PDA

View Full Version : Writing the Difficult Scenes (warning graphic content)



Little Ming
05-06-2011, 04:33 AM
So how do you write the difficult scenes? You know, the scenes that make you physically uncomfortable, the scenes that make your family and friends wonder if they need to commit you somewhere safer. You know, the murders, the rapes, the tortures. Do you skim over the details? Fade to black? Point to a rabbit with a pancake on its head and hope your readers won't notice you've run out of the room?

In my current WIP (an epic fantasy, if it matters) I have a character who was kidnapped and raped when she was about 5-6 years old. The memory was (magically) erased, but comes back in the form of an extensive and graphic flashback. Worse yet, the story is in limited-third POV, so the flashback will be told through the eyes and voice of a child that just until a few moments ago didn't even know there was an anatomical difference between men and women.

My first option was to use a fade to black, but that really seemed like a cop out, especially since not too far back in the story one of my other MCs gets his arm cut off in equally disturbing detail. He's conscious for the whole incident and kicking and screaming his way through it. So it felt disingenuous to describe all the pain and suffering for a male character, but use fade to black, or skim the details for a female character.

My second option was to make it a near-rape (she escapes or is rescued somehow). But that seemed to have the same problem as option one.

So... any tips? Hints? Help? Scape the whole thing? Quit writing altogether?






P.S. Yes, I am a new member. :hi: I decided to forgo the usual introductory post because if I "told" you about myself that would be "telling" instead of "showing" (haha). Bad writing humor aside, feel free to call my Ming for short, or Ming Ming if you want to be cute, or Xiao Ming is you know Chinese and want to showoff. :tongue

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 05:16 AM
I don't write something that makes me uncomfortable.

There are many ways to write a rape scene. You can get the point across without going into a lot of graphic detail and then let the damage done play out in the rest of the book, or you can describe it in all it's graphic detail. I would choose the first way, because reading a graphic rape scene, let along writing one, is not something i would enjoy doing. Furthermore, a high level of graphic detail with a rape scene is not needed to get the point across.

-J. Mark Byrnes

AKyber36
05-06-2011, 05:20 AM
Hi, Xiao Ming! (I'm Chinese but pronunciation will have to be in my head for now). XD

Well, this is an issue I often run into. I've written a lot of squicky scenes (murder, torture, and rape) for fanfiction and I find the easiest way to approach it is to get across the pain or fright without being too explicit. As in, I don't need to describe that the men are too big for her or stuff like that. I tend to go the route of the pain's too much, what the hell is happening, why oh why, and where's mommy and daddy? Stuff like that. I find that if I go too graphic, I squick myself out and then get very close to that physically ill boundary.

What you can do is start introducing the flashback in segments throughout the story. Start off vague but then give the final punch in the final reveal, where the emotions come through strongest. That's where you can write the most graphic parts you need to knock the bejeebuz out of your character and your readers.

Hope that helps.

cwfgal
05-06-2011, 07:17 AM
First ask yourself if you really need to describe the scene in any detail...what purpose does it serve? How does including it further develop your plot/story? Can stating that it happened do the same thing without the detail?

And if you decide you need some detail, I'd hit on a few vivid flashes of memory. People tend to try to stop those bad memories when they spring up so they only relive or recall snippets of what happened, not long drawn out scenes. People often do the same thing during such an act, disconnecting their minds from reality for parts of it.

You can also mediate the intensity of memories some by interspersing those flashbacks with current activity/dialogue/thought.

Beth

Little Ming
05-06-2011, 09:09 AM
Well, this is an issue I often run into. I've written a lot of squicky scenes (murder, torture, and rape) for fanfiction and I find the easiest way to approach it is to get across the pain or fright without being too explicit. As in, I don't need to describe that the men are too big for her or stuff like that. I tend to go the route of the pain's too much, what the hell is happening, why oh why, and where's mommy and daddy? Stuff like that. I find that if I go too graphic, I squick myself out and then get very close to that physically ill boundary.

Thanks! That's actually something I hadn't thought about before. Describe her emotions, feelings, pain, thoughts, panic, etc. But maybe skim over the actually physical stuff, maybe even have her blindfolded... Might actually work!

I thought about excluding this scene, or maybe not going into detail... but it's an important piece of my character's development and her relationship with the person who erased her memories and whether she will erase them again... so, yeah, important. Also, it helps set up what a fucked up world it is that they live in. Rape, child abuse, torture, etc, while frowned upon and usually illegal, is not uncommon in this world.

estyles
05-06-2011, 10:17 AM
I'd say if you can't get away with not writing the scene, make it move fast and make it fairly shallow. This isn't a moment when your character's going to be pausing to reflect on what it's like or what other characters elsewhere might be doing or much beyond OMG WHAT OH NO OW. I see it as sort of like ripping off a really sticky bandage--it's not going to be fun no matter what you do, but it's less bad when you rip it all off at once instead of pulling it back slowly and poking at the little bald spot where it's pulled out your arm hairs.

This post made me think of the scene in "The Princess Bride" where Wesley's being held on the fifth level of the Zoo of Death, and skimming through my copy, Goldman doesn't spend more than half a page at time describing what Count Rugen is doing to him. For example, the scene with Wesley in the Machine: three pages of talking about how horrible it's going to be, two paragraphs for the Machine in action and his reaction to it. Because seriously, no one wants to see that ick.

Also there's the thing where doing these kind of scenes slow and describing exactly what's happening and how terrible it is in detail tends to go over the top and become ridiculous really easily. If the reader doesn't already sympathize with them, doing the whole Mel Gibson "WATCH MY CHARACTER SUFFER!" thing isn't going to make the reader sympathize with your character. Cliche as it is to say, less is more.

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 11:14 AM
Also there's the thing where doing these kind of scenes slow and describing exactly what's happening and how terrible it is in detail tends to go over the top and become ridiculous really easily. If the reader doesn't already sympathize with them, doing the whole Mel Gibson "WATCH MY CHARACTER SUFFER!" thing isn't going to make the reader sympathize with your character. Cliche as it is to say, less is more.

I disagree, that's what writers should be doing - making their characters suffer. Who wants to read about a character that doesn't suffer.

It's actually the scenes when characters suffer the most are the scenes that I enjoy the most. The kind of scene I find the hardest is when characters are put through the emotional wringer, without venturing into the realms of melodrama.

Also, readers of horror and some crime/thriller and historicals demand over the top details. :evil

Jonathan Dalar
05-06-2011, 11:19 AM
Interesting topic. And I'd say it depends on the type of novel you're writing. I've had a few uncomfortable scenes - scenes that made me all oogy myself. And I wrote the hell out of them. I wrote them as first-person, in focus as I could. My stuff was horror, however, and that deep an application really hit it home for the story. It made me feel uncomfortable, but damn was it a wild read!

I suppose it depends though, on the type of stuff you're writing. You'll have to pull your punches to a certain extent, depending on genre and audience. Look at that and determine how much into the weeds you can get with it and run with that.

estyles
05-06-2011, 11:46 AM
I disagree, that's what writers should be doing - making their characters suffer. Who wants to read about a character that doesn't suffer.



Well sure, but what I meant was the big set pieces where the audience has to sit through ages and ages of gory suffering that don't drive the plot forward and seem to be put there more for the creator's satisfaction than the audiences. You know, the scenes that are the literary equivalent of the ending of "Braveheart" or "Passion of the Christ."

TheMurf
05-06-2011, 11:57 AM
Little Ming, I sympathise. I am struggling with a similar difficulty at the moment and the best advice I can give you is the following:

make a first try and then post it on the SYW board for your genre.

My first attempt was ripped to bits, constructively. This helped me to understand why I was having problems and made the second version much better.

Good luck with the scene and, from my point of view, stay away from the physical and stick to thoughts and feelings

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 12:01 PM
Well sure, but what I meant was the big set pieces where the audience has to sit through ages and ages of gory suffering that don't drive the plot forward and seem to be put there more for the creator's satisfaction than the audiences. You know, the scenes that are the literary equivalent of the ending of "Braveheart" or "Passion of the Christ."

I actually disagree. If it was more for the director/writer's satisfaction over the audience's then the the studio/publisher would put the block on it. Audiences do love gore.

I can't comment on Passion as I have never seen it, but I thought the ending of Braveheart great. It showed the realism of medieval society, I didn't think it was gratituous. The reason it worked was that the emphasis was not on the gore, but on whether Wallace would stay true to his ideal or beg for mercy in exchange for a quick death. It was a very character focused ending.

What I found interesting in a recent film, is in The Eagle the US didn't show the beheading of a Roman soldier, where the UK version did. I think that shows something very interesting about the difference in audiences. They are quiet happy to show several scenes of 'children' having their throats slit, but cut away from the beheading.

MMConway
05-06-2011, 12:11 PM
If you are that physically uncomfortable with the scenes you feel you need to write, then maybe you should try writing in another genre.

Just an idea.

megan_d
05-06-2011, 12:14 PM
You might try reading The Lovely Bones and seeing how the author handles a similar scene.

seun
05-06-2011, 12:35 PM
Furthermore, a high level of graphic detail with a rape scene is not needed to get the point across.


For you. Not for all writers or all readers.

Bufty
05-06-2011, 01:06 PM
Strange comment not to have thought about describing revealing the character's emotions, feelings, pain, thoughts, panic, etc., stuff... these are the POV elements through which readers connect with characters.


Thanks! That's actually something I hadn't thought about before. Describe her emotions, feelings, pain, thoughts, panic, etc. But maybe skim over the actually physical stuff, maybe even have her blindfolded... Might actually work!

