1. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Editing violence

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Rosacrvx, Jan 1, 2017.

    I've noticed that I have trouble editing violence scenes in my work. While these scenes are written with the purpose of eliciting feelings from the reader, I find that they affect me as well to a point that's harder for me to edit these scenes than anything else I write.
    Violence scenes are meant to be read once or twice by the reader, but reading and editing a scene where a man beats his wife... ten times? It gets to me. I want to get out of that scene as quickly as possible. As result, I find that I'm not editing these scenes as well as the rest of the work.

    I'm mainly venting, but does anyone else have this problem?
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't - I find that editing removes me from the work to the point that I don't really get any emotion (other than frustration) from it. It's hard for me to care about the overall meaning of the scene when I'm pissed off about having used the same sentence construction three times in a row or whatever.

    I can see how it would be a pain for you, though. Hmmmm... no solutions come to mind...
     
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  3. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

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    It's sex scenes for me; I leave them out in the first place, leave huge placeholders till such a time as 'I feel it' :meh: I just don't have the faculty to put the emotion in when it's oft not within me. Comes out all matter of fact and cold to read. For a revisit for an edit, well I guess I'd start at the beginning and hope my draft has enough in it to get the, well you know...flowing again.

    Quite the opposite in your case, understandably not wanting to feel it. A lot of advice for writing violence (the real mostly unspeakable kind) is to either plough through it and take the hit or abandon it. Even abandon the genre. I think I'd agree with that but, as what's been alluded to above, you'll also become hardened with exposure. If you really want to protect yourself whilst editing; maybe pick your calm and analytical moments to do any refining and maybe do it piecemeal too? A couple of sentences at a time. Everything's more tolerable in moderation.
     
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  4. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    I suffer from the same syndrome as the OP. The worst was writing the d%$&$% thing in the first place (my first WIP, but I still remember *snort*). As for editing: I let it sit and forget about it if possible. A few days, longer, however long it takes. I write new - positive - scenes. It helps to write character advancement, get them out of the tight spot, or have a bit of fun with them. When I have emotional detachment, when I know that the characters, now, are alright, that this crap lies behind them, I can go back and edit. It's still awful, but bearable.
     
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  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't written much explicit violence, but I do have trouble sometimes with the real-life horror I write (abuse, the Holocaust, happy things like that). Sometimes I feel that the tears mean that I've written it well, but other times I wonder if I'm too close to the work to see if it's really any good or not. I do a lot by implication, and I'm not always sure if those implications are making it through. Too subtle, and no one knows, too much, and it's torture porn.
     
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  6. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My experience is rather like @BayView's - editing puts me at more of an emotional distance from the work because I'm thinking about the craft of presenting the story and whether the scene is doing what I want it to do.

    Let's face it - as writers, we are looking to bring certain realities to light, and oftentimes those realities are tough to deal with (which is why they need to be brought to light in the first place).
     
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  7. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I find it's harder for me to concentrate on the editing and notice what I need to be noticing when the content is upsetting. I eventually do, but it's harder. It takes a big effort to detach myself from the content.
     
  8. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I prefer the method of being hardened by exposure. I isolate that part and work on it until the feeling is numbed.
    But when I'm reading the story from start to finish and I get to those parts, I always feel the "punch".
    I totally understand what you say about not everyone being able to write about certain things. There are, indeed, a number of things I'll never depict explicitly. We all have our taboos and limits and we must be aware of them.
    Sometimes it also has to do with what you're trying to tell the reader with the story. It may not be necessary to paint such a colourful picture to make that point. Sometimes all it takes is to provide the right hints and the reader will fill the gaps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  9. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I know what you're saying but I'm talking about editing when the story is already finished and you're on your 10th editing. I'm talking about finding things like typos in those scenes that would be easier to find if the content was not so distracting.
    Not all stories have a happy ending, though. Sometimes that could be the point.
    Like it was said above, it's not for everyone, writers and readers alike.
     
  10. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I wonder the same myself. Am I feeling the "punch" because it's well written, or am I too close to the characters and can't tell the difference?
    To make it worse, you can't rely on one single reader to tell you this. What one person may find too much, another person will be almost indifferent to. I've had people telling me that it's too violent (usually people that don't read certain genres) while others just shrug.
    Violence is complicated.
     
