April 23, 2019, 04:00:51 PM

Author Topic: Torture/Cruelty  (Read 441 times)

Offline Bender

Torture/Cruelty
« on: March 25, 2019, 12:13:00 AM »
Does it really make a difference? We've had many books from WoT to Black Company to Malazan..which do not have much/any explicit cruelty to humans or animals.

Even in cases like Jorg, Cosca or Glotka, I can still appreciate the flavours of the characters even without the overt cruelty. It's my opinion that many authors feels it adds grit to story...but all it does is make a dark story cheap. Like watching a proper horror movie vs a gore movie. You can get proper dark or grimdark  fantasy without the overt cruelty / torture description.

PS: I especially hate it when it comes to animals.
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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2019, 11:55:53 AM »
Does it really make a difference? We've had many books from WoT to Black Company to Malazan..which do not have much/any explicit cruelty to humans or animals.

Even in cases like Jorg, Cosca or Glotka, I can still appreciate the flavours of the characters even without the overt cruelty. It's my opinion that many authors feels it adds grit to story...but all it does is make a dark story cheap. Like watching a proper horror movie vs a gore movie. You can get proper dark or grimdark  fantasy without the overt cruelty / torture description.

PS: I especially hate it when it comes to animals.

I agree. Jorg and Glokta are alright, just the level of gore/ cruelty that made it gritty good. I've read some grimdark where it's just gore for the sake of shock value, and that's just make those parts pure rubbish, seriously.

Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2019, 02:48:15 PM »
The question I think a writer should always be asking themselves when deciding what to put in and leave out is always the same: does the narrative structure require it? A gritty torture scene might be a pivotal point in the development of a character, and we might have to live through the awfulness as experienced by them to understand why they come out different on the other side. In that case, there's a reason for the scene to be unpleasant for the reader.

But in another case, if all we need for the story to move forward is to know whether or not the torture subject divulges a certain piece of information, then there's no need to describe the torture in gritty detail because it doesn't serve the narrative structure.

Doing anything for its own sake (grittiness for the sake of grittiness, sex for the sake of sex, description for the sake of description, etc.) means you are breaking away from the narrative structure that builds a story. Although it may sometimes be worth it in small doses, it cannot be done without a cost to the story.
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2019, 03:59:16 PM »
PS: I especially hate it when it comes to animals.

This is something I've never understood. Not that I approve of animal cruelty; I just don't get why a lot of people can tolerate a character who does awful things to innocent human beings, but then turn on him the moment he kicks a dog.
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Offline Skip

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2019, 06:38:36 PM »
It makes sense to me, especially with the modern mentality. People were less doting on animals in earlier centuries.

Anyway, my notion is that animals are more helpless. In most situations, a human could (or is presumed to be able) to fight back, whereas an animal can't. Generally speaking we're talking about domesticated animals. I don't think it's the same reaction if the animal is a tiger or some such. Exceptions abound, of course, but I do think that it accounts for the difference.
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Offline Rostum

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2019, 07:22:46 PM »
I have a real problem with how people treat animals now. Dogs tend to be baby substitutes are no longer trained and walked on puppy training leads. Cats are kept by vegans, not allowed out and forced to eat a meat free diet ensuring they are niether healthy or sane. And this is not animal cruelty?

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2019, 03:09:49 AM »
With regards to any intense content, whether cruelty, sex, violence, (and of course we all have different senses of what constitutes intense content), I think the writer should aim for a particular audience. Some, like me, cannot stand it - I do not find it entertaining in the traditional sense. That said, the cruelty in GoT made me hate the perpetrators with an intensity that took my breath and made me long for justice to an extent I've not experienced elsewhere. Like the sickening stomach-flop of a good roller coaster, I do not enjoy it - but it does make the ride more compelling.

This kind of content is one of the key areas where the adage "Show don't tell" breaks down. Sometimes, you should not show, if it will drive your readers away or shatter the overall tone or whatever. Comments about the many dead birds, cats, and dogs in a neighborhood can convey that someone is cruel to animals, and inspire the desired dread or anger without actually subjecting the audience to an animal's suffering.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2019, 03:15:03 AM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2019, 07:02:52 AM »
This kind of content is one of the key areas where the adage "Show don't tell" breaks down. Sometimes, you should not show, if it will drive your readers away or shatter the overall tone or whatever. Comments about the many dead birds, cats, and dogs in a neighborhood can convey that someone is cruel to animals, and inspire the desired dread or anger without actually subjecting the audience to an animal's suffering.

Yes, this. Merely hinting at something terrible can often be more effective than showing it, and certainly more tasteful. Example: A character finds a dead body. We aren't given any details, but make up our own through the character's horrified reaction.

I've tried watching a few of those "classic" Italian Giallo films, and they tend to do downright pornographic closeups of gushing wounds. Aside from being really a really cheap way to be shocking, I've come to find it somewhat despicable.
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2019, 07:55:41 AM »

My WIP opens with a torture scene. some people find it exciting and terrifying, but... it really puts some people off reading the rest of my book.  it's been called "torture porn"-- there's not any more of it "on screen' in the rest of the book or planned in the series, but for the purposes of this particular book (and the series) it serves several purposes.

1) it was intended to be a Grand Guignol opening, showcasing the villain.  She's a shapshifter riding along with the main characters innocuously for most of the novel, so you the reader needs this set up to feel terror when she makes her move, knowing what she's capable of-- otherwise she'd just seem to come completely out of the blue.

2) at some point, in later books (if I write them) you learn that she was actually tortured herself, forced to witness her loved ones be tortured in the way that she now tortures others, and that the torture she commits is part of a traumatic loop she can't break.

3) for the series structure, I wanted to open with her as the antagonist, b/c by the final book of the series my plan is to have the MC of the first book be the antagonist and her be the protagonist.

Anyway I just wanted to say that torture is a thing, yeah people don't like it. but i honestly can't think of another way to do what I want to do with this story.  Sure it's cheap. Sure I'm loosing readers b/c of it, but it really does sometimes serve a purpose, even if the payoff isn't until long after the scene in question.  Maybe that payoff is worth it to me, maybe it's not to you.

Offline Bender

Re: Torture/Cruelty
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2019, 02:18:42 PM »
It's not on torture itself, but rather the graphic-ness of it. There are means to communicate the impact, without spending few pages in the actual gruesome details.

As mentioned above, hinting of atrocious and letting readers imagination take over is far more chilling and effective than actually describing them.
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