I thought about excluding this scene, or maybe not going into detail... but it's an important piece of my character's development and her relationship with the person who erased her memories and whether she will erase them again... so, yeah, important. Also, it helps set up what a fucked up world it is that they live in. Rape, child abuse, torture, etc, while frowned upon and usually illegal, is not uncommon in this world.

Sentosa
05-06-2011, 01:10 PM
If you are that physically uncomfortable with the scenes you feel you need to write, then maybe you should try writing in another genre.

Just an idea.
Definitely agree

Sentosa
05-06-2011, 01:14 PM
You might try reading The Lovely Bones and seeing how the author handles a similar scene.
Also by same author: Alice Sebold "Lucky" -- 1st person. The whole book deals with the author's rape as a teenager at college, and considers it's effect on her during the following years.

Sentosa
05-06-2011, 01:16 PM
For you. Not for all writers or all readers.
Well said.

I'm having an unusual day -- I'm not usually in so much agreement with other posters.:tongue:D

AmsterdamAssassin
05-06-2011, 01:57 PM
The difficult scenes for me are the scenes where nothing much happens. Rape, torture, murder, those are the easy scenes.

Jettica
05-06-2011, 02:25 PM
If you are that physically uncomfortable with the scenes you feel you need to write, then maybe you should try writing in another genre.

Just an idea.

Surely no one would feel comfortable writing a rape scene...

The point of literature (and films, TV etc.) is to evoke an emotional response in the reader (viewer). Don't go so far to put people off the book but write just enough that people feel uncomfortable, sympathise with your character and want to know how it will affect her. If it's making you feel uncomfortable then you're probably doing it right.

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 03:02 PM
Strange comment not to have thought about describing revealing the character's emotions, feelings, pain, thoughts, panic, etc., stuff... these are the POV elements through which readers connect with characters.

A caveat to that would be: from whos persepective is this being told from. Being in the antagonists head would create a very different narrative to the protaganists.

One that note, American Psycho comes highly recommended.

Anninyn
05-06-2011, 03:04 PM
I have to admit, I tend to avoid writing the actual event; and just go for writing the after effects. Imagination is a powerful tool, and with only a few well-chosen words can bring the required emotions in the reader.

I will second (third?) the advice to read The Lovely Bones- the rape in there is very well described, disturbing and obvious, without being melodramatic.

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 03:10 PM
For me, if I don't find myself writing something that I feel uncomfortable with, then I won't progress as a writer. I've written acts of murder, torture and male rape and it's taught me things I wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

My new novel involves writing Roman battle scenes, I've never written a battle scene before. It's a challenge, I'm watching a lot of contemporary war documentaries and films to make sure I get the emotions and character right.

Isn't that why we read or watch movies, to be made to feel uncomfortable? To ask ourselves do we agree with this?

scarletpeaches
05-06-2011, 03:45 PM
So how do you write the difficult scenes?One word at a time.

scarletpeaches
05-06-2011, 03:47 PM
Also by same author: Alice Sebold "Lucky" -- 1st person. The whole book deals with the author's rape as a teenager at college, and considers it's effect on her during the following years.Yes, and doesn't she just bang on about it.

Okay, Alice, we get it. You were raped.

Honestly, it takes a special kind of writer to make me not care about that sort of thing. I've never managed to finish a Sebold book out of sheer, mind-numbing boredom. I just. Don't. Care.

NeuroFizz
05-06-2011, 04:15 PM
Some stories require scenes that may be out of the writer's comfort zone. Rather than avoid the scenes, maybe the author should avoid the story because he/she may not do justice to it without those scenes. But I'd suggest most stories require a harvest of more than just the low-hanging fruit, and many good writers are willing to strain to reach high and wide. There is benefit in a writer challenging him/herself, even if the challenging scenes end up being cut or heavily edited later. My opinion is that one way to grow as a writer is to continually take on writing challenges, not always take the (personally) safe or easy route. I'm aiming this at the "hard for me so I won't do it" kind of comments, even though I'm taking a very hard and inflexible interpretation of the statement.

If a story requires one of those tough-to-write scenes, and the author sidesteps it, it may be obvious to the reader.

All of this is genre-specific, of course.

Sentosa
05-06-2011, 04:42 PM
Yes, and doesn't she just bang on about it.

She sure does!! By the mid-point I was running odds as to how long she could keep blathering on about it. But full marks, she made it yo the end.

Phaeal
05-06-2011, 05:20 PM
SPOILER WARNING: DEXTER TV SERIES

I think that where scenes of violence are concerned, the difference between art and pornography lies in picking the right physical and emotional details to convey the horror and then getting out of the way of the reader's imagination and response.

To dwell on every mechanical detail of violence is, to me, as salacious as to dwell on every mechanical detail of a sex act. Sure, plenty of people like it. Doesn't make it any less salacious. Also, alas, doesn't mean it won't sell big.

An example of how to do it right:

First season, Dexter. As a very young child, Dexter witnesses his mother undergoing vivisection by chain saw. A horrifying, powerful, pivotal flashback scene. But does the viewer see the saw slicing through every muscle and bone? No. The emphasis is on emotion, on the mother telling Dexter to close his eyes, on Dexter's rictus of shock as blood spatters his face, on Dexter sitting afterwards in a makeshift abattoir two inches deep in blood. Of the murder itself we see the saw just about to impact the mother's shoulder, the mother recoiling with a scream.

Brilliant.

jimbro
05-06-2011, 06:11 PM
Yes, and doesn't she just bang on about it.

Okay, Alice, we get it. You were raped...

I hear you.

But that is sort of the whole point, isn't it? She is writing about her experience and if it comes across as tiresome to some of her readers, at least it reflects her true feelings and rememberances and has important value as such.

One (just one?) of the problems with rape (or any other trauma for that matter) is that the victim is the only one who has all the facts, but is incapable of viewing them objectively - a non-victim may be capable of objectivity, but cannot have all the facts.

Libbie
05-06-2011, 06:13 PM
Personally, I don't write about any kind of graphic violence. It doesn't entertain me, so it doesn't go in my books.

I do write about issues I find disturbing, and as for how you write them, you just jump in and do it and give it your best effort. It's like writing anything else. If it really has a place in your story, then it will fall naturally into its place.

You shouldn't worry too much about what other people think, including your family and friends. It's just fiction, right? They've seen and enjoyed worse at the movies or on TV.

Soccer Mom
05-06-2011, 06:22 PM
Lots of good advice in this thread. The question as to how graphic depends very much on the genre and tone of your novel and also what the scene needs to achieve. I've read incredibly graphic disturbing scenes that riveted me because they were well done and necessary in the novel. They moved the story, explained the characters, set up the big conflict.

I've also read graphic scenes that seemed to be there just to shock or because the author thought he should include them. Those really put me off and make me likely to put the novel aside or not read any more by that author (James Patterson, I'm looking at you.)

So look at your novel and ask yourself if this is something we need to see and just how much detail we need. Are the mechanics of what is happening to her body as important as the horror experienced in her mind? If you can distill a scene down to its essence, you will know better how to convey that.

jimbro
05-06-2011, 06:29 PM
Point to a rabbit with a pancake on its head and hope your readers won't notice you've run out of the room?

I actually like this image. The more I think about it, this may be a way to approach the problem: Have your character start to think about it, then break off. Do this a couple of times in earlier scenes before actually remembering the details.

Hitchcock did something similar. He would show the bomb under the table ticking away, forcing the audience to wonder when (and if) the explosion would come. A master of suspense.

I also agree that fade to black and near-rape are probably cop-outs: if you think they are then they really are.

Phaeal's suggestion that you focus on the feelings and emotion (confusion, pain, shock, whatever...) rather than on the gory details seems right on target to me. Personally, the only time I might get gory with this is during the aftermath when the victim is cleaning up the mess.


Quit writing altogether?

Yeah, right. Like that is gonna happen...:D


欢迎小明- 我不会说中文。;)

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 06:55 PM
For you. Not for all writers or all readers.

I said graphic detail wasn't needed to get the point across. I didn't say anything about how readers or writers might like to get the point across. There is a difference between the "necessity" of a scene and the "extras" of a scene. "Necessity" gets the point across, "extras" speak more about the writer than the scene.

Just my opinion, but I think my point stands.


Surely no one would feel comfortable writing a rape scene...

I would never be comfortable with the act of rape itself, but I am comfortable in the fact that if I had to write a rape scene, I would do it in a way that the writing was tasteful. The act can never be tasteful, but I think the handling of such an act in one's writing can be tasteful. Once again, just my opinion, and others will vehemently disagree with me (and that's okay, I can handle it), but I think someone who has a need to write or read about something like rape in graphic detail is a bit off in the head.

-J. Mark Byrnes

JayWalloping
05-06-2011, 07:08 PM
So how do you write the difficult scenes? You know, the scenes that make you physically uncomfortable, the scenes that make your family and friends wonder if they need to commit you somewhere safer. You know, the murders, the rapes, the tortures. Do you skim over the details? Fade to black? Point to a rabbit with a pancake on its head and hope your readers won't notice you've run out of the room?

I think Arundhati Roy handled this well in The God of Small Things. A male character, Estha, is molested as a child. If you've never read the book, start at the beginning where she hints at it, then comes near it (talks about the place where it happened), shows the long-lasting aftereffects (twenty years later), then a hundred or more pages in gets to the incident. Takes a few pages. She spends most of the time on the setup and the ripples after the moment.

jacket
05-06-2011, 07:11 PM
My first novel is about the aftermath of a male sex abuse situation. It has the full-on gory detail in flashbacks and nightmare sequences. But that's because the point of my book was to make this real and, yeah, really tough stuff to write.

