1. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Writing a reaction to violence

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by iolair, Mar 2, 2009.

    In a scene of my novel, I have a teenage boy who, for the first time, is involved in a serious (life or death) violent encounter.

    He's obviously very shocked. I've currently written that he wets himself as a result. Is this too much / too unpleasant a thought for the reader? Does it help show that the violence itself was an unpleasant experience? Would fainting or vomiting or some other physical reaction convey this better, or be better in terms of reader reaction?
     
  2. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    It really depends on the character. Somebody might wet themselves; somebody might vomit; somebody might faint. (I'm the type, for example, who would probably faint.) Ask yourself which thing your particular character would be most likely to do?

    Wetting oneself isn't too unpleasant to convey shock. Just as long as it fits your character.
     
  3. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    I have to agree with tehuti88 if this action fits your character then I think it will convey the proper amount of shock.
    Good luck
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    As Tehuti said, whatever suits the character.

    As a reader I don't like to be spared at the cost of realism. Cutting out or limiting natural reactions would only constrain your story and reduce the impact it should have.
     
  5. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    One of my favorite shows (intended for a relatively young audience outside of the US - doesn't quite make that rating where I am) involves a preteen boy vomiting, wetting himself, then lying in it overnight after a bit of violence. It definitely made me uncomfortable, but it's also supposed to.

    I say, don't pull any punches... though, I know the feeling. I have the weirdest problem with directly saying the name of specifics in the genital area or any of their synonyms. :rolleyes:
     
  6. Marshmallow
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    Marshmallow Member

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    I personally feel that you're going about it wrong. Write for yourself, not others. Sure, writing is the transmissionof messages through the writen word, but you shouldn't sit down and say "how can I make what comes out of my head better for everyone else?"

    And yes, the fitting-the-haracter thing too. :p
     
  7. Yitz
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    Yitz Member

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    Just a thought...


    sometimes I wonder if the "wetting self" thing isn't a bit overdone.
    I've honestly heard of more people vomiting rather than wetting themselves in a
    similar situation. Unless he's a totally timid and shy person, the wetting may be
    a bit cliche-ish in my humble opinion, but the vomiting may convey a sudden release
    of stress and fear/anxiety. Then again, there may be those who feel the whole
    vomiting bit is over done.
    Either way, I don't think it's inappropriate or over the top in any way. Just so long as
    you make it realistic and believable, I doubt you'd have any problems.
     
  8. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    Wetting himself is okay, just make sure not to skimp on the mental processes involved here.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally have a hard time believing that something like that would actually happen. People over the age of twelve generally only do that when they have completely lost control of their body. How shocked is? Things like vomitting are as much a reaction to gore as they are to fear and loss of control, and it's never voluntary unless you have an eating disorder, so it's a lot more likely that peeing involunarily.
     
  10. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    Wetting oneself is not too uncommon in fiction, I've read it quite a few times actually. I think that between wetting pants and blowing chunks, it depends on the character and the situation.

    Wow, what an immature post on my part. :rolleyes:
     
  11. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Keeping your bowels closed, especially if your bladder is full, requires some amount of effort. This is why people, uh, "leak" when they die. If the event is traumatizing enough, then yes, it's quite believable that this person could wet himself.

    Personally, I tend to think that wetting oneself is a sign of fear, while vomiting is brought on by something vile, such as seeing death for the first time. So in your case, vomiting may be a more fitting reaction.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the wetting/vomiting thing is overdone sometimes, and I'm pretty tired of it, to be honest. I mean, in every film or TV serial, someone has to throw up at the first sign of emotional unheaval.

    I just asked my husband, though, and he said that when he was doing his military service, some of the young lads DID throw up or even wet themselves under certain severe circumstances. (As a commando, he was involved in very intense fighting against terrorist insurgent groups) He said it happened less if they felt complete confidence in their officer (meaning his soldiers didn't have this problem!)
     
  13. lilix morgan
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    lilix morgan Contributing Member

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    If it's what your character would do, then it's what they would do. Don't take into acount if it's over-done or under-done, just think about how your character would react under the pressure.
    Personally, I'd probably flop over onto the ground unconscious, then as I thought about it later, then I'd blow chunks, or at least give a dry heave or two and skip eating for a while.
     
  14. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Thanks for your feedback :)

    A little more info about where I'm trying to go with this. The relevant scene is at the start of the story, and is one of three violent incidents the kid is involved in. During the first, he has to get involved in the violence and, losing control of his actions, temporarily believes he has killed one of the bad guys. His reaction needs to be strong because (a) he's not used to "real" violence and (b) he's repulsed at what he thinks he's done.

    An important part of the story is showing this teenager's growing up, progressing from a boy to a man - so later he is more responsible and takes control rather than things just happening to him or reacting instinctively. For this reason, it's important to show him overwhelmed in this first incident in order to show the contrast with how he handles the later two.

