1. Vicki LaMotta
    Offline

    Vicki LaMotta New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0

    Violence

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vicki LaMotta, Dec 10, 2012.

    There are recurring elements in my writing (as with every writer) though the most prominent, that is, according to a somewhat small group of my critics, is the inclusion of meticulously detailed, and graphic violence. Though my readers did not succeed in convincing me that the violence is to excess, they did succeed in (rather admirably, if I may add), to coerce me into a state contemplation, in which I pondered a small number of questions, each concerning the relativity, the necessity, and the very purpose of violence in literature. I'll present these to you, for I'd like your personal viewpoints of the matter, and I'd also enjoy a good discussion.

    How does violence in literature compare to violence in other forms of art, namely film, and video games? Does a more graphic description of violence necessarily have a greater impact upon a reader than one that is more tame in its description? Is violence in literature any better or worse than sexual content in literature? Can one add a comedic element to graphic violence in literature as easily as is able to add one to other forms of media?

    And, those are my questions so far.

    Thank you for your opinions in advance.
     
  2. Crystal
    Offline

    Crystal Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    1
    Well, I personally try to avoid violent movies, books, games, pretty much everything, I cringe when I look at it or read it. Idk why, perhaps I just feel terribly sorry for them, it really is strange how badly it effects me. Some people are perfectly fine with someone tearing someone's limbs off & even some take it to the extreme where they find it even pleasurable, just shows you how diverse we all can be.

    The Scream movies were turned into a more comedic element so I'm sure it's possible.

    I feel sex & romance are much different to violence as those are forms of bondings as is a handshake for instance, just taken to a different level, but still a bonding, two humans getting to the source. Violence is destruction, & perhaps I'm delusional & only want to see pretty rainbow things...well then so be it haha.
     
  3. johann77
    Offline

    johann77 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2012
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Some where between there and over there, I'm aro
    I dont have violence in any of my writings.
     
  4. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Violence has its place in literature, movies, etc. But it's overdone most of the time. Violence is often used as a cheap gimmick to evoke an emotional response. I really liked how Elie Wiesel handled violence in Night. The passages weren't overly descriptive but were still very effective. I suggest you check it out if you haven't read it already.
     
  5. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Violence should never be used for violence's sake-there's a risk of turning into sadism if not careful. When framed within whatever story line it can either be too much or too little. Because my MC's are reborn warriors-but war weary-it becomes the "if I have to do it..fine..but I'd rather outsmart you" attitude. However, when it comes, I use my military knowledge about warfare to hammer home that quite literally "war is hell" and not just a figurative comment.

    However, as a writer, I've reached the point where I write an entire plot as being nothing but violence doesn't appeal to me. My new novel has it's share (showing the death's of my main characters 100k years ago and the humanoid alien civilization they came from) in moving the plot along, there ends up being several chapter's between them that there's nothing going on with any kind of violence since part of the story's about learning how to fit in with mankind (since their race seeded man they look just like humans) when things are quiet.

    So, it has its uses but a continuous flow is too much for the average reader. However, when used correctly in the hands of a skilled writer is doesn't become a "cheap gimmick" to provoke an emotional response either.
     
  6. Jon Deavers
    Offline

    Jon Deavers Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    I don't think there is a quantifiable amount of violence that is or is not acceptable. I believe it's all down to what the story warrants. Like all things in good fiction, the actions of a story's characters need to be in service to character development, plot development, or expression of the theme. I'm also a "less is more" type when it comes to violence in most story driven media. The Hitchcock method of building suspense and then cutting away to allow your imagination to fill in the gory details has always been a lot more effective (and often more disturbing) to my tastes than a graphic depiction of violence.

    On the other hand, my wife loves slasher films, so there you go. All in all, keep it in service to the story and I think you'll be okay.
     
  7. Vicki LaMotta
    Offline

    Vicki LaMotta New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Night is a classic, just recently reread it actually.

    If you'll notice, action films that featured an astounding amount of blood, Terminator, Rambo: First Blood, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, and so forth all were good because it wasn't so much about the violence as it was the characters (Reese connecting romantically with Sarah, Rambo's difficulty coping with trauma coupled with the busive townsfolk, John attempting to connect with his mother and the closest thing he has to a father, and Ripley protecting Newt as a redemption of sorts for her own daughter). Violence was admittedly a cause of the circumstances in which these characters are forced in, but the films are most definitely not about the violence. They're about humanity, and its relationship with violence, how it must depend on violence sometimes to amount to something more meaningful.

    Though if we are speaking about more modern media , you are indeed correct.
     
  8. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Note three of those movies were written and directed by the same director: James Cameron, who, despite people complaining about the clunkiness of his dialogue, is very good at running a Dara Marks character arc in his movies, which make people interested in them. While on that note, don't forget 'True Lies' in the mix also. It goes back to concept of character arcs that I harp on when character building.
     
