Discussion "Urge to Kill... Rising..." -Violence in Fiction

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by TrakNar, Aug 20, 2013.

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  1. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    I'd imagine that, at that age, you didn't yet understand what blood was and what bleeding really meant. I'm surprised that you didn't react to the pain of getting brained with a tin can.

    Interestingly, despite all I've been through (which admittedly isn't all that much, though perhaps more than most "normal" people), I wouldn't dare to predict how I would react to circumstances which are beyond my experience, such as suddenly finding myself in the midst of a bank robbery or gunfight. Frankly I'd prefer to avoid any and all situations in which my nerves under fire would be tested, but life can be quite unpredictable that way, especially when one works at a 7-Eleven (insert stereotypical joke here).

    This doesn't stop me from drawing upon the experience of others, at least as they are related to me either through personal conversation or simply watching others give testimony on a television documentary, in my writings. Again, as an author of military-oriented fiction, it's a necessity to do this since service in the armed forces was not possible for me due to various conditions. Yet this is what I know most about, and so it is my preferred literary genre, and thanks to many sources it is quite possible for just about anyone to do research either on their favored period of history for historical military fiction, or the current trends in tactics and strategy for modern-day or even future war stories, or even military sci-fi. The latter is actually something I'm hoping to explore with a second original novel I've done some work on already.

    My first novel followed the career of a fighter pilot from his youth working as a crop duster with his father and his enlistment in the United States Army Air Corps in 1940, through his service in the European Theatre of Operations from late '42 through the end of the war. As such, the violence was quite impersonal; in air combat, you're shooting at machines more than you are at your fellow human beings. That said, anyone smart enough to be a fighter pilot knows full well that when they vape a bandit, they're very likely also killing someone. This comes into play much more vividly when a pilot is assigned to attack ground targets, including anything from a transport convoy to an enemy airfield. But you don't think about it—you can't afford to—because when flying, even a half second's hesitation can get you killed. Instead you are taught to compartmentalize the information (it's the plane, not the pilot) only letting it out once you've left the combat zone and touched down at your own home base—if you let it out at all.

    Most of the X-wing books were very good at conveying this necessity, the realities of combat—of violence in the sky and space—and what participating in it does to a person.
  2. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    If anyone is wondering the large tin can was empty and on the rusty side.

    But yes, I don't think I even understood what blood was.
  3. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Crying and other emotional responses tend to get in the way of rational thought, and when you're in the midst of hell, you can't take the time to get all mopey. However, when a story allows time for the characters to show emotion, to react to what they've been through, and they react inappropriately, such as going out to a party, that's where we have a problem. The character has just been through a violent situation that ended in the grisly death of another character. I don't care how your brain is wired, partying is wholly inappropriate.

    Though, there are some writer's tricks for handling characters who may act out-of-character during a violent situation. You have a character who is overall upstanding, and he's driving home late at night on an empty road. He decides to run a red light and plows over some kid. When he gets out to check, the kid is clearly dead and the guy panics and flees the scene. People who know the character would say that this character would call the cops and stay at the scene. He would never flee. He would never do that.

    That's the thing, though. Real people are unpredictable. So, how do you get your characters to act like real people? Have them do something that real people don't do.

    As the character is driving away, he could chastise himself for leaving the scene of an accident. "Why did I do that? This is crazy, I should go back! But, I can't, I've already left! I didn't think this would happen! This is so unlike me, what am I doing?!"

    Unrealistic, as while a person's thoughts may be racing, they generally don't go to self-realization. Perhaps even a bit clunky, but it works, It satisfies the reader, as it provides an explanation for why the character started acting out-of-character, i.e.: realistically. Now that you know what to look for, you'd be surprised how often writers use this.
  4. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    If I remember correctly in a book written by a blind man that worked in one of the Twin Towers he talked about how at first the events of the day and his narrow brush with death didn't catch up with him for a day or so then it just hit him what had happened. I don't remember what his reactions were but it was normal.

    I don't think we realize what kind of damage we can do. Yesterday my aunt was hit by a car while she was crossing the street in a crosswalk. She finished getting across but the driver left afterwards.

    The lady behind the wheel might have thought my aunt was fine but the woman committed a crime by leaving the scene of an accident.