I think the question you need to ask yourself is what aspects of this rape are important to your story and your character? What is your target audience? Is the detail required to get your point across? Are you simply wanting to reveal it happened, or do you need the reader to have the full experience? Will glossing over it make it sound like you chickened out or is it ok because it isn't a major plot point?

Note that oftentimes writers put rape scenes in their characters' backstory because it's sort of a quick and dirty way to give them emotional depth. In my opinion, by glossing over it, it makes it read like that was the intent--like you are simply throwing in seasoning. Then again, you really have to think about your target audience and some times this sort of stuff is really difficult for some readers.

If you do chose to go in detail you cannot half-ass it. Otherwise it will read as fake and contrived. When writing scenes like that I've found it best to find a quiet place by myself, clear my mind and then let it sink into hell. Free write every thought, feeling, emotion, that occured to me while picturing being in that situation. Every bit of panic, every knot of sick, every gut reaction. Just write it all down without thinking about editing or organization. Then sift back through and pick out the gems. I did this with a first person narrator, but I can imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to extend to third person. It is no easy thing to do and I know that for myself it often left me depressed for awhile afterward, so do take care of yourself if you go there.

Best of luck!

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 07:11 PM
Once again, just my opinion, and others will vehemently disagree with me (and that's okay, I can handle it), but I think someone who has a need to write or read about something like rape in graphic detail is a bit off in the head.


Thanks for the insult.

:popcorn:

estyles
05-06-2011, 07:13 PM
I actually disagree. If it was more for the director/writer's satisfaction over the audience's then the the studio/publisher would put the block on it. Audiences do love gore.

I can't comment on Passion as I have never seen it, but I thought the ending of Braveheart great. It showed the realism of medieval society, I didn't think it was gratituous. The reason it worked was that the emphasis was not on the gore, but on whether Wallace would stay true to his ideal or beg for mercy in exchange for a quick death. It was a very character focused ending.


That's a fair argument. My point in bringing those films in specifiv up was as much to take a swipe at an actor/director I can't stand as much as anything else, I have to admit. :tongue

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 07:34 PM
Thanks for the insult.

:popcorn:

lol, I do what I can :D

-J. Mark Byrnes

scarletpeaches
05-06-2011, 08:14 PM
I said graphic detail wasn't needed to get the point across.We know. You're still wrong.
"Necessity" gets the point across, "extras" speak more about the writer than the scene.Or maybe your opinion says more about you as a reader than it does about, say, me as a writer.
Just my opinion, but I think my point stands.Yes it is, and no it doesn't.
Once again, just my opinion, and others will vehemently disagree with me (and that's okay, I can handle it), but I think someone who has a need to write or read about something like rape in graphic detail is a bit off in the head.If it's just your opinion you might want to lay off stating it as an absolute.

Phaeal
05-06-2011, 09:33 PM
That horror writers are psychopaths, or SFF writers are lost to reality, or erotica writers are deviants is a VERY common misconception. "Ewww, how could you even think about such things?" "Wow, Stephen King must be kind of sick, huh?" "Where does she do her research, huh huh huh."

We writers, however, ought to know there's no particular correlation between the content of our stories and the state of our psychology. I mean, just because my current WIP has an execution by flaying, M/F and M/M rapes, and forced prostitution, that doesn't mean I'm a scalpel-sharpening, leering advocate of sexual slavery.

Um, right?

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 09:40 PM
Or maybe your opinion says more about you as a reader than it does about, say, me as a writer.

Maybe it does, but was the OP not asking for opinions? I gave my opinion, that is all.


If it's just your opinion you might want to lay off stating it as an absolute.

Do you mean like this...


We know. You're still wrong.


Yes it is, and no it doesn't.

Obviously I have offended you, and for that I am not sorry and I do not apologize. My opinion is my opinion; I shared it with the OP because I was asked for it.

-J. Mark Byrnes

scarletpeaches
05-06-2011, 09:42 PM
Dammit, don't you dare apologise when I'm trying to get snotty with you!

*mumbles*

cwfgal
05-06-2011, 09:47 PM
He didn't.

Beth

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 09:50 PM
Dammit, don't you dare apologise when I'm trying to get snotty with you!

*mumbles*

lol, I wouldn't dream of it.

-J. Mark Byrnes

scarletpeaches
05-06-2011, 09:59 PM
Arse. That'll learn me to read proper.

Clearly, I need more caffeine.

Right. I'll be back later once I'm bitched up on tea and chocolate.

#snarkfail

perspicacious
05-06-2011, 10:05 PM
Personally I would not want to write a graphic description of child rape and I don't think that means I won't reach my full writing potential. I don't shy away from the topic of sexual assault (my MC in my current work is a rape survivor) but as both a mother of a young child and a victim of sexual assault, it's upsetting to the point where it is detrimental to my mental health.

OP, if you are uncomfortable that is fairly normal I'd think, given the nature of what you're writing about. I can't imagine it being easy and lighthearted to write that. It's certainly not easy or lighthearted for me to write about horrible things happening to my characters! But if it is extremely distressing to you, you might want to step back and unpack what the scene means to you.

Edit: I don't like the Lovely Bones, but I loved Lucky. I related to it a lot, reading it was very emotionally charged for me. I can understand if you don't like Alice Sebold's writing, but it was a memoir about rape so complaining that she talked about rape too much seems uh..odd.

NeuroFizz
05-06-2011, 10:11 PM
Once again, just my opinion, and others will vehemently disagree with me (and that's okay, I can handle it), but I think someone who has a need to write or read about something like rape in graphic detail is a bit off in the head.
There seems to be a problem with separating the writer from the story here. It's not the writer who NEEDS to write a graphic rape scene, the writer does it because the story demands it. Same thing with graphic murder scenes and other scenes of extreme violence. And readers are just going for the story-ride. I doubt if any (or many) of them select a story because they NEED those specific graphic scenes.

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 10:33 PM
There seems to be a problem with separating the writer from the story here. It's not the writer who NEEDS to write a graphic rape scene, the writer does it because the story demands it. Same thing with graphic murder scenes and other scenes of extreme violence.

Please go back and read the discussion. I was simply responding to seun's comment of "For you. Not for all writers or all readers," which implies that graphic detail is not needed for me, but for some writers or readers it is needed.


And readers are just going for the story-ride. I doubt if any (or many) of them select a story because they NEED those specific graphic scenes.

I agree! I was not saying that people need graphic content (seun implied that, not me), I was merely stating that if (key word, IF) someone needed it, something is wrong.

-J. Mark Byrnes

perspicacious
05-06-2011, 10:41 PM
There seems to be a problem with separating the writer from the story here. It's not the writer who NEEDS to write a graphic rape scene, the writer does it because the story demands it. Same thing with graphic murder scenes and other scenes of extreme violence. And readers are just going for the story-ride. I doubt if any (or many) of them select a story because they NEED those specific graphic scenes.

Look, the story is not some kind of sentient creature that ensnares a writer in a trap and then forces the writer to do its bidding. We are not all Misery to our writing, as amusing as it is to talk that way sometimes. We are the creators, we may have ideas that seem to come out of nowhere, but what we ultimately decide to write down is of our own choosing.

Fiction does not exist in a vacuum and you can tell the same story in many different ways. Choosing to write a graphic rape scene is a choice; one that has effects, both to the story and reader. It's not as simple as WRITE GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE: BEING TRUE TO STORY, DON'T WRITE IT: QUIT WRITING FOREVER (I know that's not what you're suggesting but some of the posters here are kind of close to it)

jmarkbyrnes
05-06-2011, 10:47 PM
Look, the story is not some kind of sentient creature that ensnares a writer in a trap and then forces the writer to do its bidding. We are not all Misery to our writing, as amusing as it is to talk that way sometimes. We are the creators, we may have ideas that seem to come out of nowhere, but what we ultimately decide to write down is of our own choosing.

Fiction does not exist in a vacuum and you can tell the same story in many different ways. Choosing to write a graphic rape scene is a choice; one that has effects, both to the story and reader. It's not as simple as WRITE GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE: BEING TRUE TO STORY, DON'T WRITE IT: QUIT WRITING FOREVER (I know that's not what you're suggesting but some of the posters here are kind of close to it)

Couldn't agree more.

-J. Mark Byrnes

Jonathan Dalar
05-06-2011, 10:55 PM
That horror writers are psychopaths, or SFF writers are lost to reality, or erotica writers are deviants is a VERY common misconception. "Ewww, how could you even think about such things?" "Wow, Stephen King must be kind of sick, huh?" "Where does she do her research, huh huh huh."

We writers, however, ought to know there's no particular correlation between the content of our stories and the state of our psychology. I mean, just because my current WIP has an execution by flaying, M/F and M/M rapes, and forced prostitution, that doesn't mean I'm a scalpel-sharpening, leering advocate of sexual slavery.

Um, right?

Very true!

I'd also like to add that my personal writing of explicit scenes isn't at all dictated by by own desires to write something. It's dictated by the characters and the stories they're telling. Sometimes they need the veil in front of the action and sometimes they need me to rip it away violently and expose the nakedness of the moment. It all has to do with the story you're telling, not who you are as a writer or person.

Of course, these same people who think, "Ewww, how could you even think about such things?" are also the ones who wonder why you don't just go out and publish your novel when it's done. As if it's simply a task wedged in between the grocery store and the post office.

