreciate her writing to me all the same and telling me what she thought. I really do. She was very polite and respectful. I would send her a gentle hug if I could but I’m not sure how welcome that would be. I sense she thinks I’m a tad disturbed or need counselling. For the record: Seldom Come By is not autobiographical.

The description of Seldom Come By reads:

But as the war moves towards its final harrowing days, they both discover that tragedy and terror can strike anywhere, setting their love on an unforeseen path.” 

Harrowing. Tragedy. Terror.

 Now, I’m wondering whether I should have a WARNING label on my book.

You will fall in love with people. At some point, terrible things will happen to them. BEWARE OF LIFE. 

So did you want to throw my book at the proverbial wall?

Have there been other books or films that you’ve read or watched where you’ve gone: “No, I just can’t continue.”

I have walked out of two movies in my life – I should warn you I am a wimp when it comes to horror films. I don’t do scary or horror very well. Just ask my partner, Mark, or my work mate, Alistair.

The first was The Fly with Jeff Goldblum…in the wrestling scene when he snapped his opponent’s wrist and you saw the bone pierce the skin. Gasp! Gulp! Way too graphic for me.

The second was in Cape Fear, which had a great cast and came highly recommended by Melina, a part-time actress, with whom I worked. It was good but it was terrifying. I just wanted the Robert de Niro character to die. Die!  And leave everyone in peace. Please! Near the end when he was riding under the car I just had to get up and walk out. I’d had a stressful week and wanted a relaxing, uplifting movie, not one that was going to give me a heart-attack in my late 20s.

There was another movie that I’m sure I would have walked out of, had I seen it at the cinema, and that was The Piano Teacher. Fortunately, we were at home watching it on video. Still, we had to pause it while I rushed to grab an ice-cold washer to drape over my face while I lay down and willed myself not to faint and willed myself not to think about what that woman had been doing with a razor blade. Some time later we decided we would continue. Surely it would get better. Surely this woman would redeem herself in some way? It was not to be.

So what about you? Have you had any books or movies you’ve had to pass on because the experience was unbearable? Care to share?



8 replies
  1. Row
    Row says:

    I haven’t given up on a book because it was too gruesome or detailed (although I struggled with lovely bones as a teen and most definitely didn’t want to watch the movie) The only book I couldn’t read was Dawn French’s A Tiny Bit Marvellous as much as I really tried because I just adore Dawn

    • Sherryl Caulfield
      Sherryl Caulfield says:

      I was the same with The Lovely Bones as well Row and had no desire to see the film. And that’s an interesting comment about Dawn French…I adore Dawn French too. She was great as a judge on one of those talent shows last year

  2. Michelle D. Argyle
    Michelle D. Argyle says:

    I haven’t had the chance to get to your book yet, but I will. I do hope it’s not something I’ll have to walk away from! I do have major issues with horror films, or anything too violent, for that matter. I wasn’t under the impression that your book had any of that, though. So the answer to your question is yes, there have been many movies I couldn’t finish. The Hunger Games books? Yeah, not even going there. I know I’d hate them, so I don’t even open them. I’m afraid the book I’m writing now has a scene in it that will turn off some readers, but I have to write it anyway.

    • Helen
      Helen says:

      What a shame your reader couldn’t push through that. But I understand (I think) if you are experiencing physical pain and get dished something unexpected it can be a be horrifying. I’m not easily scared or put off by tough reads so unless I simply dislike what I’m reading I carry on. But I have walked away from some books just because life’s too short for reads that you don’t get anything from. I did, however, get up to check the doors were locked last week while reading I Am Pilgrim!!

      • Sherryl Caulfield
        Sherryl Caulfield says:

        Helen, you made me laugh. And made me check out I Am Pilgrim. Sounds like a gruesome read. I think I know someone who might enjoy that. Let me know what you think when you are done!

        • Helen
          Helen says:

          I think that person who shall remain nameless will enjoy I am Pilgrim. I survived it with my nerves intact and moved on to a quieter read. But I have just taken delivery of my Book Group read which is another thriller – Defending Jacob. It sounds like a very emotional read! Bring back Rebecca and Samuel!!

          • Sherryl Caulfield
            Sherryl Caulfield says:

            Actually it sounds quite interesting Helen, a man defending his own son…

    • Sherryl
      Sherryl says:

      Hi Michelle. You just have to write it how it is don’t you? I remember reading an interview with the author of The Hunger Games who said she’d been seeing images of the war in Afghanistan and that influenced her book. I’ve send the first two movies and I have to say the violence was definitely down-played. But the concept of humans killing others for sport (like the gladiator games of old) is an anathema. Hope your writing is going well. 🙂

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