    We don't always think of the consequences of our actions or the proper things to do.

    Either way yes Luke was laughing after destroying the Death Star and a large amount of people but it is realistic to write a fic where Luke has a slight breakdown afterwards.


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    "The Starman and Moon Goddess." Han Solo - Dark Angel
  5. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Stress can bring out interesting responses, quite often laughter. It's simply how people cope.

    Back to the violence portion, quite often the environment will beget violence. If you have your story set in a prison, there is a very high chance for violence. If you have a group of younger males in a camp or dorm setting, there's a chance for some rough-and-tumble play. The characters who populate your setting may also beget violence, as aggressive characters with react thusly to stimuli. Setting and characters play a strong role in the probability of violence.

    And again, as I've stated before, violence equals drama. Readers love drama. Drama is exciting and interesting.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Aug 27, 2013
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  6. THE EVIL CLIFFIE Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 11, 2008
    star 2
    True, but it depends on the level of character-shield you have; in a series like Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts, we have no guarantee that any given character is going to die - indeed, Abnett's killed well over a hundred of his characters at this point, but when we're dealing with Luke Skywalker getting maimed/gruesomely hurt, then it seems gratuitous - we know he's not going to die, and so the drama rings hollow. There are other ways to beget drama without violence.
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  7. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Maiming characters for the sake of drama is indeed a bit much, even for a hurt/comfort. If you're dealing with characters who are immune to death and disfigurement, it's best to keep their suffering confined to something that won't leave a permanent mark, or at the very least a scar that's easily hidden. Illness tends to work best in this regard.

    On another forum, I had begun a similar discussion in the RP subforum, this time focusing primarily on character histories and good taste. The few character histories brought up have some violent trauma in them, but they're not as overblown as the bizarre one-upmanship contests that @Dantana Skywalker had mentioned. Though, the discussion did remind me of a very bizarre incident that happened on another forum, and rather than retype the story, I'll just link to it here. It's a bit of a digression, hence why I'm merely linking to it.

    That said, years back, during my Emo Era, I know for a fact that I had fallen into that overblown traumatic history trope. When one is a roiling cauldron of rampant emotions and hormones, it's easy to see why it would boil over into one's work. But, I've since learned that one can have a traumatic history without resorting to over-the-top violence and implausible scenarios for the sake of a cheap sob story.

    When deplorable acts are practically romanticized in a character's history and storyarc, it cheapens it. It's a cop-out for the sake of shock value. It loses any and all impact and when the character is so nonchalant about their hideously-traumatic history, then it's really hollow. It's one thing to give a character a tragic past, as seeing them overcome adversity is rewarding. But when their past repeats itself in some fashion in their present lives and they react as if it's something that happens every Tuesday, even if the act is so deplorable as to sicken others with its frequency, then one has to wonder what exactly is going on in the mind of the author.
  8. Jedi_Lover Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    Of course in the GFFA what would be a horrible disfiguring injury on our planet is not that serious in the Star Wars Galaxy. My OC recently had his leg blown off and a new cybernetic limb was attached. With that said, I think what happened to Tionne in the profic novels was very extreme. She lost her limbs via tortured and mutilation by GAG. That was sick. In the movies there was torture, but as Vader said, "He won't be permanently damaged." I could not imagine Lucas having Vader chopping off parts of Han in order to flush Luke out of hiding.

    NJO, FOTJ, LOTF are dark and don't have the spirit of what I consider Star Wars, in my opinion. Books that have the Star Wars feel to me are the Thrawn books, Scoundrels, Mercy Kill, or Shadow Games. Books like Death Troopers of Red Harvest are very violent, but the heroes are killing zombies...so it isn't as disturbing to me.
    Last edited by Jedi_Lover, Aug 29, 2013
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  9. mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic & New Movies Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2005
    star 5
    This is very true. You don't really know how you'll act in a situation until it happens, this applies to the person who the event is happening to and the family/friends that are around the person. I see it all the time working in a hospital, people who are usually very calm and collected will sometimes freak out, some people completely shut down and have no emotion what so ever... and you see everything in between.
    I think as long as the writer does make it so you can see why the person is having such reaction, it shouldn't really be considered OOC.
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  10. Jade_Pilot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2005
    star 5
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  11. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Indeed, Jedi and Sith are still people. Jedi may be able to keep their emotions more or less in check, but there will come an event that will crack their shield. The thing is, emotions are not a bad thing. They are a coping mechanism. To suppress any and all emotion would be dangerous, as rather than have an outlet, emotions are bottled up inside, which can be worse.
  12. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    So is this about emotions, or about violence? In either case, it is interesting to note the dichotomy of both within each side of the Force as embodied within the Jedi and Sith orders. The former tries to eschew violence while tempering (not blocking out, mind) one's emotions in the service of others, while the latter embraces both and encourages their use to the fullest to achieve what the individual desires most.

