October 21, 2017, 10:27:27 PM

Author Topic: Quick and dirty violence  (Read 866 times)

Online Bradley Darewood

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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2017, 09:23:57 AM »
@Yora I didn't want to derail your thread so I tried to keep my comment short, but my point was that there's often a politics to who gets brutalized and who doesn't (eg. the expendable victim, the acceptable enforcer of violence)-- and different readers are going to take what you're doing differently.

I brought it up in reaction to Nora's post b/c its basically from the guy who brought you "white people bring law to the scary Mexicans" we now have Wind River: "White people bring law to the lawless reservation."  He did a great job of showing how twisted and wrong it all was with Sicario-- I have to say I really liked that movie--but I found Wind River a little more frustrating-- white law enforcement protagonists inflicting violence (like in a million movies or 90% of all shows on TV) is just not gonna be seen the same way by people who have been victims of police repression for generations. The whole thing just really rubbed me the wrong way. @Nora we're just not going to see eye to eye on this, but maybe to avoid derailing this thread we can just PM on it if you wanna keep going on this topic.

Anyway, bringing it back to quick and dirty violence done right-- I like the idea of giving meaning to deaths but there are moments I have to say I like death as an adornment-- like stepping over an unknown corpse or a moment of violence as characterization for a threat or villain.  I'm wondering how to do that right without appearing cheap.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2017, 09:25:52 AM by Bradley Darewood »

Offline Yora

Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2017, 09:52:27 AM »
@Yora I didn't want to derail your thread so I tried to keep my comment short, but my point was that there's often a politics to who gets brutalized and who doesn't (eg. the expendable victim, the acceptable enforcer of violence)-- and different readers are going to take what you're doing differently.
Oh, of course. That's the space where you have a lot of room to tell complex stories.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2017, 06:57:40 PM »
Death inherits false meaning from the things around it because people are simple and lazy. What we're really talking about when we use a term like "meaningful death" is loss or heinous crime or sacrifice.

I don't like attributing meaning to death. It's a concept far less true than true love, and it really should be stamped out. Death is as meaningless as defecating - it's just something that happens. Killing the evil is as necessary as killing the innocent is unnecessary. If you really look at it dispassionately, killing is no more noble or damned or worthy than taking out the trash. It can be dangerous and is usually damaging, but it's still just an unpleasant task devoid of any real depth. Change out the people for ants and the false nobility/atrocity falls away. Likewise, being killed can always be watered down to the loss of some time - decades, years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds.

The loss experienced by those who are left behind, the courage required to kill or sacrifice oneself, the focus and discipline required to become an efficient killer, the wits needed to evade the deadly - these things are meaningful, but these are all facets of LIFE, not death. If you want to move people with your writing, write about them.
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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2017, 08:15:49 PM »
Death is something that just happens. But killing is a choice. Great and very important difference there.

When it comes to action scenes, I actually found myself no longer caring about the actual fighting. I think I really became aware of it after watching The Return of the King. Like the first Lord of the Rings movie and think the second is decent enough, but the third is a boring mess of stuff being thrown at the screen. These days battle scenes in movies and books generally make me blank out while swords are swinging and stuff blows up. All the interesting parts of a fight scene are the tension of the buildup and the chaos of the aftermath.

Which I think actually suits me just fine as I don't really know how to make the actual action work in writing. Of course it depends on the kind of story. A big war story probably can't get away with glossing over the actual fighting in half a paragraph. But in one on one encounters in which characters understand they can be killed by a single lucky hit, I think it works.
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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2017, 03:24:04 AM »
Stephen Crane, Red Badge of Courage
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Patrick O'Brian, any and all of his books (for naval battles)

All these have great battle scenes. It can be done. But very few fantasy writers handle battle well. The current generation of writers too often confuse gruesome with vividness. But it can be done.
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Offline Yora

Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2017, 06:53:09 PM »
Fantasy readers will not associate the outbreak or threat of violence with being a moment of intense crisis and make the default assumption that it is a common and unremarkable thing. Unless it's yhe big villain that has been build up for a long time, most attackers will not be seen as a threat.
I think I will need to first establish the rule for this particular world that people putting the hands on weapons is a major deal and that the heroes are automatically in a very high danger of suffering greatly.