  9. -oz
    Offline

    -oz Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The Great Sandy Waste
    I think you answered your own question, Vicki:
    The way I use violence in my writings is to make a point. For me to go "over the top" describing violence is to let you see the MCs' perspective and to let you know this part of the story matters: one's first kill, where nightmares haunt her, eventually driving her back into adventure; or a description of the scene where one's wife and child were murdered where his pinky gets ripped off trying to protect them. (Both of these impact the story tremendously.)

    Just like everyone else has said, so long as you use it to make a point, develop characters, and progress the story, you're doing it right. It's just an option though; to each their own.
     
  10. DDNeal
    Offline

    DDNeal Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2012
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    1
    50 Shades of Grey is popular despite the fact it may have sex in excess of what was needed. If violence is your thing stick to it. Just know that you may affect who reads your stuff if you follow that path. I recently watched 7 Psychos and hated it just because it's a blood fest. The characters and dialoge were great. It might've even been a top 10 movie for me without the graphically detailed 4 imolations, 3-4 throat slittings, one head sawed off and multiple heads getting blown off in gun fire.
     
  11. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,201
    Likes Received:
    1,787
    Location:
    Australia
    My favourite script (of mine) is brutally violent. So violent that some people refuse to keep reading. I'm kind of proud of that. The body count is only 28 'on screen' kills though. I'm no a fan of the Saw films, which are just silly. I think visual violence is a bit different that text violence, because you can really get into the brutality of it yet stay away from the impact that visual representations have, which causes more sensory empathy due to the nature of how our minds work. When we see violence our minds connect to it, like when someone cuts their finger, but less so when we read it.
     
  12. GazingAbyss
    Offline

    GazingAbyss Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I don't have a problem with violence in the media I consume, but you mentioned yours is meticulously detailed. That can work, but more often than not I find it alienating. For example, the book American Psycho is full of really long, almost clinical descriptions of mutilation. It worked in context since it gives you a better idea of the state of mind of the main character, who's a sociopath who really doesn't think of his victims as people, and the point is that you're supposed to find him repulsive. You can also emphasize details that might stand out to someone who's maybe a little traumatized by the violence.

    On the other hand, if the description of the violence is coming from a character we're supposed to identify with, too many details will make them seem like they have issues. Similarly, if it's coming from a third-person narrator, it might seem like you're enjoying it too much and it'll weird at least a few readers out.
     
  13. Chris H
    Offline

    Chris H New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's hard to respond to your own use of violence without knowing what genre you write: science fantasy, crime, action thrillers? I'm split on the subject of violence: a lot of it in film is unecessary and so ridiculous it almost insults the intelligence (people punching someone without breaking the bones in their hand, people being shot with only a bit of a 'squib' for a wound.) Like most things it comes down to context. You can't have a violent character who doesn't do violent things, or a sense of dread without some bad consequence just around the corner.

    What often concerns me is when people say they 'enjoy' the detail to which they write about violence. Tell us why?
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    bravo, johann!
    it is my considered opinion, reached after a hair short of 3/4 of a century of living/observing/studying/experience on this benighted planet, that the amount of violence in both entertainment venues and advertising is sad proof of humankind's propensity for violent behavior that cannot be done away with short of changing the genetic makeup of the species [or whittling it down to a single-gendered one]...

    the continued propagation of such widely-enjoyed depicted violence can only lead to more and more of the real kind, all arguments to the contrary notwithstanding...

    and this comes from one whose pre-maia works contained some of the most inventive violence ever depicted, to my great and lasting shame, so don't discount my opinion as that of a lifelong peacenik... i am, in fact, a late-come [at 57!] converted one, thanks to finally waking up and smelling the decomposing bodies...
     
  15. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501
    Violence is a natural thing. There must be violence in any society. Don't shy away from it, but don't get too detailed or you'll put the reader off their lunch. ;)
     
  16. johann77
    Offline

    johann77 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2012
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Some where between there and over there, I'm aro
    How did you come up with that?


    Huh?
     
  17. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501
    Well, I'm not going to give any biased opinions, but in nature violence is the norm. It's the law of the land. Lions hunt and slaughter elk and zebras. These are often gruesome deaths. Humans are no different. Even a good person will have to use violence to protect the things that they love. Our brains are wired to preserve self, and we will survive at all costs. There will always be Hitlers and Stalins and Mao's that will rise up and it takes good people to meet violence with violence for the good of all. ;)
     
    1 person likes this.
  18. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    There is definitely overkill in the violence department. I'm writing a military ground battle right now, and in 20+ single spaced typed pages can count on one hand when I get graphic. 90% of the violence is described in vague and generalized tone. Why? The reader can infer what happened without having to spoon feed every little bit. Plus, if you are so violent that people put the book/script down, then you've defeated you own purpose to get published or made into a movie...
     