    In my own writings, I have always striven to depict characters' emotions in a believable way. However that doesn't necessarily mean I have attempted or have experience in writing scenarios that would spark certain kinds of emotional responses, such as a character's first kill, the death of a very close friend/lover/family member, or other possibilities. Some instances of violence, too, are beyond my written experience, such as the splatterpunk that TrakNar mentioned earlier. Some of these ideas are ones that I would like to eventually explore, and it can always help to read more and more fiction, both fan-made and original published works. Heck, they don't even have to be Star Wars-related.
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  13. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    In LoE when Grievous fired on the fleeing refugee ships I am pretty sure Obi-Wan felt sick at both the thought of what Grievous had done and the senseless slaughter of innocent bystanders and noted that Anakin would have felt it more keenly simply from the depth of his connection to the Force. He for sure felt them die.
  14. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Moving onto another aspect of violence in fiction: the writing of said violence.

    In On Writing Horror, there is a chapter called "Splat Goes the Hero: Visceral Horror." In it, Jack Ketchum explains that when you're writing about violence, you're writing about pain. Maybe not your pain, but you're writing about somebody's pain, and you should face it as honestly as possible. If you're writing splatterpunk you want to get up close and personal with that pain, along with all the bloody details that go into creating that pain.

    There are different ways to approach writing such pain. You could write up to the act itself, and then cut away. You could dive headlong into the violence and get your hands so dirty that no amount of washing will ever take the bloodstains out. You could keep it hidden behind a curtain and allude to the pain with the disembodied screams and squishy sound effects. How you want to approach the subject should be a joint decision between what you're comfortable with and what your audience wants to see. Your target audience, too, would have an even bigger impact on what you could show. Sometimes, you just want to experiment, see how far you can go without making yourself sick. Whether or not others see the fruits of that messy labor would depend quite heavily on the audience.

    Back to the first point: Pain. Pain is more than a sensation. It is an emotion, a location, a motive, a method, all sorts of things. Pain and suffering breaks us down, it isolates us in misery, it transforms us. It is something we all know very well. There are things that we find hard to watch because the pain of it is so familiar to us, even if the situation isn't. A scene in a horror flick where the big bad stabs a needle into the victim's eye? We shrink from it and wince. Many of us know the pain of having to get a shot, and many of us have been poked in the eye.

    Also, the mutilation of eyes elicits a squick response from us, as the eyes are what makes a face. We remember eyes. To remove the eyes removes the face, and when something is off with the eyes, that's one of the primary reasons why dolls and clowns are in the uncanny valley.

    When we explore pain in our writing, we should explore it honestly. We all know pain to some degree. We want our audience to feel our character's pain. Thus, we should describe that pain in a way that it elicits a response from the audience. We want them to cringe. Likening the painful act to a more familiar act usually helps. As I've said above, we've all at one point have been stuck with needles and poked in the eyes. Thus, to have something violent happen to the eye is familiar with us. Your character is getting whacked across the legs by your other character's kick? Remember running knee-first into the coffee table the other day? To describe pain like "a railroad spike rammed through my skull with a jackhammer" is a bit ridiculous, as most of us haven't experienced anything even remotely similar to that. Keep the descriptions more down-to-earth helps the reader to actually feel the pain.
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  15. Jedi_Lover Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    You sound like my husband. I was describing my pain after surgery as, "It feels like they sewed me up with the scalpel still inside me." He has to say, "How would you know what that feels like? Has that ever happened to you before?" At that point I wondered how he would describe the pain associated with a sharp kick to the groin.
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  16. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    It's like taking a ten-foot drop onto a log right between your legs... ;)
  17. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    I still can't think of a good metaphor for when I passed my first kidney stone. At the time, I described it as "OH GOD IT HURTS MAKE THE PAIN STOP!" That description, unfortunately, doesn't work too well for prose, unless it's dialogue or a first-person narrative. :p