Any idea how I could establish that? Preferably without having to rely on a couple on grissly atrocities.

Having the protagonist display the appropriate emotional response is generally a good way to get the audience in the right mindset for the story. But I feel like having the character almost freak out over an event where compared to most fantasy nothing actually bad happened could easily be seen as an inappropriate overreaction and forced false drama. So I think I need more? A great ideal of tension in what would in similar stories be a mundane event.
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Online Bradley Darewood

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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #21 on: September 22, 2017, 09:00:29 AM »

How about using emotional responses? Someone touches their sword in chapter three or something and the POV character's blood goes cold, breathing heavy completely shocked (along with other bystanders) who somehow intervene and de-escalate the conflict.

So lets say hypothetically I got a little bloodthirsty when writing my novel and someone dies like in almost every other chapter.  How do i keep it so death and violence has some meaning at all without falling into a depressive spiral of just agonizingly boring mourning all the time?

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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #22 on: September 22, 2017, 10:51:25 AM »
I haven't read the other responses in detail, but I'll offer up the novel "The Painter Bird" by Kosinski. It's the story of a gypsy boy wandering the Polish countryside during world war 2. It addresses the holocaust by showing acts of sudden, horrible violence happening to the boy and people immediately around him, while in the background, box cars of people trundle away.

Kosinski' concept was that the holocaust was simply too huge to be understood. But an attack on a child with a broken bottle is visceral. Therefore, if the boxcars are understood to be more horrible, there is at least a yard stick that hurts the reader.

A cheerful tale for the morning, but it seemed to fit this discussion in some ways.
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Offline Yora

Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #23 on: September 22, 2017, 08:03:55 PM »
But can that be translated to an awesome hero with a sword?
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2017, 12:59:29 PM »
Fantasy readers will not associate the outbreak or threat of violence with being a moment of intense crisis and make the default assumption that it is a common and unremarkable thing. Unless it's yhe big villain that has been build up for a long time, most attackers will not be seen as a threat.
I think I will need to first establish the rule for this particular world that people putting the hands on weapons is a major deal and that the heroes are automatically in a very high danger of suffering greatly.

Any idea how I could establish that? Preferably without having to rely on a couple on grissly atrocities.

Having the protagonist display the appropriate emotional response is generally a good way to get the audience in the right mindset for the story. But I feel like having the character almost freak out over an event where compared to most fantasy nothing actually bad happened could easily be seen as an inappropriate overreaction and forced false drama. So I think I need more? A great ideal of tension in what would in similar stories be a mundane event.
Some random ideas as my coffee settles in:
- Audiences are accustomed to the hero NOT having the same reaction as everyone else in their own world; we expect them to differentiate themselves. So you can use the reactions of everyone else to communicate one thing, and the reaction of the hero(es) to communicate something else - and just how they differ from the herd.
- You might be overestimating the "power" of the genre on audience expectations. In some Fantasy, a single death is a big deal, even in Epic fantasy where wars are taking place. Look at the Lord of the Rings, most of Terry Brooks' books, etc., where each major death is a big deal in its way (Boromir, Theodred, Denethor, and even Saruman in LoTR). Each story has its own value system, within which the poignancy and impact of death is unique. Audiences will follow the lead of the inhabitants of the world - if the "locals" freak out when someone dies or not, how they respond to how someone reacts differently (whether more or less than the norm) - all this will inform their assessment of your story's moral continuum.
- In some stories, life and death are cheap, and this has a variety of impacts, just as in life. There are cities in the real world where the streets are littered with corpses here and there, random spouts of gunfire are heard, and people get up in the morning and go about their business. Life and death are neither more nor less important there - but they are experienced and viewed differently in more "civilized" environments. The thresholds are higher - but so is the fear and the hatred, so rather than becoming predictable and "boring", tension is heightened, and the notion of a predictable day becomes a wistful dream as unlikely as dragons.
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Re: Quick and dirty violence
« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2017, 06:30:01 PM »
- Audiences are accustomed to the hero NOT having the same reaction as everyone else in their own world; we expect them to differentiate themselves. So you can use the reactions of everyone else to communicate one thing, and the reaction of the hero(es) to communicate something else - and just how they differ from the herd.
That sounds really quite convincing. Certainly something I want to include in my attempts.
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