NeuroFizz
05-06-2011, 11:08 PM
Look, the story is not some kind of sentient creature that ensnares a writer in a trap and then forces the writer to do its bidding. We are not all Misery to our writing, as amusing as it is to talk that way sometimes. We are the creators, we may have ideas that seem to come out of nowhere, but what we ultimately decide to write down is of our own choosing.

Fiction does not exist in a vacuum and you can tell the same story in many different ways. Choosing to write a graphic rape scene is a choice; one that has effects, both to the story and reader. It's not as simple as WRITE GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE: BEING TRUE TO STORY, DON'T WRITE IT: QUIT WRITING FOREVER (I know that's not what you're suggesting but some of the posters here are kind of close to it)
As a writer, you should know that the phrasing I used is NOT suggesting the story has a mind or a heartbeat. It is saying the writer will choose to write the scene in a way he/she feels is the best way to serve the story. And that will be based on the writer's knowledge of the intended audience, the writer's experience in creating the kinds of tension that serve this particular story, the author's desire to use the scene to set up other aspects of the story, and a miriad of other story-related aspects that will be used by the writer to determine the graphic nature of the scenes. That is how the story dictates the nature of the scenes. If an author doesn't pay attention to these things when planning and writing the story, the results may well miss the mark, either in being gratuitous or in being vanilla.

And keep your "look"s to yourself.

gothicangel
05-06-2011, 11:16 PM
Look, the story is not some kind of sentient creature that ensnares a writer in a trap and then forces the writer to do its bidding. We are not all Misery to our writing, as amusing as it is to talk that way sometimes. We are the creators, we may have ideas that seem to come out of nowhere, but what we ultimately decide to write down is of our own choosing.

Fiction does not exist in a vacuum and you can tell the same story in many different ways. Choosing to write a graphic rape scene is a choice; one that has effects, both to the story and reader. It's not as simple as WRITE GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE: BEING TRUE TO STORY, DON'T WRITE IT: QUIT WRITING FOREVER (I know that's not what you're suggesting but some of the posters here are kind of close to it)

The style of the book is utterly down to the tone of the book and the audience it is being aimed at.

As being a creator, I'm not a control freak I allow my characters to run wild. I find the whole 'I am the creator' attitude pretty much alien, I believe that my characters and stories chose me, and not the other way around. No-one has the right to say one way is better than the other.

On a final note, I'm finding the tone of this thread disrespectful. Respect your fellow writer: no taking swipes or 'people who write violent stories are social deviants.'

Satori1977
05-06-2011, 11:21 PM
Not everyone can write difficult scenes. You have to think if it is the right story for you to be telling, and how much description is really necessary. Don't go overboard for dramatic shock, don't use it gratuitously. Use only what is necessary. What is needed for the story and character development.

In really disturbing scenes, I think that emotions are the most importand part of the scene. It doesn't really bother me, but I don't need to read pages of blood and gore. I would rather get the MC's reaction to the blood and gore. You don't need every horrible little detail of a rape, but instead focus on what the victim is experiencing emotionally and mentally during and afterward.

And yes, it might bring up memories or bad feelings for the writer. You might feel emotionally drained after. If that happens, just take a break from writing. Do something to help you relax and unwind. Watch a comedy, have a glass of wine, pet your puppy. Don't hurt yourself in order to write these scenes.

NeuroFizz
05-06-2011, 11:28 PM
It's not as simple as WRITE GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE: BEING TRUE TO STORY, DON'T WRITE IT: QUIT WRITING FOREVER (I know that's not what you're suggesting but some of the posters here are kind of close to it)
No one here is saying anything close to this. Each writer will have his/her own writing style, and in that context, that person will have a range of possibilities for constructing the story. For some authors and their chosen stories, graphic scenes will not be within that range of possibilities. For some authors, that range will be extensive. But for all, the position within a writer's personal range should be determined by what gives the best story to the reader.

Little Ming
05-06-2011, 11:42 PM
And my first thread was going so well... I expected this topic to be controversial, but even I'm a little surprised at the turn this thread has taken. As I am the OP of this topic, I'll at least make a feeble attempt to salvage my thread.

First, thank you very much to those that have contributed some very good ideas, comments, and even some personal writing experience as to how to handle these subjects.

Second, (and here's where I try to salvage things) this thread is not about which came first the writer or the story. This thread is not about whether the writer is the master of his story or the story controls the writer. While interesting, this is a discussion deserving of its own thread. This thread is especially not about whether writing such scenes says anything about the writer or the writer's psychological state.

For the purposes of this thread we will assume two things:

1. The disturbing/difficult/violent incidents does happen in the story, and
2. There will be a scene or scenes involving such incidents.

The questions are how do you handle such incidents? Skim them, fade out, go into great detail, mention them in passing, mention them once and never again, mention them continuously, etc.

The best advise I've seen so far in regards to my specific WIP is to change my focus. The rape scene in my story is not a quick one and is significant to my characters and plot, so I cannot just gloss over it or fade to black. I was afraid of going into too much graphic details, because this obviously is not an easy subject to write about, but it seems what I really want to get out of this scene was the emotions and the impact it has on my MC. This can be done without all the physical details and for some reason this never occurred to me before (yes, stupid me :tongue ). Maybe because I was so horrified that such an incident had somehow found its way into my story had hurt my character that all I could focus on was the actual physical act, when my focus should have been elsewhere.

So, here's my contribution to my own thread after reading all the other posts. Find out why such a scene is necessary in the first place. What exactly are you, as the writer, trying to convey to the reader? Horror? Fear? Sympathy? Anger? Actual physical discomfort? When you've decided what the scene is actual supposed to do it becomes much easier to pick and chose your words and the details you want to include (if any details at all).

Alright, carry on, play nice, and lets not try to get my first thread locked. :)

perspicacious
05-06-2011, 11:43 PM
NeuroFizz, I apologize. I was responding to the elements in this discussion I find distasteful in my reply to you. Since you have not said anything upsetting, that was a poor choice of mine.

fwiw I do not agree with the poster who suggested that someone writing a graphic scene is "wrong in the head." And anyway, I personally could not could write a graphic rape scene, and I certainly have things wrong in my head. ;)

perspicacious
05-06-2011, 11:52 PM
When I read a book where rape is portrayed, I am pretty sensitive as to the neccesity of it. Too many stories use rape as a SHOCKING plot device and imo that's exploitative. It's not that I don't think rape should be shown, it's a very important issue and sadly very common. It's just I ask myself "is this scene serving any point besides a quick way to manipulate me" and too often I find the answer is yes.

My advice is to show the amount of details you need to convey the information you need and no more. So, just like any other writing! I think your decision to shift from describing the physical action to exploring the emotional aftershocks is a good one, but you don't have to completely drop your previous idea either. It's difficult sometimes to think clearly about such an emotionally charged subject. Sometimes you've just to got to try different things and see which one is most effective.

ChaosTitan
05-07-2011, 02:16 AM
Easy does it, folks.


As a writer, you should know that the phrasing I used is NOT suggesting the story has a mind or a heartbeat. It is saying the writer will choose to write the scene in a way he/she feels is the best way to serve the story. And that will be based on the writer's knowledge of the intended audience, the writer's experience in creating the kinds of tension that serve this particular story, the author's desire to use the scene to set up other aspects of the story, and a miriad of other story-related aspects that will be used by the writer to determine the graphic nature of the scenes. That is how the story dictates the nature of the scenes. If an author doesn't pay attention to these things when planning and writing the story, the results may well miss the mark, either in being gratuitous or in being vanilla.

QFT.



On a final note, I'm finding the tone of this thread disrespectful. Respect your fellow writer: no taking swipes or 'people who write violent stories are social deviants.'

And ditto this. Let's keep the tone respectful, folks.



For the purposes of this thread we will assume two things:

1. The disturbing/difficult/violent incidents does happen in the story, and
2. There will be a scene or scenes involving such incidents.

The questions are how do you handle such incidents? Skim them, fade out, go into great detail, mention them in passing, mention them once and never again, mention them continuously, etc.

For me, I tend to border on graphic. I show as much as I think is necessary to convey what the reader needs to know, and it is difficult to strike a balance between horrifying the reader and truly squicking them out. I want the former, but not the latter.

I've written torture scenes. The physical aspects of what is happening to my heroine are downplayed compared to the emotional--what is she thinking? What is she feeling? Does she think she'll survive this or is she giving up? Those things are more important to me, both as a writer and a reader, than giving a graphic description of the way the bad guy is sticking needles in her thighs.

In some genres, I'm cool with the writer giving me "fade to black" on violence, the same way as with a sex scene. In other genres, I'm okay with things being more graphic, as long as it's handled well by the author.

Sarah Madara
05-07-2011, 02:58 AM
I propose a two-step approach:

1. Write it. Write it in as much detail as you can stand. Password protect the file, never show it to anyone, and prove to yourself that you can do it.
2. Once you've got all that detail out, put it aside for a bit if you need the space to get over it. Then go back with a critical eye and see which details need to be there and which can go. Pick and choose what has the most emotional impact, and pare the scene down to what you think serves the story the best.

You don't necessarily need a very graphic description, but the stuff you include shouldn't be chosen by default because it was all you could handle writing. That's not honest writing and the reader will see through it.

I hope that makes sense.

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 11:25 AM
When I read a book where rape is portrayed, I am pretty sensitive as to the neccesity of it. Too many stories use rape as a SHOCKING plot device and imo that's exploitative.

Hmm, but some stories require the rape to be a shocking plot device. It's designed to jolt the reader/audience out of their complacency. The Color Purple features the rape of a young girl, quite graphic in my book. Just because it shocks, doesn't mean that was the main function of the device.

Just like to add, all treatment should be shocking. If a rape isn't shocking, then we are on a slippery slope.