    Granted, when one is in pain, one tends to come up with interesting descriptions for it, so having a character describe a toothache as having their jaw impaled on a spike is perfectly fine. In terms of prose... might be best to shy away from extreme descriptions, as they could have the wrong effect and elicit a few giggles from the reader, rather than a sympathy cringe. Or if the reader cringes, it might be because they just think the description is that bad. :/
  18. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Or if the character is prone to making light of their own discomfort, as some of us can be IRL... ;)
  19. Master Elaine Nega Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2013
    star 1
    Well, as a gen action/ drama/ thriller/ sometimes horror( when I want to scary the readers) writer, violence is unavoidable for me. Most of my fanfics are about fighting( and psychology) , no romance( however I can write a heartwarming fluffy drabble when in correct mood, it' s mostly about friendship) . Actually it' s the degree of romance I' m vorried about. Though I can write it( or could, to say honestly, before some events in my life, but now it' s emotionally heavy for me) , for personal reasons romance gives my brain BSODs if I write too much of it, so you will rarely see romance in the first plane of my fanfics' plot. And you will certainly never see me writing a sex scene. Not only it' s too much for me to comprehend, but also I think it' s unnecessary for most stories( and yes, I dislike PWP and never write it) .So compared to it, violence is not an issie for me. The only rule I have is that I never perform violence on little children, the makimum I can do is to give them a slight injury, but not a life - threatening one( or even if I give them a life - threatening injury, don' t expect me to let the kid die. One of the characters will most likely come and heal them) . I also think twice before hurting weak and unarmed character, however this is very likely to happen if a Sith is near them and no Jedi around to protect them.
    The degree of violence in a story depends on the length of story, the angle of drama in it, and the characters themselves. Like I said, most of my stories are gen, so the longer the story is, the more fighting will be there. Also, different characters apply different degrees of violence. Like I said, a Sith would much likely kill an unarmed prisoner, while a Jedi would never do that. Also, some characters might have particularly traumaticized background( like the protagonist I' m currently writing) , and they might be a bit more violent( however, this depends on the degree of their trauma and if they got over it or not) , and also, if I do flashbacks about the trauma itself, of course there will be a lot of violence. So it depends on many factors.
    As for violence and morality, in general the last thing I would enforce on the readers is a certain morality pattern. I myself believe that morality is a question of choice, everyone chooses their own morality, and there aren' t absolute " right" and " wrong" in the world. So what is right and wrong is a subjective matter of a certain person. So I prefer not to give people answers about morality, just put questions about it. What kind of morality an individual might come to isn' t up to me. The only thing I would encourage is a freedom of choice, and to never give up on what you believe in. I believe that it' s not the society or circumstances that must dictate us morality, it' s us for who it' s up to choose it. So you would never see one of my protagoinsts doing something " because the rules say so" . I like rebellious characters. Of course, this doesn' t mean all of my characters are morality - free. They all have their own morality, but if they have a certain morality, it doesn' t mean I support it. The protagonist might be a tough, justice - over - mercy, anti -heroic type, it doesn' t mean I' m the same in the real life. Even if I write a fanfic frome a POV, it' s used to look inside a character' s soul, see their state of mind, dissect their personality and problems, but not make them a reader' s role model. Like I said, it' s up to the reader whether to choose a role model or not, nad if yes, which character to choose as. I have no problems writing anti - heroes, anti - villains or villain protagonists, because the world isn' t just black and white, there are no absolutes, everyone chooses their own, personal ultimate goals and restrictions. So when it comes to morality, violence isn' t an issue for me either, as long as it is in character. I would never write an OOC unless it' s justified, and it' s more a question of psychology rather than writing.
  20. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Indeed, morality does play a role in violence, and it can depend on the character. For certain characters, I've heavily skewed their notions of right and wrong. For example, one character didn't feel that it was wrong to kill and eat sentient insectoids. To him, they were either vermin or a food source, the latter being ingrained by his upbringing. To kill a random Verpine and eat it was the same to him as going hunting for game is to others.

