Using Real Life Horrors in Fiction or, “Why would anyone write about THAT?”


Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty in 1877. If you’ve read the story you might remember the horrific chopped tail flashback, the beatings, and Black Beauty’s infected feet. Sewell’s story was so effective in educating people about the need to treat horses properly that the Massachusetts SPCA sponsored the book’s publication in the States.


Fast forward to 1995. Jack Ketchum was fond of dogs in real life but aghast at the lack of laws protecting canine family members from abuse. He pestered a lawyer pal to no end when writing Red. It’s a story about the wrongful death of a dog, and Ketchum’s fictional story brought attention to the legalities of the problem.


This time it’s Brian Kirk and his disturbing story, “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave.” It’s about a daughter rescued from the sex slave trade. Kirk could have chosen not to write about it, but that wouldn’t have made the terrible reality of the industry go away. By calling attention to such horrors, Kirk actually got death threats. You can’t read the story without feeling prompted to donate to rescue charities (like Children of the Night) or learn about how to spot possible victims.


Now it’s 2022, and my upcoming novella, Dog Meat, deals with another real life horror: the dog meat industry. There are no scenes of gratuitous violence; I wouldn’t do that. But it is a grim book. I hope you’ll give it a chance. I have no publication date yet (and I’ll scream it from the rooftops when I do), but it’s coming soon from Potter’s Grove Press.

“An animal in need is a sacred object.”


Animal Abuse Referring to the Novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell:

Ketchum’s author’s notes are found in the front matter of Red.

Brian Kirk’s story can be found in the Gutted anthology.

Feature image by Dan Smedley on unsplash.

56 thoughts on “Using Real Life Horrors in Fiction or, “Why would anyone write about THAT?”

  1. Such valid points, I feel like in our current culture it’s so easy for people to take things the wrong way and anyone with any kind of voice is at risk of being in the firing line. It’s the intention, not the content, that people should be paying attention to. Can’t wait to read your story 😁

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, sadly (but not in the US). Don’t Google it. You can’t unsee the images. I first learned about the industry during a past Olympics. The host country suspended the item on restaurant menus so as not to offend Westerners traveling to see the games. I didn’t believe our TV news coverage when it said that, so I looked it up online. Ugh, it was a shock to learn of the inhumane treatment of the animals. I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I never read Black Beauty, but now I know there’s no way I could. Same with Red. I read another book focusing on sex slave trade, and it was heartbreaking, but absolutely needs to be out there. Looking forward to your book, Priscilla!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The good thing about Red is the dog doesn’t suffer. It’s a scene right up front to start the book (so that’s not a spoiler), and the real story is about the owner’s legal struggle to hold the wrongdoers accountable. You might give it a try some day. Thanks for your kind words, Teri!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not sure I read Black Beauty. I know I saw the movie. I was unfamiliar with the other books you mentioned. They all sound like they would strike a hard chord.
    Congrats on your upcoming release!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Mae.:-) The Black Beauty film with Elizabeth Taylor is worth a watch. It’s a little sappy because Black Beauty was a children’s book, and the movie is from 1946, but it’s still good.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Another dog lover here! Yeah, I don’t think I’ll look up the dog industry, I can’t stand animal cruelty. I look forward to reading it, Priscilla.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Dog meat industry? I didn’t even know there was one. I look forward to being educated by your story…and from the sounds of it horrified. Also, BRAVO on this amazing post layout. SO clever! AND stylish!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ooo, double compliments, thank you, Courtney.:-) Yeah, the dog meat industry is a difficult and sad subject. Thanks for your bravery and willingness to give my book a go. I’ll definitely let everyone know when it’s published!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s awesome. I think the importance of art IS calling attention to real world horror. It makes an impact someplace, after all, even if it doesn’t totally overhaul the problem/issue. We have gotten far too “squeamish” about what topics to cover for fear of triggers, and honestly, that’s not what art is for–well, that’s not ONLY what it’s for, but it is an important piece of it. Art is supposed to make people think, and to help us open our eyes. I’m reading a book right now about the horrors of the Mount St Helens eruption. I had no idea how much BS went on there that ended up getting people killed. No one should’ve died in that. But it was all a lot of ugly truths–truths I would never have known about if I hadn’t read this book, and I’ve been studying that eruption on and off for years. It’s important to address the “icky.” Otherwise, we don’t learn.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Kristi. I think you “get” me. Regarding the Mount St Helens book, my daughter read a similar book called Fire on the Mountain about a Colorado fire. People died there and didn’t have to. So sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Literature serves many purposes, but it is good to remember that it has the power to change things for the better. I’ve read quite a few books that have made me think twice about many things, and I intend and hope to carry on reading those and see how they make a difference. Although I’ve never had a dog, I love them to bits, and I hope your novel can get this issue the attention it deserves. Best of luck and count me in, Priscilla!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Black Beauty was one of my all time favourite books as a child. It sounds like your book tackles some tough issues, and I’m interested to see it. One of my books, Finding Katie, is about a teen girl self-harming after abuse, and her journey to find herself. So many people won’t go near it, even though the abuse is in her past. Still, I think reads that tackle the tough stuff are more important now than ever. Best of luck with your latest book, Priscilla 💕🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Priscilla, I also write about real life situations as you know. Sometimes people don’t like reading the truth and that is a fact. Dog Meat is certainly an attention attracting title. Congratulations. If you would like to do a guest post when the book is released on Roberta Writes you can email me at sirchoc[at]outlook[dot]com.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I remember one particular story involving children, heartbreaking but an excellent read. Thank you so much for the offer, Robbie. I’ll have to remember to get in touch with you when I have a release date!

      Liked by 1 person

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