Parataxis
05-07-2011, 05:18 PM
I think that the more graphic the scene is in a book, the more important I expect it to be to the ongoing plot. If the flashback is just to demonstrate something aspect of a character dynamic, or a subplot, I would be mildly annoyed if the scene was drawn out in gruesome detail.

But sometimes the scene has a purpose, and needs enough attention to fulfill this purpose. Consider The Kite Runner, There the scene was given, well, a scene. But, the focus was not on the rape, but on the main characters inaction, because it is that which drives the plot. If the important part is the impact on the characters, then focus on them. Give just enough physical detail to convey what is happening, and then step inside the character's head and watch.

MikeGrant
05-07-2011, 05:41 PM
The question as to how graphic depends very much on the genre and tone of your novel and also what the scene needs to achieve. I've read incredibly graphic disturbing scenes that riveted me because they were well done and necessary in the novel. They moved the story, explained the characters, set up the big conflict.

I've also read graphic scenes that seemed to be there just to shock or because the author thought he should include them. Those really put me off and make me likely to put the novel aside or not read any more by that author (James Patterson, I'm looking at you.)

So look at your novel and ask yourself if this is something we need to see and just how much detail we need. Are the mechanics of what is happening to her body as important as the horror experienced in her mind? If you can distill a scene down to its essence, you will know better how to convey that.

Soccer Mom won the thread with this post back on page 2. Keep up, everyone. :)

Sarah Madara
05-07-2011, 08:27 PM
If a rape isn't shocking, then we are on a slippery slope.

Absolutely. I've read a few descriptions of what was supposed to be violent rape, but because the author shied away from giving too many details, the scene came across as more titillating than disturbing - i.e., more like a dominance/submission fantasy than an act of violence. (Never with children involved, though. That's going to be shocking and disturbing no matter how you tell it.)

By the way, count me in the camp of those who loved The Lovely Bones. The opening was very graphic and hard to read, but without horrifying the reader I don't think she would have done the scene or the book justice. JMHO

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 09:02 PM
Absolutely. I've read a few descriptions of what was supposed to be violent rape, but because the author shied away from giving too many details, the scene came across as more titillating than disturbing - i.e., more like a dominance/submission fantasy than an act of violence. (Never with children involved, though. That's going to be shocking and disturbing no matter how you tell it.)

It's a difficult topic, and bound to cause controversy. One man's art is another man's porn.

Achilles
05-07-2011, 09:29 PM
My opinion on rape, sex, and violence in writing. You write everything about the scene EXCEPT the actual act.
For example let's say I was writing about a couple having sex for the first time. I would write about everything except the 'penis in vagina' part (sorry so graphic :( ). I would write about the curve of the woman's breast, running a finger down the small of her back, the quick jerk of the man's body, the sweat, the sucking in of his breath, the smell of old spice,

If you write a rape scene and you are too explicit, especially about a child, it's exploitive. Write about the weight of the man's body, his hands, his smell. Write about the way the child expressed fear and revulsion, the eyes shut tightly, the fists balled up in terror, the fight to get away.
Just my opinion

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 09:48 PM
My opinion on rape, sex, and violence in writing. You write everything about the scene EXCEPT the actual act.
For example let's say I was writing about a couple having sex for the first time. I would write about everything except the 'penis in vagina' part (sorry so graphic :( ). I would write about the curve of the woman's breast, running a finger down the small of her back, the quick jerk of the man's body, the sweat, the sucking in of his breath, the smell of old spice,

If you write a rape scene and you are too explicit, especially about a child, it's exploitive. Write about the weight of the man's body, his hands, his smell. Write about the way the child expressed fear and revulsion, the eyes shut tightly, the fists balled up in terror, the fight to get away.
Just my opinion

Not necessarily.
Some readers want the graphic sexual scenes. I can't see how that is being exploitative, it's the contract between writer and reader. Some readers want it graphic. It would be very starnge to read a rape scene where the victim didn't place emphasis on the actual act of penetration because it is the moment of physical and emotional violation.

Achilles
05-07-2011, 10:24 PM
Not necessarily.
Some readers want the graphic sexual scenes. I can't see how that is being exploitative, it's the contract between writer and reader. Some readers want it graphic. It would be very starnge to read a rape scene where the victim didn't place emphasis on the actual act of penetration because it is the moment of physical and emotional violation.
First off, everything I described is graphic. I never said not to use graphic and explicit language. I just said, stop at describing the actual penetration.
***Dexter spoiler Alert***

Some one brought up Dexter. The scene where Dexter and Rita have sex for the first time is graphic and sexy as hell but it doesn't include any picture of penis entering vagina.
I get the contract thing, but really have you ever read a romance novel or a novel that includes a love scene? Penises and vaginas coming together are almost never described and no one feels cheated. If I want to read about penises and vaginas, I'm not picking up a novel at my local Barnes and Nobel. I'm going to the liquor store for a Penthouse.
Most rape scenes that come to my mind, either in movies or literature, place emphasis on the violence of the act and the fear it caused, not the actual penetration.

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 10:34 PM
First off, everything I described is graphic. I never said not to use graphic and explicit language. I just said, stop at describing the actual penetration.
***Dexter spoiler Alert***

Some one brought up Dexter. The scene where Dexter and Rita have sex for the first time is graphic and sexy as hell but it doesn't include any picture of penis entering vagina.
I get the contract thing, but really have you ever read a romance novel or a novel that includes a love scene? Penises and vaginas coming together are almost never described and no one feels cheated. If I want to read about penises and vaginas, I'm not picking up a novel at my local Barnes and Nobel. I'm going to the liquor store for a Penthouse.
Most rape scenes that come to my mind, either in movies or literature, place emphasis on the violence of the act and the fear it caused, not the actual penetration.

You mean the same romance novels that talk about throbbing manhoods etc?

For a woman [men too I would imagine] to ignore the act of penetration would be disingenous to the issue of rape. [I fought off a rapist when I was 15.]

perspicacious
05-07-2011, 10:45 PM
Hmm, but some stories require the rape to be a shocking plot device. It's designed to jolt the reader/audience out of their complacency. The Color Purple features the rape of a young girl, quite graphic in my book. Just because it shocks, doesn't mean that was the main function of the device.

Just like to add, all treatment should be shocking. If a rape isn't shocking, then we are on a slippery slope.

Oh, certainly. I mean right there you described why the rape was written in: not just to be shocking, but to jolt the reader out of the complacency because it tied into larger thematic concerns of the book. There's a difference between doing that and putting in a graphic scene only to be shocking. I understand that some people like that sort of writing, but to me it seems like an attempt to be edgy that is exploitative.

Sarah Madara
05-07-2011, 11:01 PM
...but really have you ever read a romance novel or a novel that includes a love scene? Penises and vaginas coming together are almost never described and no one feels cheated.

I read a lot of genres and while anatomical terms are more common in, say, erotic romance, I've read love scenes in all kinds of books that have described the act of penetration in some way. It might be with a euphemism, but it's still there.


Most rape scenes that come to my mind, either in movies or literature, place emphasis on the violence of the act and the fear it caused, not the actual penetration.Actual penetration can be pretty traumatic. It's the point at which a sexual assault becomes rape, for one thing. It might also be extremely painful - lack of lubrication, a victim who's a virgin, etc. The penetration itself is violent. So I don't see how it is out of place in describing the violence of the act.

****Girl with the Dragon Tattoo SPOILER****

That novel has a very graphic scene in which something is shoved in a character's backside without any lube. (Actually, two scenes. But one from the victim's POV.) It is very hard to read, but that single image of penetration captures the sadism he's trying to describe much better, IMO, than any of the other violence in the scene.

Little Ming
05-07-2011, 11:46 PM
My opinion on rape, sex, and violence in writing. You write everything about the scene EXCEPT the actual act.
For example let's say I was writing about a couple having sex for the first time. I would write about everything except the 'penis in vagina' part (sorry so graphic :( ). I would write about the curve of the woman's breast, running a finger down the small of her back, the quick jerk of the man's body, the sweat, the sucking in of his breath, the smell of old spice,

I will have to respectfully disagree with you. I can think of many instances where "penis in vagina" is the perfect way to describe a sex act. For example, I have a character who is a jaded sex worker, she's been at it for some time and neither likes nor hates her job. It's just a way to pay for food and shelter. To her a sex scene literally is just "penis in vagina." It's not rape, it's not emotional, it's not sexy, it's not painful... it just is. She doesn't think about their bodies coming together, about the sweat or scent of the man, about their breathing, about the orgasm, etc. She just thinks "penis in vagina" and there's no better way to describe it.


If you write a rape scene and you are too explicit, especially about a child, it's exploitive. Write about the weight of the man's body, his hands, his smell. Write about the way the child expressed fear and revulsion, the eyes shut tightly, the fists balled up in terror, the fight to get away.
Just my opinion

Again, have to disagree. Sometimes rape scenes can be explicit without being exploitative. Being explicit can add to the shock and terror of the scene. Saying, very bluntly, "penis in vagina" can jolt the reader, make them uncomfortable, create sympathy for the victim or hatred for the perpetrator. Or it can show a disassociation between the victim and the act, like an out of body experience where she only thinks of the rape in clinical terms to protect herself from the horror of what is happening to her body.

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 11:47 PM
****Girl with the Dragon Tattoo SPOILER****

That novel has a very graphic scene in which something is shoved in a character's backside without any lube. (Actually, two scenes. But one from the victim's POV.) It is very hard to read, but that single image of penetration captures the sadism he's trying to describe much better, IMO, than any of the other violence in the scene.

