When Gore Is Required: Need a Washcloth?

I’ve had a few posts on gore thanks to War of Nytefall.  It’s not surprising since we’re talking about vampires here.  Limbs and heads have been removed. Bodies cut into various pieces with the mention of blood.  A few mentions of guts when an organ gets removed or damaged then regenerates.  In my opinion, it’s been fairly tame, but you never now how people will react.  I had people dislike the violence and gore in Bedlam, so it’s best to cover bases.

So, why would I be bringing this up again?  Well, Ravenous has a gore-dependency in it, but not in the way you would think.  There aren’t bodies getting shredded every few pages or blood getting splattered around for shock value.  It all revolves around Desirae Duvall’s main power, which is at the core of the story.  This isn’t a neat and tidy ability, so having her use it requires a lot of yuck.  I try to minimize it as much as I can, but there is only so much that I can do.  Honestly, it’s probably milder than I realize, but we’re back in that ‘you never know’ category.  Since there’s no way for me to have this character and story without the gore, it has to stay.

Of course, this brings up a question.  Over the years, gore has been used primarily for shock value and gross outs.  There hasn’t been any real story use to it when you look at mainstream.  It can be done to create a rather visceral reaction of hate, anger, fear, or disgust.  For example, a TV series where characters are routinely killed in grotesque fashion can get fans to react in certain ways thanks to the gore.  Yet, this is still shock value and loses its impact after a while.  Not only for that series, but for everyone else because the audience goes ‘seen one intestine lasso battle, seen them all’.  This means gore in general loses its ability and only those who are easily flustered by it will be having a real reaction.  So, is there another use for gore besides the commonly used shock value?

My personal opinion is that you can use it for story if done in a certain way.  Anything that deals with cutting people open either legally or illegally will have a level of gore.  If you’re going to write a story from the perspective of a doctor or a serial killer then you may need to point out some gross parts.  It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but the blood and guts can be seen as a necessary aspect.  Maybe the gore is what drives a character to act or think a certain way.  Using it sparingly will increase its effectiveness in the story, but you still have to be careful about utilizing it solely for shocking people.  It’s easy to prepare someone for what they’re about to see here.  With Desirae, I made it a shock once or twice when she used her powers early on, but after that was at least one action that warned people what was coming.  You can point out that a surgeon is putting his scalpel against the skin, which acts as a warning. The serial killer can brandish the knife and get closer, so a reader prepares for it.  These help move the story along, establish parts of a character/world, and doesn’t rely on shock.

Now, gore isn’t for everyone and you can find ways around it.  Heck, I do that when it comes to sex scenes.  You know it happens and see the aftermath, so you can always go the route of a character describing what they saw.  So, I can’t really say that gore is a necessity in anything.

So, what do you think about gore and if it has any uses beyond shocking people?

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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26 Responses to When Gore Is Required: Need a Washcloth?

  1. V.M.Sang says:

    I don’t think anything should be used purely for shock value, Charles. If it’s essential to the story, then it should go in. If not, leave it out and hint at what happens. Sometimes what isn’t seen is more frightening than what is shown.

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    • Shock value can have its uses. Hitting at the right time can get a reader to become more invested. This can’t be overused though. I’d say 1-2 shocks per story and, as you said, they need to have some impact.

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  2. I’m with you, but I think it’s a tool. If you’re going to include it you need to make it important. Plenty of cozy mysteries sell like crazy with no gore involved. I’ve also grown accustomed to the “wet scene” like in the opening of every episode of Bones. They kept trying to outdo last week. (Sometimes they did, too.) It works really well with an emotional tie. For example, read Guns of Perdition, the debut from Jessica Bakkers. It doesn’t happen until near the end, but it will stick with you.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    It really depends on the story. It’s difficult to do a war movie without gore. (Can’t help thinking of Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart.) If it’s used for shock value or to outdo what was done before (I’m thinking of the review videos I watched for It Chapter Two), I wonder how effective that strategy is.

    Though I tend to be a little squeamish, I had to to there while writing a knife fight scene. Can’t be antiseptic when two combatants are going at it with blades.

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    • The outdoing might work for some people. Think it appeals to the short attention span and desensitized groups. Not much else though because it can create members of the second group.

      I’m fine writing it actually. Not watching. It’s weird.

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  4. L. Marie says:

    I meant “I had to go there” rather than “I had to to there.” 😀

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  5. I try to avoid gore. I did it one time when John Cannon shot a guy in the head at close range and got blowback of brains and blood on his sleeve,. John got sick and so di I. I decided not to do that again. Good post, Charles.

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  6. I have no problem writing or reading gore if it’s part of the story, not just for the sake of it. I write dark fantasy horror so gore is kind of part and parcel. I don’t shy away, but I don’t have it in for the sake of it either. One scene in my last book was very gory but so necessary that I wasn’t going to tamp it down. Some readers have said they struggled through it but understood why it was necessary. Same goes for sex scenes. If they’re story driven, sure, toss them in. If it’s just to show ‘bits’ … keep it for the erotica section 😁

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  7. Reblogged this on Jessica Bakkers and commented:
    Those of you who have read my book understand that I don’t shy away from gore in my writing. Charles discusses gore in writing in this eloquent post, and has some very poignant points to make about a bloody mess.

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  8. 80smetalman says:

    My last novel involved a school shooting where I was tempted to use blood and gore on a “Saving Private Ryan” scale but I thought it wasn’t a major need for it in the story. That said, it wasn’t gore free either. I have no problem with the use of gore in writing if it fits the purpose. If you are writing a horror story about a made psycho murderer killing everyone with an axe, then gore is definitely needed. However, there’s little need for it in a romance novel.

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    • Genre certainly sets the standard. You bring up a good point about there being some gore in scenes too. Many look at it as a ‘severe or nothing’ tool. There could be levels that an author can consider to make it work for their story.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your picture is so cute!
    Seriously, in a vampire novel, some blood is to be expected. I am more surprised by how your characters can have limbs torn off and almost instantly re-grow them.

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    • Figured it was the best ‘gore’ picture I could do without upsetting people. Glad I remembered it because my first idea was having a picture of Al Gore.

      It isn’t really instant regeneration. Most times, they simply reattach. There are those with enhanced healing too. Also, a Dawn Fang can push extra blood to healing if they need a boost in a pinch. It’s tiring, but an option. So, there are mechanics involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post, Charles. I find that it’s so reader dependent. I had drowned dogs in a recent book that has a flood and my beta readers all had a fit! But drowned rats? Perfectly fine. The same goes with gore, I think. There’s this invisible line. And great point about preparing the reader for a particularly bloody scene. Personally, I like the surprise factor, but a lot of readers don’t.

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