  19. Macaberz
    Offline

    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2012
    Messages:
    3,146
    Likes Received:
    297
    Location:
    Arnhem, The Netherlands
    Violence. I am hardly suprised that books get more and more graphical. Today's society is overwhelmed by action movies, action games. Explosions are the trademark of our century it seems. Nevertheless I feel it can have great impact, under the right conditions. Like so many things in writing I feel that good violence is consistant. If you are going to describe how bones break and all, don't cop out later on and say that guy A shot guy B, gives us the same level of detail.

    Another thing is contrast. The more you beef up the violence the longer the moments of pause/rest need to be between violent scenes. At least, that is what I'd try to do. After all, violence IS impact. Impact is strengthened by making it sudden and have it sharply contrast the rest of the writing.
     
  20. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    Like so many things in writing I feel that good violence is consistant. If you are going to describe how bones break and all, don't cop out later on and say that guy A shot guy B, gives us the same level of detail.

    Not true. A skilled writer doesn't need to keep a "high level" of descriptive violence to keep a scene moving. There's plenty of running from protective location to another in this sequence, along with the tension of moving through interior corridor, not knowing where an ambush might be, that ratchets up tension without having to go into tight detail about what happens when a bullet strikes another soldier in the chest for example.

    An easy "A bullet struck the man and he went down hard" is a effective as going into deep, gory detail. The detailed time doesn't have to be every single time. Once again, a skilled writer will pick and choose the times for when he/she wants things to be more graphic to get his/her point across.
     
  21. johann77
    Offline

    johann77 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2012
    Messages:
    83
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Some where between there and over there, I'm aro
    Yes i agree and man does at times use violence to defendd them selves. Yett, there are those who look for excuses to enact in violence just to enact in violence, which is not defence.
    Evil can be violent against other evil to turn poison into medicine.
     
  22. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I find detailed violence unnecessary - I want a good story, not good violence. If I wanted good violence, frankly I wouldn't read, I'd go watch a film. Psychological violence is both more difficult to craft and more powerful. I find physical, detailed violence a cheap shot at shocking the audience, or simply using graphic brutality as a means of enjoyment - both of which I despise. I do not mind violence being an aspect of the story, but when too much focus is put on exactly how the violence was done, you've got to question what is its purpose? It's either that the author (and reader) enjoy to see such brutality and relish it, or that the author thinks somehow it enhances the story because it is so shocking - like a big red flag screaming "HEY LOOK AT HOW HORRIBLE THIS IS!!!!!!" - there's no class, no subtlety, and all it leaves me is a horrible image that will give me nightmares.

    This is why I've become disillusioned and disappointed with many crime dramas on TV - I used to love them. And more and more they've become extremely graphic - I want a good mystery and see how the detectives are gonna solve the puzzle - if I wanted brutal violence I would be watching Saw, not crime dramas. For this reason I've increasingly steered away from American crime stuff and am becoming ever more attracted to the British ones.

    And when an author does particularly gruesome stuff in their novels, I start questioning what kinda characters they are - and it's never anything good. Why would you want such pictures in your own heads? How do you come up with such things? It's not a healthy indulgence.
     
  23. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    501
    Look, we can debate this all day but the truth is very simple. Practically all invertebrates have agression, which leads to violence. In human brains, aggression releases dopamine which makes us feel good. It's the same pathway that sex is indulged. People read sexual literature quite voraciously.

    When people read books, they become the character and if the character is acting in an aggressive or violent way, the brain releases dopamine and we enjoy it. It's a way for people to feel these primal rewards without actually performing them individually.

    We like football, we like hockey, but we love the fights. Our heart rate quickens during a NASCAR crash.

    This is all very elementary biology and not really worth debating. People will read it, people will enjoy it and a small number of people will be offended.

    ;)

    ~ J. J.
     
  24. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,380
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Too true, and perhaps, the very reason I could not get through American Psycho, I kept thinking who is the nut that wrote this?

    I like a mood to be created, the growing feeling of unease. I don't think a lot of writers understand the subtley of
    creating a mood so like a surgeon dictate every detail confusing graphic for scary, or even sexy.
     
  25. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    We should always be evaluating our stories for whether or not any given scene works. Period. We shouldn't be worrying about whether or not the violence is acceptable or if we should avoid all violence and go solely for "psychological violence" or go for a gore fest or any of that. That should be a secondary concern to whether or not what we've actually written works. And the only way to really know that is to examine what we've written. Vague concepts about whether violence in stories is good or bad might make for interesting discussion but not much more. Violence in stories will be either good or bad largely depending upon the strength of the writing and the scene's necessity to the story.
     

Share This Page