Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joyriding To Thuggery

In the hands of a good writer, violence can excite, move us to tears, cheer the underdog, and most importantly, move the plot along in a seamless direction of completeness.

In the hands of a bad writer, violence can be cartoonish, over the top, a turnoff, give the wrong impression and most importantly, make the reader go, "feh." and throw the story away.

When I first started writing this "novel" back in '05/'06, I had no real idea on where I wanted to go with this. I merrily chugged along, completely oblivious to the fact that this story was making absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Because I was so oblivious to that particular fact, I was adding all kinds of mayhem and violence to the mix. Why? Probably because I had so much anger inside of me (remember kids, never write when you're angry, unless there is a stated need for it) that it was bound to make its way into the story.

So whenever I got stuck at a particular scene, the first thought that cropped into my head was, "Let's have the characters beat the snot out of each other."*

*Second thought was, "Oh, let's have the characters fuck the shit out each other," and thus instant sex scene in excruciating detail.

And thus, a cardinal rule of writing was basically ignored: do not write a violent scene for the pure sake of having a violent scene.

To whit: I had my characters beat the snot out of each other with phone books (had a particular affinity for that item), beat downs in the back seat of cars, in the front seat of cars, public beat down in bars and restaurants, shoot 'em up with nasty guns, and my sentimental fave, disembowelment. Oh yes, can't forget kicking someone to death and using a chainsaw to dispose of the body.

Yeah, I was a lean mean writing machine when it came to violence. My scenes of violence were overly cartoonish (like how many times can you beat someone up with a phone book and expect them to come back time and time again?), or incredibly disturbing (like hot candle wax on a woman's....breasts).

And if that wasn't enough, I threw in a few scenes of violence directed towards inanimate objects (what did I know? my descriptive writing sucked back then, so I needed a crutch to help get the job done).

Now if you think that this book was all violence and mayhem, it wasn't. There were moments of tenderness, of genuine warmth and love sprinkled quite liberally throughout the book. Problem was that the scenes of violence more often than not, completely overwhelmed and destroyed those particular moments. Which was pretty weird since this book was my first attempt at a romance.

In any event, I continued mixing scenes of unmitigated and disturbing violence with scenes of borderline porn and every conceivable sexual frivolity known to man.

Little did I know that the worst was yet to come, and that I was to establish a particular notoriety that I am still trying to live down to this day.

Not sure if there really is any question to be derived from this post. All I'm trying to do with this post is to explain to how not to write violence into a story.


  1. I don't think it's uncommon early in a writer's career to be somewhat one dimensional, focusing ona single thing in a scene, say sex or violence, rather than on multiple things. Even with experience it still takes a conscious act of will oftentimes to get the complexity of reality into a scene.

  2. I find writing good fight (violent) scenes difficult. Maybe because I grew up reading folks like Mailer and to top that would be fruitless. Still in my latest short story I have my hero going mano a mano with the bad guy.

  3. According to my husband, your writing will sell; mine doesn't have an audience. LOL. He says that I'm too white bread for commercial acceptance. He's probably right! Interesting to see how you give that punch to your writing with violence into a story. I know that I couldn't do it well at all. Readers respect writers who take those risks and bare those kind of raw emotions with strong imagery. G, I think your readers will feel charged by your writing. That's a good thing.

  4. Well I haven't read your book so I can't comment on the contents as such. But I gotta hand it to you G - it takes balls to admit you've done something wrong. So well done-and I'm sure as a writer you can only get better:)

  5. Charles: True.

    I know early on in my writing I was very often one dimensional with my writing. I probably didnt't really start to buckle down in earnest until I started blogging in '08, and was able to pick up on tips and see examples on how something should be done.

    I'm getting better, but it still is a running battle trying to get that necessary balance.

    David: I agree its tough. The main reason why I went so overboard, I believe, is that I had a lot of repressed anger that needed to come out and it did in the easiest way possible.

    Still, writing individual fight scenes like you describe is something I haven't really tried. For the most part everything I've written that contained fight scenes have all been one sided. My latest project will be going into that previous uncharted territory of mano-a-mano, so I'll probably start drifting around to see how others write that kind of stuff before giving it a shot.

    Kelly: I believe they would. The issue for me is trying to find that right balance of just enough and too much. Too much is what this book had and I developed a bad rep in the chat rooms because of it.

    Violence does have its place, but it has to work within the context of the story, otherwise its just brings a story to a screeching halt.

    Jane: Thanks. It took me a long time to realize that this book shouldn't have been pubbed and instead become a deeply buried trunk novel.

    I have no problem pointing out the follies of what I've done over the years because I really want to show people how not to do something.

    Others may not realize that what they're writing is crap but if they see something similar in my stuff to theirs, hopefully it becomes a good wake up call.

  6. When I hit a wall, I tend to think of bathroom humor

  7. Bearman: Whatever works to unclog the drain, so to speak. Personally, sex does it for me.

  8. Quentin Tarantino called. He wants to buy the movie rights to that book of yours. ;-)

  9. S.R.: Ahhhhh, I just see it now, the sequel to "Pulp Fiction"...:D

    R: I thought you would. :D

  10. Your writing will only get better with this sort of analysis.
    I don't write fiction, I don't think I could do the violence though. I don't have it in me.

  11. ExtraO: I think you're probably right that in the long run, this kind of self-analysis can only help.

    For the most part, I've shied away from writing this kind of over the top violence in my later and current stuff, simply because the feedback I got early on from people who read the rough draft did say that there was a lot of anger bleeding through into the story.

  12. Congrats on the published story. I am also a writer and I actually find it fun and easy to write about violence or supernatural events - not sure what that says about me, though, ha.

  13. I Wonder Wye: Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    Thanks for the congrats, although I'm hoping it was for my short story and not this self-pubbed book.

    I flavor a lot of my writings with sex, so if you think people wonder about you with violence, people usually have problems reconciling me the person with me the writer.


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