Oh God, yes. I forgot about that one!

gothicangel
05-07-2011, 11:52 PM
Oh, certainly. I mean right there you described why the rape was written in: not just to be shocking, but to jolt the reader out of the complacency because it tied into larger thematic concerns of the book. There's a difference between doing that and putting in a graphic scene only to be shocking. I understand that some people like that sort of writing, but to me it seems like an attempt to be edgy that is exploitative.

I read The Colour Purple during the summer holidays when I was 16. I never read anything like it before. So yes, I was suitably shocked.

Richard Laymon was one of my favourite authors when I was about 18. His books are quite explicit - and exploitative. Yet the books are still in print ten years after his death. Someone is buying them. ;)

ardenbird
05-08-2011, 12:17 AM
1. The disturbing/difficult/violent incidents does happen in the story, and
2. There will be a scene or scenes involving such incidents.

The questions are how do you handle such incidents? Skim them, fade out, go into great detail, mention them in passing, mention them once and never again, mention them continuously, etc.

Hello Ming from another newbie! Thanks for this thread, as it is an issue I'm dealing with right now.

I've just re-read my first-draft fantasy novel, which deals with domestic abuse, and I've noticed a rather annoying habit: I tend to "skip" such scenes, and show only the aftermath. Or, I switch POV (as I have several going) and show another character walking in on the scene. After a while, it gets tiresome and frustrating, as I felt distanced from the character (almost "cheated" from her experience). Yet I can imagine that showing it all (or only the specific scenes that have important ramifications--as for the ongoing abuse I tend to just allude to it), would be far too much.

Any advice for a story were there are repeated disturbing incidents? I suppose I could cycle through all the above choices.

I did notice that "skipping" things is not limited just to violent scenes in my draft. A terrible habit of mine seems to be skip anything with import and go straight to reaction -- I suspect because in the composing, it was the reaction that moved the story forward, yet reading only reaction is truly maddening. Other things are easy to fix -- I can show the first sight of raiding ships on the horizon, instead of skipping to fear and preparation, and it will only take a few sentences. But the personal violence feels more difficult to face, and the scenes longer. And sometimes the other POV is actually an important view to show -- yet perhaps I need to pop into my main character's head to avoid alienating the reader. In those scenes I think I did take an "easy out" by knowing I needed that other POV so figured I could slide a difficult scene through.

gothicangel
05-08-2011, 12:32 AM
Hello Ming from another newbie! Thanks for this thread, as it is an issue I'm dealing with right now.

I've just re-read my first-draft fantasy novel, which deals with domestic abuse, and I've noticed a rather annoying habit: I tend to "skip" such scenes, and show only the aftermath. Or, I switch POV (as I have several going) and show another character walking in on the scene. After a while, it gets tiresome and frustrating, as I felt distanced from the character (almost "cheated" from her experience). Yet I can imagine that showing it all (or only the specific scenes that have important ramifications--as for the ongoing abuse I tend to just allude to it), would be far too much.

Any advice for a story were there are repeated disturbing incidents? I suppose I could cycle through all the above choices.

I did notice that "skipping" things is not limited just to violent scenes in my draft. A terrible habit of mine seems to be skip anything with import and go straight to reaction -- I suspect because in the composing, it was the reaction that moved the story forward, yet reading only reaction is truly maddening. Other things are easy to fix -- I can show the first sight of raiding ships on the horizon, instead of skipping to fear and preparation, and it will only take a few sentences. But the personal violence feels more difficult to face, and the scenes longer. And sometimes the other POV is actually an important view to show -- yet perhaps I need to pop into my main character's head to avoid alienating the reader. In those scenes I think I did take an "easy out" by knowing I needed that other POV so figured I could slide a difficult scene through.

Hi from the Central Belt. :welcome:

When you say skipping are you avoiding writing the scene, or are you doing something like [missing scene] and intending to go back to it later?

ardenbird
05-08-2011, 12:49 AM
When you say skipping are you avoiding writing the scene, or are you doing something like [missing scene] and intending to go back to it later?

I'm afraid I'm avoiding writing it totally, and sometimes have to give a quick precis to explain what happened.

For example, I'll leave my character with her husband grabbing for her, then the next scene will start with her reflecting how the beating was worse than she expected, or something like that. I think a few of those are okay, probably, but every time upon read through it was glaringly repetitive.

bluntforcetrauma
05-08-2011, 01:00 AM
I don't write something that makes me uncomfortable.

There are many ways to write a rape scene. You can get the point across without going into a lot of graphic detail and then let the damage done play out in the rest of the book, or you can describe it in all it's graphic detail. I would choose the first way, because reading a graphic rape scene, let along writing one, is not something i would enjoy doing. Furthermore, a high level of graphic detail with a rape scene is not needed to get the point across.

-J. Mark Byrnes

I agree. Maybe a non-sexcrime event could show trauma.

perspicacious
05-08-2011, 01:49 AM
I read The Colour Purple during the summer holidays when I was 16. I never read anything like it before. So yes, I was suitably shocked.

Richard Laymon was one of my favourite authors when I was about 18. His books are quite explicit - and exploitative. Yet the books are still in print ten years after his death. Someone is buying them. ;)

Right, my point is that she shocks you for a reason. Not just because she can. That is what I take issue with, personally. I recognize that there is a market for it, just like there is a market for a lot of things I find exploitative and/or bad. OP asked us for opinions on handling difficult scenes, and my perspective is that if you're writing it just to be graphic, then you should reconsider putting it in.

ardenbird
05-08-2011, 01:54 AM
I think a few of those are okay, probably, but every time upon read through it was glaringly repetitive.

Just to be clear, as it sounded like this is all the book consists of: there are really only four such scenes, all aimed to move the story along (and each one different), but the fact that you never actually join the character in them seems wrong somehow.

perspicacious
05-08-2011, 02:02 AM
I'm afraid I'm avoiding writing it totally, and sometimes have to give a quick precis to explain what happened.

For example, I'll leave my character with her husband grabbing for her, then the next scene will start with her reflecting how the beating was worse than she expected, or something like that. I think a few of those are okay, probably, but every time upon read through it was glaringly repetitive.

If I read a story like that, I would wonder why the author chose to completely remove the violence in a story about domestic violence. I think it can be done well--like, is the violence so horrific for the character that she has to disassociate? (She seems pretty disassociated already if she can calmly reflect over the beating afterwards.)

I guess what I'm saying is, figure out how it changes the story if you leave in/cut out the kinds of scenes you're avoiding. Adding a lot of scenes will change it too-sometimes violence can overshadow everything else. Hopefully you'll be able to find the right blend that is comfortable enough to write but uncomfortable enough to get your point across. ;)

Little Ming
05-08-2011, 02:25 AM
RE: Skipping the scenes

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with skipping the scenes altogether. But, again, this all comes back to what the writer wants to convey. Is the incident so horrific that the character disassociated or black out from it? Represses the memory? Is the violence so common in the character's life that she's become numb to the abuse?

Ask yourself, what effect does skipping the scenes have to the story? Does it make it stronger? Weaker? Change the tone? Change the plot? Change the character development?

Also, I think it could be just as powerful to have another character narrate the violence, for example a child. If Dad is beating Mom again and Son is in the other room trying to cover his ears and hide under a blanket with his stuffed teddy bear, that scene can be far more powerful than either Mom or Dad narrating the abuse first-handed.

Satchan
05-08-2011, 02:36 AM
Like others have said, it really depends on the feel you're trying to go for. Fade to black can work in some cases...what we imagine is often worse than reality. The scariest monsters are the ones who never come out of the dark. ;) I have an MC who was abused by her father (physically, not sexually), and exactly what happened is not going to be in the story. No flashbacks, no explanations to other characters. She refuses to talk about it, or even admit that it happened. But the reader is able to piece things together by the way she reacts to things and the old scars that she has. Sometimes shadows can be a lot more powerful than long, detailed abuse scenes.

That being said, if you feel like you're doing a disservice to the story and skimming over important things, you might want to put some sort of in-scene detail in. Maybe focus on the emotions rather than the actual details of what's happening?

Twinkie
05-08-2011, 06:08 AM
It seems the thread has narrowed from difficult scenes in general to rape specifically. Not passing judgment, just commenting.

I have a couple of difficult scenes in the first novel in my YA series. The first one I wrote involves the MC's family members torturing someone they saw as posing a threat to the family. I showed nothing of the actual torture, just small details, like the image of the torturee stripped to the waist and hanging by his arms, the image of a gun in the MC's father's hands, etc. What was important was not the torture itself, but the MC's realization that her parents would do things she didn't agree with and that her parents (especially the father) would go to extreme lengths to protect the family.

My other scene is actually the opening of the novel. Think of that scene in Goblet of Fire when Harry sees the Dark Mark peeps levitate a bunch of Muggles and bounce them around, but from the Muggles' perspective, who are aware of everything going on. It's turning out to be harder to write than the torture scene, or even the discovery of a corpse which happens later in the series. I described the setup in detail and then dealt with the actual event in the abstract (or in vagueness, some might say), and my First Reader told me I was copping out. Since it shapes the MC's character, I probably do need to delve more into her feelings and reactions than the vague physical description of what was happening.

amlptj
05-08-2011, 06:20 AM
Ok so alot of things that would make others uncomfortable dont seem to have the same effect on me. For example there is alot of torture and murder, and blood and guts kind of things in my books, that i write easily.

Rape on the other hand, i'm pretty sure makes every human on earth uncomfortable. I wrote a book that dealt with a hillbilly town that murdered, raped and kidnapped people. Nothing along those lines happened to my MC's but they were told the stories by someone who was still being held captive in the town. In that instance I had her kind of skim over the true details of what happened.

