December 07, 2019, 03:38:42 AM

Author Topic: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?  (Read 3866 times)

Offline Ben

I much like many of my fellow posters here have been greatly enjoying the resurgence of grit (Grimdark if you want) in fantasy. But some books have left me wondering if some authors are trying too hard to tell their stories in the grittiest way possible.

For example I recently read The Iron Wolves by Andy Remic and I found that the characters both male and female became almost laughable at the amount of nastiness and grit that was attempted. Don't get me wrong, for the most part I enjoyed the book and the combat was visceral and well written but every character was a caricature of toughness. I also found The Grim Company by Luke Scull to be a little guilty of this. If found the most interesting character was the Half-mages assistant.

Now I think that most of us can agree that A Song of Ice and Fire is the flag bearer of current this gritty fantasy with Joe Abercrombie as the heir apparent. But I find that these two whose characters and world are hard as nails seem to be able to perfectly blend the gritty darkness with a touch of levity that just works. From a touching scene between Tyrion and Jon Snow on the edge of the wall to a scene of Logan Nine-fingers talking to his cooking pot because he believes it is the last of his companions they don't make their characters appear to be almost inhumane.

I don't know. It's just something that seems to ring between my ears when I read some of these books. There are other examples, but those were to the ones that jumped out at me.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 08:17:04 PM by Overlord »

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be to gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2014, 05:38:45 PM »
I think the problem is that writers try to push down this grit when they don't have, as you said, the little pockets of hope or humor to lighten it up. Darkness is fine, but there can't be solely one or the other. People find hope in the worst of times, and I think if you push "the grit" too much, it becomes tiresome or laughable.

What I'm trying to say (and I think I lost it about halfway through) is that you need to make your reader care for your characters before you throw all hell in their face. And, if you just make them all scarred and tough, you end up with two-dimensional caricatures as the entire cast. Nobody wants that.
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Offline Dornish First Sword

Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be to gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2014, 08:30:29 AM »
I agree with you both about it being the result of a wrong footed choice by the author. I'd say it all depends on the intention of the writer and how the story is put together. By that what I mean is is being "gritty" in service to the story or to the ego of the writer, is it there just because they want a gritty story.
 If it is just scenes thrown in there for the sake of gratuity to make push the envelope then I like to think the majority of us readers will see it for what it is. It's also a question of personal preference some readers may find trite nonsense the gritty tone of novels that appeal to me.
 I personally love the fact that many novels these days put the gore or violence in your face, I think it is a mark of maturity and respect for the readership that such things aren't glossed over. However it certainly doesn't mean I need every page to filled with it, or for it to be out of place for example in
Spoiler for Hiden:
Lies of Locke Lamora the scene with the bag was brilliant it served the story immensely whilst also being graphic and nauseating
it fit within the story and the world, you could understand why it happened and why it was there no one would think it was tacked on for shock value despite it's obviously high shock factor.
 The real culprit in being "too gritty" is simply poor authorship I think.
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Offline SirGrimdark

Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2014, 08:26:12 PM »
I think there can be attempts by authors to try and be very gritty and grim, and can at times  read as very contrived. I first thought this of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns, but I soon realised there was more to it and the violence and dark prose was just another tool to the story/characterisation.

Some times, things can be far to contrived to be a simple tool to tell the story. When violent characters and gritty veterans become archetypes, then it becomes a problem for some. Though saying something is "too gritty/grimdark," would be derived from one's personality and tastes. I don't think there can be a universal excess in story. We have novels like American Psycho which make Abercrombie and Martin look like Harry Potter.

Also, I still don't know what an actual definition of "grimdark," is, other than a humorous pseudo-genre for taking the piss.

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2014, 09:37:04 PM »
Joss Whedon — 'Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.'
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2014, 01:32:14 AM »
Joss Whedon — 'Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.'
That's something that Abercrombie does quite successfully. Humour leavens a lot of things out. Absence of it becomes very wearing on a reader.
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Offline Eagle

Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2014, 05:37:14 PM »
It certainly is possible to be too grim. If a book is filled to the brim with nothing but pain and horror and lacking in interesting and believable characters than the book would have nothing going for it. I believe that books that can be labelled as 'grimdark' have the opportunity to be didactic, more so than any high fantasy of the past. It ultimately stems from the need for realism in a fantastical setting. But to make reality too brutal and lacking of anything like morality, comedy or regret, you haven't got a story...you've got torture porn. 

To be too grim is to be rid of elements of humanity that make us what we are. Thankfully I haven't personally read anything that I thought was too much. I thought that Mark Lawrence was pushing it a bit with 'Prince of Thorns' but there's definitely more to the story of the Broken Empire than horrific indescribable deeds. Ultimately, it's a great sub-genre, but one I think could be easily mishandled if someone were to push the boundaries a bit too much.

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2014, 07:42:42 PM »
That's something that Abercrombie does quite successfully. Humour leavens a lot of things out. Absence of it becomes very wearing on a reader.

Agreed. My early impression of Abercrombie after reading a bit of his first novel was "Grim but hilarious." It's one of the big things that kept me reading.
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Offline Saraband

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Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2014, 09:31:40 PM »
I don't think grimdark needs humour, but it surely makes it more bearable when it gets too heavy. Particularly irony and sarcasm; these work well in every genre, but I do think they shine in grimdark.

Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence have been mentioned, and I think they are two great examples. The Broken Empire is heavier, as we are more entangled in Jorg's mind and twisted morality, and the humour is less palpable, but it is there, nonetheless.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2014, 01:48:44 AM by M. G. Boronha »
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Is there such a thing as attempting to be too gritty/grimdark?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2014, 12:15:29 AM »
That's something that Abercrombie does quite successfully. Humour leavens a lot of things out. Absence of it becomes very wearing on a reader.

Agreed. My early impression of Abercrombie after reading a bit of his first novel was "Grim but hilarious." It's one of the big things that kept me reading.
The dark humour of Abercrombie is a hallmark of the books and it's one of the things that sets them apart from other entires in the same vein. Too much of a 'good' thing though applies for most genres and sub genres. You need a balance of elements and if you overdo one or try too hard then you're likely to upset the entire thing.
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