  11. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    It's the same for me. In a way it's almost unsettling how clinically you end up reading scenes that are supposed to be pretty horrific and meant to elicit fear and disgust.

    But if you end up feeling sick despite a million edits, I'm not sure what to tell you. Perhaps find a beta reader or editor who's willing to give them a look after you've pruned and polished them? I used to proofread sex scenes for this one writer because her editor wouldn't touch them. Granted, it's a bit different, as the author herself had no problem reading them over and over again while in this case you'd have to trust someone else's judgment completely if you "outsourced" the editing of certain scenes. Then again, if your book gets published, it'd be checked by an editor nonetheless and they might suggest some changes to these scenes, so you could just leave them be for now and try to be happy with the work you did get done.
     
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  12. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Very good reply. That's my purpose when I have to approach violence and other hard subjects. I don't like to be explicit if I don't have to, but I want the reader to understand what it means to be in that experience.
    As a reader, I've been helped to understand a lot of unpleasant things I've never had to deal with thanks to writers who were masterful enough to show it to me.
     
  13. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    We were writing at the same time. I was just saying that in these cases we can't trust only one person's opinion.
    I would be pleased if a reader would miss a giant typo in the middle of such a scene. It would mean that the "punch" was felt appropriately. ;)
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The answer may lie in distance. Maybe you're too close to having written it, @Rosacrvx ? Are you trying to edit too soon? If so, you might want to leave it a while longer.

    Whenever you do go back, don't worry about feeling whatever you feel as you read it, especially if those are the feelings you want your readers to share. The fact that the words you wrote make you feel very emotional may mean you've done a really good job! :) Do keep an eye out for any bits that don't quite create the feeling you want, though. Anything that doesn't feel right to you? That's where you apply the most effort.

    If you become too clinical in your approach you can edit the feeling right out of a piece. However, you do need to force yourself to read through the whole thing, preferably in connection to what went before and what comes afterward. You want to achieve the right tone and the right impact on your readers, so resist the impulse to read the violent parts of the story on their own. Edit them along with what came before and what follows.

    Editing for typos is different—and easy to do. You can do that one word at a time, paying no attention to meaning. Or edit your individual paragraphs out of order.
     
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  15. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    I did this! I was in the middle of writing a fantasy story where the protagonist's love interest went through ritualistic torture and then died a horrible death in their home. I felt evil - I was enjoying the character's misery so much that every time I went back to edit, I added more - made the character suffer even more. I ended up abandoning the whole idea.
     
  16. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    Depends what feeling you want to illicit from your reader. If you want them to ignore the violence as a certain character might, you find ways to mask it as though it's normal.
    I had a professor who said something akin to, "the scenes that are the hardest to write, are the ones we need to slow down and examine, because they are usually the most important ones for character development."

    Real life thing though,
    If you have a cat that gets sick and has to be put down, don't use your own cat as the personality/name.
    First, I ended up being a grown man who cried while typing a story.
    Second, my wife read it and told me that if I cursed our cat to die, she's going to kill me. lol
     
  17. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    No, it's the opposite. It gets to me harder when I haven't read it for a long while. Maybe I'm doing a good job? ;)


    One can wish... However, I never forget that these are characters I'm very close to. There's a post above about this emotional attachment with the characters.


    I will keep both pieces of advice in mind!
     
  18. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    You abandoned the story because you felt you were being evil? (Just to clarify.)
     
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  19. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    A quick reply to the folks that mentioned sex in a thread about violence. (How does your brain work, you naughty ones? ;) )
    I don't have much problems with erotic scenes. They usually come out very naturally and I don't have to change much afterwards. But I have to be in the right mood when I first write them. It's very much like the real thing in real life.
     
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  20. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I have the opposite problem. When I read a high-tension scene like that multiple times it loses impact, so I start to feel like it's all bad...

    But in your situation I would use a certain proof reading technique; get a piece of card the same size as your paper/screen, and cut a 'window' in it about an inch square. Place it over your document and read inch by inch. You'll be reading words from different lines, so your brain won't be able to put them together into sentences, which means you miss fewer typos AND you don't have to relive the scene over and over.
     
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  21. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Yes
     

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