Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Portraying violence in a novel (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

egriffith

Senior Member
I have a question I'd like to present and get your opinions: How do you describe violence in a story that may appeal to a fairly wide audience? The extremes would be being so graphic that you turn off some of your readers, or being so vague that readers don't get a clear picture of what's happening.

Background: I'm writing a novel set in the early 1600's in Japan. The country was just coming out of many decades of war. It involves both samurai and ninja, both of which use deadly weapons in "up close and personal" fighting. There is a considerable amount of action in the story, but I have a friend who insists there is not enough killing and that I am not graphic enough in my descriptions.

Let me explain that I am a student of both martial arts and Japanese history. I have read 6 other authors who wrote historical novels set in old Japan (medieval or early-modern) and my story seems much more focused on action. I describe fight scenes more blow-by-blow, instead of using phrases like "a flashing flurry of swords ensued". However, I don't describe blood spray and internal organs falling out in vivid detail. Neither do the authors I've read. I also have a highly skilled ninja who has become more religious (Shugendo/Buddhist) as he gets older and avoids killing opponents. He uses a chain weapon with metal weights which he uses to knock out or disable opponents. He does kill at times but leaves many pursuers alive and completely humiliated. This is a major complaint with my blood thirsty friend, who says my characters are "too nice" or "chivalrous knights in shining armor".

Before I get into too much detail, let me ask (based on what you see here) where you think the balance is? Yes, it's a violent time and there is fighting with bladed weapons, but do I need to describe the color and consistency of the liver as it plops on the ground? Does every opponent my characters meet need to die? Let me know what you think?
 
I personally think that you should write as honestly as you can allow yourself to be regarding the violence, and then adapt it to suit your audience when you redraft your work. That's not to say you need an alphabetical list of all the injuries as they occur, each with paragraphs of visceral details! :p Having a main character unwilling to kill due to his beliefs is a good hook, and something you could probably enhance to detract from the 'lack of blood', as your friend says. If your readers are interested in your character, wouldn't they want to know how he feels when he's forced to kill, instead of a tooth-by-lung account of how his opponent is finished off? The guy's dead, kaput, forget it. The main character is the one we want to hear about. Sure, describe the snap if he breaks an opponent's arm, but you may not need two extra sentences as the limb flails around. :)
 

TheFuhrer02

WF Veterans
Let me explain that I am a student of both martial arts and Japanese history. I have read 6 other authors who wrote historical novels set in old Japan (medieval or early-modern) and my story seems much more focused on action. I describe fight scenes more blow-by-blow, instead of using phrases like "a flashing flurry of swords ensued". However, I don't describe blood spray and internal organs falling out in vivid detail.

I don't see anything wrong with this. In fact, I tend to believe that writing the scene blow-by-blow is actually good. It lets your reader see the scene.

Before I get into too much detail, let me ask (based on what you see here) where you think the balance is? Yes, it's a violent time and there is fighting with bladed weapons, but do I need to describe the color and consistency of the liver as it plops on the ground? Does every opponent my characters meet need to die? Let me know what you think?

The describing of the organ in vivid detail may not be necessary, though if you wish to say that a certain organ came out due to the force like, "He then pulled out his sword from X's chest. You could hear the cringing sound of steel rending through flesh emanate across the hall, with parts of what looked like X's heart oozing from the edge of the blade," then that's fine, I think.

For some more help regarding this matter, I suggest you check a similar thread: How to Approach Violence In Your Story - Writing Forums
 

egriffith

Senior Member
Violence

Thanks for the advice.

I feel a little embarrassed because I scanned the forum for another thread on the subject before I posted and missed that one.

Your comments make complete sense to me, and thanks for reminding me to emphasize the main character's thoughts and emotions. It's easy for me to get too factual and technical, and neglect the character's feelings.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top