    Wetting himself I "liked" (ewww) because it's a kid kind of reaction, to show where he's coming from - we know he's on a journey to manhood, but he's not very far along it. And also vomiting in particular does seem to be used often for this kind of thing, it's becoming a cliché.

    (In my personal first violent incident, once it was over, I didn't involve any kind of bodily fluids afterwards, though I did go pretty hyperactive and my head was swimming. I think there are a huge range of physical reactions to violence).
     
  15. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    If it works for the character, then leave it. Don't worry about reader reaction; in fact, if you are hoping for a shocked, kind of "EAUGH!" kind of response, you might get one, particularly out of me!
     
  16. biggergib
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    biggergib Member

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    As a reader, any character over twelve who wets themselves because of this will lose a lot of my respect. I know it sounds harsh, and I'm probably in the minority. Im not one of those macho guys or anything, but it just seems a bit unrealistic. I think crying, puking, screaming, running, silence for a few days, nightmares, etc. are more likely.

    I have witnessed some violent things in my day (certainly not murder) but i have had reactions ranging from sadness and fear to feelings of anger and retaliation. Like stated before, it really depends on the character. If he is really weak, a little slow, or something to that effect, I say do it.
     
  17. lilix morgan
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    lilix morgan Contributing Member

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    Yeah, vomiting is immediately seen anymore, just check South Park. XD Stan or Kyle hurls like, twelve times over every time he sees Wendy and just gets butterflies.

    Personally, the first real range of violence I'd gone through, well, I didn't puke or anything like that, nothing nasty, but I was shaking for about an hour afterwards, adrenaline rush and all. My mind was racing, too, which I figured was kind of natural. That's generally the basics, anything else after that is touching extreme in most people's minds.
     
  18. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I don't get it... Crying--something that many assume is a sign of weakness--is okay with you, but losing control of bladder function is not? :confused: I'm not saying you're wrong, I just don't see how that works.
     
  19. BillTrain
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    BillTrain New Member

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    I think the wetting himself is plausible. It depends on what works for the character...but also what you're trying to evoke in the reader. A kid who pees himself would seem more vulnerable and less culpable if I were reading.
    BT
     
  20. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I find this an interesting question, but I would just naturally assume that a writer would not even CONSIDER whether or not this is acceptable.

    We have all read stories with all manner of crude or horrid situations, so why is it that you think it would be unacceptable? And I ask this in earnest, and not to be rude or sarcastic.
    I had a scene where a man cuts another persons' cheek and the blood splatters onto a girl's visage.
    Never once did I think, "Hm, maybe it's too much?"
    Then again, maybe I'm just not considerate enough.

    After all, the whole time I was thinking, "Man, this is awesome!"

    Hah hah.
     
  21. Khengi
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    Khengi New Member

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    Not to be offensive, but sometimes I hate hearing 'that is SO overdone'. Y'know, crying when your parents die is also overdone, it happens SO much.

    Ok, done ranting.

    Like everyone has said, if it fits your character. What type of character is he, though? As a Martial Artists, we've been taught to control the anxiety associated with stressful situations. This stress and anxiety causes a stomach pulse that rises into your heart, and then plummets into the lower level of your stomach (thus where the term 'my stomach dropped' came from). This causes vomiting due to the high level of nausea caused by the effect of a very sharp and sudden drop in the stomach and abdominal region (not to mention the heart rate increases 10-fold). I write this from experience, before training, and I will admit that some fights I'm in cause this feeling to rear it's head.

    We're trained to handle the situation simply by regulating the heart rate. When I saw my cousin die before me, the person I was with did indeed vomit. I assessed the situation and called for help. I did not 'pee' myself or vomit, but I acted intelligently because I was TRAINED for it.

    So, is the teenager trained for it? If not, he may go over what I described above.

    Note: I've never seen someone wet their pants in reality, anyways :p
     
  22. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Wow, that was inspiring. Very interesting and educational!
     
  23. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    You're right, I mean this is extremely mild compared to, say, the opening two chapters of "The Gargoyle".

    However, my concern is not about the unpleasantness or otherwise of the act itself. (perhaps I didn't make this clear enough in my original post, but I'm not sure I was clear to me what my concern was when I posted it!) The bigger issue is whether, as biggergib would apparently find, it would put people off getting to know the character - and also if it's seen as a realistic reaction from (more or less normal) a 13 or 14 year-old boy.


    Khengi: nice post. Actually my boy is a martial artist too, training under his father who's also in this scene. (I've trained in assorted MA for 22 years, so it tends to sneak into my stories somewhere), but he's also quite naive and definitely not streetwise. This is his first time in a real, full-on situation, and not one particularly close to what his training has prepared him for.
     
  24. crimsonrose
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    crimsonrose Senior Member

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    I think wetting yourself is a perfectly normal reaction. As long as it fits with how your character is. Just don;t be too comical when describing it ;)
     
  25. Phifty2
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    Phifty2 Member

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    I would saying crying is a more natural reaction when exposed to violence. Not hysterical sobbing but crying because the safe little world you that you knew has just been shattered.
     

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