Although in this book i'm writing now, one of my MC's is raped by her abusive boyfriend. Its not my narrator, so again the account, is told not shown. I kind of think that makes it easier to write, if its a told story, and your not actually putting yourself and the reader there in the situation. My books are YA, so for me i dont go too far into detail, but if you feel a need to go into something with more detail, id suggest reading "The lovey bones" in the first chapter there is a rape scene, that i think was pretty well written, not too detailed but detailed enough.

RedRose
05-08-2011, 06:05 PM
I'm sorry, but I haven't written a rape scene so I couldn't tell you the best way to go about it.

I can't stand rape scenes in books. I'd rather lose my arm than be raped. I think authors sometimes put in such scenes without really thinking about their audience. It usually makes me feel sick and I stop reading.

Why is it that the girl is raped and the boy is not?

Pay close attention to who you'd like your audience to be and tailor the scene. If you want it graphic, make it graphic.

scarletpeaches
05-08-2011, 06:12 PM
I'm sorry, but I haven't written a rape scene so I couldn't tell you the best way to go about it.

I can't stand rape scenes in books. I'd rather lose my arm than be raped.I'm sure the character feels the same way, but if the story calls for it, the story calls for it.
I think authors sometimes put in such scenes without really thinking about their audience.Or maybe you're just not their audience, as illustrated by:
It usually makes me feel sick and I stop reading.No, I'm not saying anyone has to put rape in their books but I wonder how many people who have such a visceral reaction would say the same about murder? Theft? Any other crime?

For goodness' sake, people - writing about rape does not mean the author is condoning it. It means they're willing to write whatever the story calls for in the best way they can.
Pay close attention to who you'd like your audience to be...I'm aiming for people who are willing to suspend their disbelief but who also realise my characters are not real people and I am not my characters.

If people don't want to see rape in books, fine, but I see no difference between that act and any other form of cruelty.

Why is moral indignation selective?

gothicangel
05-08-2011, 06:13 PM
I'm sorry, but I haven't written a rape scene so I couldn't tell you the best way to go about it.

I can't stand rape scenes in books. I'd rather lose my arm than be raped. I think authors sometimes put in such scenes without really thinking about their audience. It usually makes me feel sick and I stop reading.

I think the general consensus is that no-one wants to be raped. But that doesn't mean writers shouldn't write about. I'd actually say we have a responsibility to write about difficult situations.



Why is it that the girl is raped and the boy is not?


Not always, i.e The Kite Runner.

Little Ming
05-08-2011, 10:35 PM
I'm sorry, but I haven't written a rape scene so I couldn't tell you the best way to go about it.

I can't stand rape scenes in books. I'd rather lose my arm than be raped. I think authors sometimes put in such scenes without really thinking about their audience. It usually makes me feel sick and I stop reading.

Why is it that the girl is raped and the boy is not?

Pay close attention to who you'd like your audience to be and tailor the scene. If you want it graphic, make it graphic.

I'll stop you right there. None of those things are being discussed in this thread, so I'm not even going to bother addressing it.

The topic is: how do you write those scenes? Nothing else. If you have a problem with rape, great, most people do, but this is not the place to have that discussion.

AmsterdamAssassin
05-09-2011, 01:24 AM
My MC is a professional assassin. She's unflinching in the face of violence, hence the violence witnessed from her POV is often graphic, detailed and detached.

If violence is witnessed from the POV of other characters, they might avert their eyes at the supreme moment, and the reader will have to do without a detailed description.

To me, story and character dictate the POV.

I have no problem whatsoever to go into graphic detail in murder, rape or torture if it fits with the character's POV.

sheadakota
05-09-2011, 05:01 AM
Well sure, but what I meant was the big set pieces where the audience has to sit through ages and ages of gory suffering that don't drive the plot forward and seem to be put there more for the creator's satisfaction than the audiences. You know, the scenes that are the literary equivalent of the ending of "Braveheart" or "Passion of the Christ."
I disagree with this- I WANT the literary equivalent of these scenes- THOSE scenes were the point of both those movies- men who would give their lives through horrible deaths for what they believed in. I want to see those details as well as read them, if not I would feel cheated.
as to how to write things that make you uncomfortable- Think of it this way- its your character- not you- living through the moment- if the difficult feelings, what have you are important to your character and will help the reader better understand and sympathize with them then I think you owe to the reader to just write it. Actually its cathartic in a way.

scarletpeaches
05-09-2011, 05:03 AM
Well sure, but what I meant was the big set pieces where the audience has to sit through ages and ages of gory suffering that don't drive the plot forward and seem to be put there more for the creator's satisfaction than the audiences. You know, the scenes that are the literary equivalent of the ending of "Braveheart" or "Passion of the Christ."You think those were unnecessarily gory?!

Being hung, drawn and quartered or crucified were no Sunday school picnics, and as for not driving the plots forward, um...what?! :Wha:

gothicangel
05-09-2011, 12:27 PM
You think those were unnecessarily gory?!

Being hung, drawn and quartered or crucified were no Sunday school picnics, and as for not driving the plots forward, um...what?! :Wha:

It does really pee me off when writers romantize the medieval period. It was well, medieval.

writingismypassion
05-09-2011, 08:22 PM
Since I have a rape scene in my WIP, I'll offer my own feelings/opinion on this issue.

**If you're sensitive, don't read any further**

The scene itself is limited in graphic detail. I mainly focused on what my MC felt. Her fear, the pain, how nauseous she is as his hands rove her body, the feeling of being suffocated as the man's body presses her into the hard floor, etc. I described other things, such as the finality of having her necklace ripped off (which is very important to her and is a symbol of her relationship with my male MC, who is NOT the one raping her). For the graphics, I mention the man's hand on her body, including her breasts and between her legs, and his tongue probing her mouth. IMO, that was graphic enough.

I personally did not feel it was necessary to be overly descriptive. I think most people get the idea of how brutal a rape can be. Skipping over something like that isn't a good idea, though, IMO. Something as traumatic as a rape can't be sugarcoated; there's no way to make the scene easier on the MC or the reader.

On a side note, it was an important scene that I felt needed to be there. Many of the things that happen in the story happen because of this one event. I didn't write this scene for shock value.

zegota
05-09-2011, 08:26 PM
You think those were unnecessarily gory?!

Being hung, drawn and quartered or crucified were no Sunday school picnics, and as for not driving the plots forward, um...what?! :Wha:

I dunno about Braveheart, but Passion of the Christ was not only unnecessarily gory, it was unbelievably gory -- it was comically gory, to the point where I felt like I was watching a really bloody Looney Tunes cartoon. So yeah, your gore can be so over the top that it distracts from the story (unless the "story" is about how gory the events are, which, to be fair, pretty much applies to 'Passion').

Sarah Madara
05-09-2011, 08:38 PM
There have been several references in this thread to whether scenes are written just to shock the reader. Honestly, I can't recall ever reading a graphic scene and thinking, "That's just in there for shock value." I've always figured whatever the scene was, it was in there because it was part of the story.

Movies sometimes add in a little extra sex or violence to bump up to an R rating, which tends to market better to adult audiences. But books have so many genres and so many categories of reader preference that it seems like whatever you feel serves the story best, there will likely be an audience for it. Plus, no matter how graphically a scene is written, I can still control the images in my mind, which I can't when I'm watching a movie.

I found the rape scenes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo much harder to watch in the movie than to read.

scarletpeaches
05-09-2011, 09:57 PM
I dunno about Braveheart, but Passion of the Christ was not only unnecessarily gory, it was unbelievably gory -- it was comically gory, to the point where I felt like I was watching a really bloody Looney Tunes cartoon. So yeah, your gore can be so over the top that it distracts from the story (unless the "story" is about how gory the events are, which, to be fair, pretty much applies to 'Passion').Being scourged and crucified is gory.

Too many films about Christ make it look like the nails going in just nipped a wee bit, he moaned, he fell into unconsciousness.

No. TPotC is one of the first films to be truthful about how agonising it was to be nailed to be piece of wood.

Effectively those who were impaled (to use the correct term) suffocated because of the positioning of the footrest. They had to lift themselves up to take a breath, hence the usual practice of breaking the legs if those being punished weren't dead by the Sabbath - it prevented them being able to breathe.

gothicangel
05-09-2011, 10:56 PM
Being scourged and crucified is gory.

Too many films about Christ make it look like the nails going in just nipped a wee bit, he moaned, he fell into unconsciousness.

No. TPotC is one of the first films to be truthful about how agonising it was to be nailed to be piece of wood.

Effectively those who were impaled (to use the correct term) suffocated because of the positioning of the footrest. They had to lift themselves up to take a breath, hence the usual practice of breaking the legs if those being punished weren't dead by the Sabbath - it prevented them being able to breathe.

Out of interest - I've never seen the film - is it done correctly, nails through the wrists? [which is how the Romans did it]

scarletpeaches
05-09-2011, 10:58 PM
I haven't seen it for a while but I think they put the nails through the hands and tied him to a cross by the wrists (not that they even used a cross).

zegota
05-09-2011, 11:43 PM
Being scourged and crucified is gory.


And being thrown off a bridge with a chain around your neck will kill you, instantly. If you're trying to argue that The Passion is an honest portrayal of violence, I think you'd have quite a battle on your hands.

