Saturday, 25 April 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions - V is for Violence (writing discussion & fiction)

A to Z Challenge 2015 - Emotions & Reactions









This year for the A to Z Challenge, I'm investigating emotions and reactions and their use to in writing. So, I'll be talking about my first thoughts as a writer when I think about the words we use to describe emotions and my experience of their use in literature.

violence
violence: behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something / strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force.

Whether our characters are going in club swinging, sword thrusting, fists punching, guns blazing, or even claws slashing, we're in violent territory. However, I would say it's not just the violence, per say, that can tell us much about our characters, but three more things: how they avoid it; how they end up involved in it; how they handle the aftermath.

Most of us have a temper, but, for the average person in real life, it takes a lot for us to resort to violence. Less so, I would say, in genre fiction and TV/movies. I don't know about you, but I grew up watching the A Team, where, every week without fail, there would be some hopeless situation that the team had to build their way out of. Bullets would fly, stunt men would dive for cover and not a single person would get killed (well there was one fatality apparently on the A Team, but it was off screen). This is what is now quaintly termed 'fantasy violence' by the British Board of Film Classification.  Doctor Who, too, was full of violent death, now I look back at it - Daleks, The Master, The Cybermen, all destroying people left right and centre, and I lapped it up, I still enjoy watching these types of shows and reading genre books where violence is present, because it isn't real and I know it isn't real - it's thrilling instead.

However, there is some violence in books and on film that feels very real and it is meant to. War stories like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan look at the violence of war and the price paid by those taking part in it. So too, Stanley's violence towards Blanche and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire is not exciting, it is despicable, cowardly, vindictive and eventually leads to Blanche's breakdown. These kinds of violence carry a powerful message, they deliver part of the story.

So, whether our heroes are buckling their swash, or our protagonists are dealing with very real, dark situations, violence has its use in literature. Although, I will say, know your audience and be careful the message you are delivering.

QUESTION: We currently rate films for violence, what are your thoughts on why we don't do the same thing with books?
~

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24 comments:

  1. Hi Sophie .. interesting thought - but I guess we buy the book to read and won't buy it if the review says too much violence. I certainly don't go to films to see violence and avoid them like the plague ... however I see some films that are considered 'art' and not blockbusters. I'm happy with 'fun' violence .. such as the A team, Kojak I used to watch ...

    Cheers - and i don't read enough to really comment properly .. Hilary

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    1. I wouldn't want anyone to start trying to rate books, can you imagine the headache of getting anything published, it's just interesting that we control heavily what people are allowed to see, but not what they are allowed to read.

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  2. I find the acts of violence harder to wright then the aftermath or the events that lead up to the situation. Might be because the act itself is to real or hits to close to home. Then again there's the fact that I don't go to see the violence on the action or horror films, I go to see other aspects, therefore I read because of aspects of the book.

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    1. I think I'd be worried if I didn't find acts of violence difficult to write too :)

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  3. Interesting about books not being rated, I never really thought about it. I'm sure there are some folks that would like the rating, and I have seen in book descriptions things along the lines of, "contains violence or mature themes."

    I've never heard the term "fantasy violence". It's kind of funny, actually. No one dies, unless you're a "red shirt" on Star Trek, that is. ;)

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    1. It's a term we see on our film screens when the rating comes up, usually it's PG, or 12A and then in small letters sometimes it'll say 'contains fantasy violence' - I think that's what it said for the likes of Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. I think it someone strike you down with a laser gun, or magic, it doesn't count as dying! ;P

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  4. I'm not a fan of violence in books or movies, but I can at least skim over it in a book. In a movie you're often forced to sit through it unless you're watching it alone with remote in hand!

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  5. That is a good question; why don't we rate books like we do movies, TV shows and video games. Maybe its easy and less time consuming to do so in those forms than to read a book and have to rate it. I know I've read some books that have had more sex in them than I might have wanted to read but didn't know that at the time I got the book. It might have been nice to have a warning on the cover so I could make the choice before I got the book if I wanted to read it. As it is, it is easy to skim over pages like that, but would you want younger readers exposed to such topics? Very interesting thing to think about.

    I'm going to read that book you mentioned on my blog post today. Does sound fascinating. Thanks for mentioning it.

    betty

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    1. I've been used to writing fanfic, which has lots of ratings and warnings, but they are applied by the author, not by some remote committee. I do think it is good to warn people about content.

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  8. I've written zombie books. Violence is a necessary evil of the zombie apocalypse. Zombies aren't interested in being friendly. All they want to do is eat. Period.

    Precious Monsters

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    1. Yes, there are genres and subject matters where there is no getting away from violence.

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  9. Hmmm it does make sense to rate books, too. I guess they think it's not necessary because it's not visual and not as traumatic as movies. But maybe there should be a warning, at least.

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    1. It is definitely down to the visual aspect, I mean we have all sorts of laws around images and film, but not words.

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  10. Not sure why there's no rating for books. Maybe someone decided words weren't as impacting as images when it came to violence.

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  11. Well, books are separated into children, ya, and adult. There is a degree of separation in that, but nothing overt.

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    1. And that's a voluntary classification more to do with marketing than restricting access, because a child is allowed to pick up an adult book and read it.

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  12. Maybe it's because movies are a more pervasive media than books. Kids are more likely to watch and be excited about a violent movie than any book, so it's not considered necessary. Sad but might be some truth there.

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    1. Yes, you probably have something there.

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  13. It might be because there's more chance for imagination in books vs. movies and TV. Even if violence in a book is described rather graphically, we still can't see it, and have to fill in some blanks in our heads. With film depiction, everything is out there, and we can't tone anything down or bring our own interpretations.

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  14. Interesting question. It might not be a bad idea to rate books for violence like we do movies. We rate books for erotica and adult content. You've raised a valid issue.

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