Some of you are probably reading the title of this post and are wondering, Since when is there a purpose to any sort of violence? Very true, but I’m talking about violence in speculative fiction and when it is useful and when it is just excessive.

Granted, I might not be the best person to speak on this subject. If any of you have read or are reading Snake, you are well aware that the main character is very influenced by slasher films and the Russian mafia, so violence abounds. However, in my other books I try to hold back on the violence. Why? Partly because I’m just terrible with writing fight scenes. I actually try to avoid them when I can, which is okay because in horror it’s often more about the atmosphere and character interaction than about describing a punch or a gun fight.

But the other reason is that, when I’m writing and I think about including a very violent scene in my story, I think about whether it can advance a story’s plot.

Let me explain. In Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City that I’m currently editing when I have the chance (my time is so filled up these days), there comes a scene about midway through the book where some of the characters get into an argument and one of them ends up punching the other in the face. The actual punch occupies about maybe two or three paragraphs, but the result s of it is felt throughout the rest of the novel. Both characters in this little altercation have to reassess their relationship. One has to decide if they want to continue to be friends with someone who punched them, especially since they really cared about this person and the hurt feelings and pride hurt more than the being punched. As for the one doing the punching, he is horrified about what he did in a moment of anger. He has to take a hard look at himself and really decide whether he might need to change his actions and perhaps do some growing up.

Another example is in Rose, my work-in-progress/thesis project. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Rose is dealing with a young woman trapped by magic with the stalker who resurrected her. And when she tries to get away from him, he often gets violent and dangerous. While providing some very terrifying scenes, these moments also force Rose into a dark place. She becomes frightened, and, like many abused women, starts walking on eggshells because she’s afraid of arousing his rage. Over the course of the story, Rose finds herself driven into a darker and darker place spiritually because of all she suffers. At least until certain events allow her to seek a change.

So in a way, while I detest violence and I try not to use it when I can, in certain ways like the ones above violence can advance the story and allow for character development. Of course there are many other tools that allow for character development and propelling the plot forward: romantic relationships, deceit and treachery, other non-violent events in the characters’ lives that allow them to move forward in the story. But I think of all those, violence requires a delicacy that is much harder to handle than other methods (and not to mention romance can be a bit overused). You have to use it in just the right way or your readers will be overwhelmed and turned off from reading anymore. One slap or punch or explosion too many and it can really change things, and not for the better. So for the author, it’s up to them to figure out what is the right level of violence and how best to wield it in their story. And hopefully through practice one can figure out just that.

So am I good at wielding the violence? You’d have to find that out yourself or ask one of my other readers. An author can often the worst judge at their work. But I think I do okay at it. At any rate, I haven’t had any complaints about the levels of violence in my stories or how they’re used. In fact, I’ve been told that they’re rather scary, which pleases me to no end.

How do you use violence in your stories? Do you have any advice regarding including or not including violence in your stories?

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Comments
  1. Well, its always kind of necessary if you’re writing a story with any kind of action/adventure plot. But it can always be useful, either to establish disdain for the villain, show the bad-guys comeuppance, or just to throw some non-gratuitous thrills into the fray. I always liked it when violence was done tastefully in movies. Never really got the whole “over-the-top violence as parody” thing.

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