That's not even touching the "Why?" of the thing. You say that the violence furthered the story. It didn't. There is no story. There is blood. A lot of blood. The blood is there specifically to be shocking. That's ... like, the entire point of a passion play. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- sometimes shocking is okay, I suppose. But if you're trying to actually write a story, The Passion is not a good example to follow.

scarletpeaches
05-09-2011, 11:47 PM
Hmm. A few Christians might argue that there is a story, but there you go.

zegota
05-09-2011, 11:55 PM
Hmm. A few Christians might argue that there is a story, but there you go.

Well, there is a story by the technical definition, but it's not an interesting one. It's obviously a representation of the larger story of Christianity, and many Christians connected to that. But pretend someone has never heard of Christ before. What would they get from the film, other than that the Romans were pretty damned brutal? There's no character development. Jesus doesn't really seem to have any goal as he instantly resigns himself to his fate. What's the conflict? What's the point?

EDIT: Anyway, I may have gotten offtopic with my palpable distaste for a certain film. In any case, whether you think the Passion exemplifies this or not, it is possible to have a scene that is so extreme that it distracts from the point of your story (a point which is, hopefully, something other than how violent the scene is).

scarletpeaches
05-10-2011, 12:06 AM
Quick reply before getting back on topic... ;)
But pretend someone has never heard of Christ before. What would they get from the film, other than that the Romans were pretty damned brutal? There's no character development. Jesus doesn't really seem to have any goal as he instantly resigns himself to his fate. What's the conflict? What's the point?As I recall, there was a verse from Isaiah quoted at the beginning of the film referencing Jesus' willingness to be scourged for our sins. The point of the passion, or suffering, was to show how much he loved mankind, which is why he was willing to go through all that. The point? The last scene. Good always triumphs.

Okay, back on topic again now... :) Carry on.

happywritermom
05-10-2011, 12:10 AM
I had written a child-rape scene in my first novel. A big part of the story is the MC's journey out of victimhood 19 years later. But beta readers were turned off by it and, when I fiddled with it, I realized I could get the same thing across in small flashbacks throughout the novel without being anywhere near as graphic. In some ways -- no, in all ways -- I think it's much more powerful that way. Instead of the act itself, I focused more on what was going through her head.

In my current WIP (Finished the first draft Saturday. Yippee!), the MC does some research on some pretty gruesome stuff. I could not write it or reread it before a meal or before bed, especially if my husband was traveling. It kind of freaks me out that I can actually scare myself.

gothicangel
05-10-2011, 12:34 AM
Well, there is a story by the technical definition, but it's not an interesting one. It's obviously a representation of the larger story of Christianity, and many Christians connected to that. But pretend someone has never heard of Christ before. What would they get from the film, other than that the Romans were pretty damned brutal? There's no character development. Jesus doesn't really seem to have any goal as he instantly resigns himself to his fate. What's the conflict? What's the point?



It's a Sacrifice plot.

Although asking where the conflict is in Roman occupied Judea is just weird.

zegota
05-10-2011, 12:43 AM
It's a Sacrifice plot.

Although asking where the conflict is in Roman occupied Judea is just weird.

The New Testament is a "sacrifice" plot. The Passion is nothing of the sort. And Roman-occupied Judea is a setting, not a conflict.

Sorry, but someone had submitted a novelization of The Passion of the Christ in a world where no one had heard of Christianity, they would have been laughed out of the room. There really isn't an intriguing story or conflict there without a vast knowledge of the context. Peter's denial and Judas's betrayal are about the most interesting things that happen, but not enough attention is paid to those to really qualify as a strong narrative.

Again, you can say what you want about the movie from a filmmaking standpoint, or from a religious one, if you really want to. But it seems odd to me to hear people defending it from a *story* standpoint, when it very obviously wasn't intended to be a story.

Little Ming
05-10-2011, 01:17 AM
Enough with the movie reviews. Stay on topic.

scarletpeaches
05-10-2011, 01:19 AM
Given that TPofC is a graphically violent movie, I would say it is on topic, whether or not we agree on whether the violence was warranted or not.

In fact, I'd say it's on topic specifically because of such differences of opinion. Earlier I touched on us straying off topic, but having thought again, there's some merit in discussing the scale of violence used if we can accept some like it and some don't.

Until a mod says differently.

gothicangel
05-10-2011, 02:20 AM
The New Testament is a "sacrifice" plot. The Passion is nothing of the sort. And Roman-occupied Judea is a setting, not a conflict.

Sorry, but someone had submitted a novelization of The Passion of the Christ in a world where no one had heard of Christianity, they would have been laughed out of the room. There really isn't an intriguing story or conflict there without a vast knowledge of the context. Peter's denial and Judas's betrayal are about the most interesting things that happen, but not enough attention is paid to those to really qualify as a strong narrative.

Again, you can say what you want about the movie from a filmmaking standpoint, or from a religious one, if you really want to. But it seems odd to me to hear people defending it from a *story* standpoint, when it very obviously wasn't intended to be a story.

I'm really not going to get into a religion mud-slinging match. Although Judiasm would strongly disagree with you.

Having worked as an editor if a book landed on my desk that followed the plot of The Passion I would ask to see more. Story is more than plot, and there is more than enough plot in the story of the crucifixion. Jesus went around upseting a lot of church leaders, which lead to interest from the Roman soldiers. His disciples were going around saying the Roman Gods were false Gods, which the Romans would have loved.

Think Sophie's Choice, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, Alcestis etc.

ANicolai
05-10-2011, 02:28 AM
I ran into this not too long ago while working on my third novel (background: the first two were fantasy; this one was real-world suspense). The scene was a father witnessing his very young son getting raped.

I was surprised at how hard the scene was to write. My stomach did start turning. It got to the point that I refused to break in the middle of it because I wanted to just have it over with.

As far as the techniques I used in the scene itself - I agree with the previous poster who mentioned not going in to extreme physical detail. I focused more on the protagonist's reactions. Particularly his nausea, possibly because that reaction felt very authentic to me. I alluded to what was happening physically and then cut the sentence off in the middle, as if the main character had looked away or couldn't bear to witness any more. This seemed to work well enough for the first draft, but I have to admit I'm not looking forward to the revision process on this scene.

ChaosTitan
05-10-2011, 02:53 AM
Given that TPofC is a graphically violent movie, I would say it is on topic, whether or not we agree on whether the violence was warranted or not.

In fact, I'd say it's on topic specifically because of such differences of opinion. Earlier I touched on us straying off topic, but having thought again, there's some merit in discussing the scale of violence used if we can accept some like it and some don't.

Until a mod says differently.

Agreed--to an extent. See below.



The topic is: how do you write those scenes? Nothing else. If you have a problem with rape, great, most people do, but this is not the place to have that discussion.

While I do think the discussion of the violence in "The Passion of Christ" is peripherally on-topic, let's try to keep that part of the discussion relevant to how we write those scenes in our own work. Which is what the thread is about.

feather
05-10-2011, 05:29 PM
I think the main point is that some people prefer the gory details, some prefer fade to black, or any point between those two extremes. You have to write what's right for you, but be aware that the amount of graphic details will probably turn some readers off. I for one would not read a book that contains graphic descriptions of child molestation, as I don't feel it's ever needed to get a point across. As you can see from this thread, others disagree :P

But why is it always rape? There's so many ways someone can be sexually abused, but the only one described in literature seems to be rape. That's a thing I felt Charlaine Harris did right in her books, where one of the characters struggles disgust towards sex after an uncle touched her as a child. Then you have the added guilt over having that reaction to something that "isn't an issue".

crunchyblanket
05-10-2011, 06:01 PM
The question is always 'what will this scene add to my book'? Is the rape just there to tell us Character A is a bad person? If so, is there a less heavy-handed way to show us that?

It's also about how we deal with the fallout, not just the event itself. I've read a few books where a character is raped/beaten and it's never mentioned again. I don't get that at all; if the character is not affected by what happened, why show it at all? Unless it's to illustrate the (unbelievably) laid back attitude of that character. Either way, follow up on it. Otherwise, it looks gratuitous.

scarletpeaches
05-10-2011, 06:49 PM
I've just been clothes shopping. You don't know shit about violence 'til you've been in Primark on a Tuesday afternoon.

crunchyblanket
05-10-2011, 06:55 PM
I've just been clothes shopping. You don't know shit about violence 'til you've been in Primark on a Tuesday afternoon.

There's a new Primark opening near me. Apparently, on the opening day, everything will be 5 or less.

I've got my taser ready.

Stellan
05-10-2011, 07:20 PM
Unless you are a damn good horror writer, I'd think long and hard about including graphic/shocking scenes. They are easy to mess up. I've put down several promising books because their 'shocking' scenes of villainous depravity and/or the cynical desolation of the world veered wildly over the top into self-parody. Yes, I get it, this is a Bad Guy or a Bad Place. If you intend to splatter me with gore in order to prove it, you'd best be deft with those intestines you're wielding.

If they're scenes of sexual violence I'd think even longer. I have personally never read a scene like this that I felt added to the story. Instead of making me feel party to a horrific event in the character's life, they just make me feel vaguely nauseous, as well as either frustrated ("great, I paid for a book with yet another Rape As Drama (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RapeAsDrama) scene") or, if it shades from shocking into creepily voyeuristic, just pissed off.

But then I actively avoid anything lauded as 'grim' or 'harrowing', so I might not be your audience.

scarletpeaches
05-10-2011, 07:50 PM
I have to say the greatest argument against including a rape scene in a book is the collective works of this man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Laymon).

gothicangel
05-10-2011, 07:56 PM
I have to say the greatest argument against including a rape scene in a book is the collective works of this man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Laymon).

I loved Richard Laymon when I was 17. The man definitely had a rape festish. Couldn't read that now.