    Morality is a psychological puzzle and the pieces vary wildly from character to character. Some amoral characters may have morals of their own, it's just that we don't understand what they are. As the trope goes, even evil has standards. We generally don't know what they are until someone crosses the line.
  21. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Speaking of amoral characters having morals of their own, I preferred it when Boba Fett was still the alias of a former Journeyman Protector who had succumbed to vigilantism and, thus, still retains a certain moral code even if it doesn't bother him in the slightest to kill a target he's been hired to kill.
  22. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Punch-clock villains. It's nothing personal, it's just business.
  23. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Is that a trope?

    In any case, depending on the story I wouldn't necessarily consider a character such as pre-Prequels Fett to be a villain. In fact there's at least one, probably more, short stories in the Bantam era where he is actually a protagonist of sorts. I'd consider such a version of Fett to be ideal for the main character of a story intended to explore life on the Rim and how the line between law and outlaw can become so blurred as to be almost indistinguishable.

    To illustrate my point, take the persona of Judge Dredd from the comics and the 2012 film (better by far than that Stallone trainwreck). Here we have a hero who will execute the letter of the law up to and including summary executions, but still considers himself to be an avatar of the law (one of the most badass lines ever, I might add). But he's also a product of his times, so that while his methods may be extreme by our standards, those on the other side of the line are far worse in their predations in a world gone completely to ****. He may be brutal, and at times apparently psychotic, but he is also rigidly in control, cares about the fates of innocents, and even demonstrates some form of mercy on occasion when the law allows it. He appears to be an antihero, but in the context of his world, Dredd is very much a hero albeit an extremely violent one.
  24. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Most dystopian cyberpunk stories tend to feature antiheroes who toe the line that most would put between good and evil. During the later Bronze and Modern ages of comics, stories and characters leaned toward darker elements, with the most notable increase in violence being in the Grim and Gritty EXTREEEEEEEEME 90s. Such violent trends continue to this day, but when people discuss the Dark Age, they tend to refer to the late 80s and 90s era of comics.

    Though, it is not to say that such violence doesn't continue. Ultimatum was brutally violent, with blood and gore and blatant cannibalism--and it wasn't published under Marvel's MAX line. The reader age has skewed far higher with the prevalence of adults wanting to reclaim their nostalgic heroes, and thus the writing style caters to it. However, violence itself does not make a story "mature."
  25. Master Elaine Nega Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2013
    star 1
    I do not think violence is just for mature( though I do agree that it must be restricted to a certain level) . Violence is in reality, and children also have the right to see reality. What is the reason to put on the pink glasses on a child if those glasses are going to break anyway when the child becomes a teenager. Besides, I think adults mistreat kids by thinking they are sweet and innocent angels. Kids are definately not as naive and innocent as they think. I remember one case when I was 7 and girls from my class at school were already discussing sex. Another example is the TV show called Tron: Uprising. I liked it a lot, and i consider it a great story, but some people think it' s too dark and serious for kids. I, personally, don' t understand what was so unfitting for kids in that show. Yes, it had violence, it was serious, but the violence was justified, and I don' t thinks kids should only watch TV shows about fluff and rainbows. While I agree that a horror film isn' t something to show a to a child, I encourage showing children films on serious topics to teach them thinking right from their childhood. Because adult life isn' t all rainbows and fluff. I remember my parents put pink glasses on me when i was a child, and along with the fact that I didn' t attend kindergarden because of weak health, it resulted in me being naive, righteous and socially unaccustomed. It greatly affected my later life, and that was the reason most kids viewed me as weird, and I had a major depression as a teenager because I was really disappointed with the world and how dark it really is. Now all my problems are gone, building a family is not my plans, but if it was, I wouldn' t repeat the mistake of my parents by putting pink glasses on my children and telling them that the world is light and kind. That' s why I engourage telling kids serious stories so that they know what the world really is.
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