Everything in Moderation

First, an apology for the spotty updates.  No excuses here, I’ve been a slacker.

When I wrote my last post, I knew which subject to follow it with: violence and gore.  What do violence and gore have to do with sex?  Well, outside the world of fetishes, violence and gore and sex are linked very closely.  All of them can be graphic, they all generally get a strong reaction from readers, and they’re best used in moderation.

Sure, just as there are Harlequin romances, there also exists the literary equivalent of slasher flicks, where blood and guts almost drip from between the pages of the books, but such stories sell to a more specialized audience.  For everyone else, you can’t overdo it if you want to sell.

As with sex, the question you need to ask yourself when you have violent or gory scenes in a story is, what is this doing for the story?  Are you just trying to shock your readers, or are you trying to get a reaction from your characters?  There isn’t a one-size fits all rule for putting violence and gore in your writing, but there are a few things to consider.  First, with violence and gore, as with strong language, less is more.  You won’t shock readers, if that’s your intent, if your story has non-stop gore and graphic violence, and you run the risk of not only desensitizing or turning your readers off, but also going over the top, from serious to comical.  Second, if you’re trying to sell your stories to magazines, a lot of magazine editors specifically warn against graphic, gratuitous gore and violence.

If you’re unsure if a graphic scene is just there for the sake of itself or not, the easiest thing you can do is to read a version of your story where the scene in question takes place off-camera (assuming that the violence had to happen in the first place) and ask yourself if it weakens the story at all.  The other question to ask yourself, or your characters, is what effect violence has.  How do such acts of violence affect your characters?  If your hero commits acts of casual violence without thought, are readers going to keep rooting for him or her?

Until next time, keep writing.

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About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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