With all the talk about gun bans and assault rifles in the news these days, it started me to thinking about violence. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a writer (practicing or wishing you were) and, much less likely, a serial killer, say. But maybe you’ve been considering writing about a serial killer. A friend of mine is writing a novel about a thief, one who generally gets into the house and out before anyone is any the wiser. Or hurt. Our thief, however, does have some interesting and very undesirable friends. I mean really nasty in salacious and weird ways. But I love reading about them, especially as they aren’t main characters, just the ones you stare at as you’re following the main action.
I tend to edit violence out of my stories. Or work around it. Like sex, I figure it’s not easy to write a good death or rape scene, should my character even be involved in one. I have had a young character killed by a good friend. (You’ll have to read it when the story’s finally published.) A detective had to tell his mother what happened to her son. It wasn’t pretty, but at least I needed only to provide the “highlights.” I’m not sure how I would’ve handled it “in scene.”
The choice to limit violence in my writing is my own, and it’s not to say that I avoid novels that are filled with such mayhem. I absolutely adore the initial books in the Jason Bourne series (books 1-3 actually written by Robert Ludlum), and Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel filled Wolf Hall with all kinds of Tudor tortures. (I’ll let you know about Bring Up the Bodies, but look at that title!)
“In both film and literature, violence can be portrayed through characterization rather than action; for instance, tone of voice, silence in the face of need, facial expressions, attitude, even the way a person eats. They bring the force of violence to light without sending the audience into shock. How you portray violence in your own writing reflects the ways it has the greatest impact on you.”
Have an opinion on violence in writing? How do you treat it in your own work?