For the Love of Violence

I was trying to decide if I wanted to do this as a thought piece or a poem.  The former won because I didn’t think the latter would work too well.  This is actually connected to when I did a week on the ‘Perverted Character’ and got some rather visceral reactions.  A lot of strong opinions against it, references to real life crimes, refusal of redemption, and the list goes on.  I found this odd since I’d written posts on assassins, serial killers, warriors, and many others who solve problems through violence.  Not a single condemnation on any of those fictional types and people never brought it into reality.

Now, I already touched on the why and such during that week, so this could end up being a rehash.  People would rather battle over sex than touch on the violence.  In fact, we couldn’t stay on the topic of violence for very long.  So, I’m actually not really sure where to go with this topic . . . Time for the seat of my pants.

Personally, I think it’s easier for all of us to create a mental and emotional distance when it comes to fictional violence.  While we see a person dying on screen or in a book, we know that there isn’t a real person being hurt.  A big reason for this is because we don’t always have that kind of experience to make it real.  Some people do and might react differently to seeing violence, but the majority of humanity doesn’t have that in their history.  Yet, most people have some connection to sex and attraction.  This makes it more real and we can picture it better.  We can also see ourselves being in a sexual situation with more ease than violence.  This is just what I get from talking to people, so you might not be in this boat.

Another thing is that we are bombarded with violence to the point where we build up an immunity.  It’s part of our entertainment.  Even some children shows will demonstrate a punch or something get hurt.  You would think this creates a sensation of it being more real like what happens with sex, but we get desensitized a lot more to violence.  It could be because there’s no shame or apprehension about showing it.  The villain needs to get punched.  Death is part of life.  You need to fight, sometimes physically, to protect what you hold dear.  We rationalize violence to the point where it is seen as a viable action when faced with a problem.

The difficult thing is that violence in fiction does capture attention because it’s a form of action.  We, as a species, love to be excited and action is one way to do it.  My stories would be really dull if the champions defeated the Baron with the shaking of a finger.  Maybe it’s because bullies and those who do harm tend to only listen to the same tools that they use, which is violence.  You can’t see it done any other way in some situations, so to remove violence would severely limit the types of stories you can do.  Even a chase scene will have some violent aspects such as crashing into things and breaking stuff.  It may seem we’re trapped with this being an acceptable tool in our creative arsenal.

So, what does everyone else think of violence in fiction?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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20 Responses to For the Love of Violence

  1. L. Marie says:

    I think of violence as a means to an end. You can’t discuss war or certain types of crime without depicting violence. I can’t help thinking of the first Wonder Woman movie, which was all about war. Wonder Woman knew she would have to fight, which was exactly what she did.

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  2. I don’t have a problem with violence in fiction, though the level of it that’s acceptable depends on the intended audience. I’m not just talking about age related audience differences either, because I think the level that’s acceptable depends on the genre too. For the record, I think the amount of sex that’s acceptable also depends on the intended audience. Oh, and I think you might be right about why we’re more accepting of violence. Sex is still more of a taboo subject than violence. Returning to the subject of violence itself though, I think it also depends on the type of violence and the individual reader to when it’s going to be acceptable, since exposure to certain situations, along with personal beliefs, may colour the person’s perception, and make something one reader wouldn’t bat an eyelid at seem like a dreadful thing that ruins the book for another.

    In short: there’s no one right answer to this. All you can do is figure out what you think is acceptable when you’re writing it, and hope nobody hates you for thinking that way.

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  3. You’ve been on fire with these topics. I think we all wonder about them, and struggle to find that sweet spot for our readership. When you give us a forum for that, it’s helpful. I also think the character plays into the violence. One character might get violent out of desperation, while another one buys the land and builds a condo in violence central. I have to relate it to myself again, but people would be disappointed with Clovis if he were not violent to the point of cruelty. Oh, and I may have thought up a loveable pervert character: Howard Wallowitz.

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    • Good points, but I’ve seen a lot of hatred aimed at Howard Wallowitz. There are Internet essays out there on how horrible the character is even after he’s married with kids. Kind of shows that whole ‘no forgiveness for sex’ side of society while people love killers such as Rambo.

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      • It’s an interesting case study. Thought police will intercede, even if Howard has no luck at all. They want to regulate his thoughts. There was an era when slash films were popular (I hated them) that you could predict the first victim because she had sex. It had to be punished. Slashers brings me back to violence. We never really get to know those characters, only that they are the monster.

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      • Ah, the era of Jason Voorhes the Sex Police. That was really low key anti-sex too. Many people saw it as funny and missed the social commentary. Think ‘Jason X’ is the one where they made fun of the trope.

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      • Never watched that many. There are statements in all fiction to a degre.

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  4. I think adventure stories need some violence. Whether it is person vs animal or another person there has to be some of it to keep the story interesting.

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  5. Frankly, I’d rather read about it than live through it. So, violence in fiction may server a cathartic role.
    Having said that, the “violence’s OK-sex is bad” notion is a particularly American thing. Violence in Europe is much more taboo than sex. Is that why European movies are perceived as boring, I wonder?

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  6. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog with the topic, For the Love of Violence

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  7. You’ve touched on something I’m also grappling with. I noticed years ago the disconnect between how people want the “bad guy” to die in the end, yet don’t necessarily want the “hero” to be committing murder. In the Disney movies, for instance, the “bad guy” often dies by falling, rather than by the “hero’s” sword or gun.

    Maybe it’s that we’re getting older and questioning things we had previously taken for granted, now that we’re the ones producing the entertainment. In my latest novella, I set out to write a resolution that specifically did not involve a battle. I succeeded, but the ending felt strange and unsettled.

    This is a mid-series novella, and I think the non-violent conclusion is a way to show that there’s more of the story yet to come. But my readers will have to tell me, eventually, whether the battle-less ending really works.

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    • It does seem like companies don’t want to show the heroes killing in more kid-oriented stories. Yet, I’ve gotten many emails from readers wanting the heroes to kill even minor annoyances. The popularity of Game of a Thrones was built a lot on killing too, so it could be people expecting violence in fantasy that’s geared towards adults.

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