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clotje
04-07-2005, 09:40 PM
I have a question for all of you guys. In my MSS I have a lot of explicit violence. My serial killers love to toy with their victims…you know the drill. I’m starting on the first round of editing / rewriting and I wonder how much violence is acceptable? I’m pretty sure Tarantino would love it…but I’m not sure what the average editor/ reader would make of it.

Also…another tantalising question I’ve been asking myself…do you accept a violent book more easily if it’s written by a man?

I’ve read books about serial killers (fiction) by Val MacDermid and Elizabeth George’s latest is about a serial killer but neither of those ladies have graphic violence in their books.

So…when do you know if you’ve crossed the line?

soloset
04-07-2005, 11:03 PM
Honestly, I usually don't even think about whether or not a book is written by a man or a woman when I first pick it up. I suspect more than a few initials-only authors in the mystery section of my library are female, though -- that seems to be the standard way of neutralizing the issue.

As far as violence level goes... with the trend towards brutality in television and movies lately, I wouldn't worry about crossing a line (are there any left?). Write it the way you want it, and you'll find the right someone to publish it sooner or later.

Or you could be like John Grisham and get a movie deal for it before you get a book deal! Call Quentin, quick. :)

Jamesaritchie
04-10-2005, 07:15 AM
I have a question for all of you guys. In my MSS I have a lot of explicit violence. My serial killers love to toy with their victims…you know the drill. I’m starting on the first round of editing / rewriting and I wonder how much violence is acceptable? I’m pretty sure Tarantino would love it…but I’m not sure what the average editor/ reader would make of it.

Also…another tantalising question I’ve been asking myself…do you accept a violent book more easily if it’s written by a man?

I’ve read books about serial killers (fiction) by Val MacDermid and Elizabeth George’s latest is about a serial killer but neither of those ladies have graphic violence in their books.

So…when do you know if you’ve crossed the line?

You really can't go to far, IF the violence is well-written and important to the story.

The one thing many seem to miss in Tarantino films is the humor. The grittier the violecce, the higher the humor factor used to temper it. Many of Tarantino's most violent scenes are also the ones with the highest humor content. It's usually very dark humor, but almost always funny.

Liam Jackson
04-10-2005, 11:10 AM
James R nailed it, I think. Too much? When the book story becomes a vehicle for the violence, instead of violence being used as a vehicle to tell the story. Okay, okay...that sounds simplistic. Wasn't meant to.

Violence should be "revealing". IMHO, anything more than that is insubstantial fluff. Tarrentino excels in using violence to introduce humor elements and give us insights into his characters.

katdad
04-10-2005, 08:17 PM
Even if you put unrelenting violence in a book, it must still have some purpose, some reason for being. Otherwise it's gratuitous, and should rightly be downgraded.

My private detective novels contain some considerable violent and adult scenes but they are realistic stories of modern city crime, so it fits. If that's how your story goes, don't worry -- it will be accepted.

If you're interested in reading a massive story of violence, try to find "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy. It's breathtaking.

Maryn
04-10-2005, 08:32 PM
To address the other part of the question, do readers accept violence in ficiton more easily if written by a man:

As a woman who writes violence, I've had some backlash. How could it be right for a woman to write graphic scenes of a rape-murder, as I had? Was I not betraying my own kind? Women are supposed to nurture the weak and support one another, not detail the all-too-real violence some experience.

This occurred at a reading (by actors, not the authors), but during the Q&A my gender was obvious. I suspect that if my gender had remained unknown, people would have presumed I was a man and the question would not have arisen, since it did not with the other violent work, written by a man.

Maryn, a lot more interested in violence than kittens, in fiction anyway

Jamesaritchie
04-11-2005, 01:35 AM
Maryn, a lot more interested in violence than kittens, in fiction anyway

This reminds me of something an editor wrote on a rejection slip. She said she loved the story, and wanted to buy it, but couldn't because a dog is violently and graphically killed. She said I could murder an adult, I could even torture a child, but if I graphically killed a dog or a cat, her readers would storm her castle with torches in hand.

Janet Hutchings, editor at Ellery Queen, said much the same thing about the same story.

Since killing the dog in this manner was crucial to the story, I didn't attempt a rewrite. That story still hasn't sold.

katiemac
04-11-2005, 03:25 AM
That's interesting, James. But I have to admit, I'm much more affected by violence in novels and films when it's an animal who dies, is murdered, torturted, versus a human being. Much like the editor mentioned, I'd rather have to witness human death than that of an animal's. It's very strange.

Maryn
04-11-2005, 08:30 PM
Ellery Queen has long been more accepting of "Murder, She Wrote"-level violence than what's found in your typical mystery novel. It seems to have gotten somewhat more uptight as its readership has aged.

Although a lot of murder has its foundation in sex (psychosexual murders, betrayals, fear of being outed, etc.) EQ seems far more likely to buy murder stories where the motive stems from property (money, art or gems), social standing, and other 'lightweight' PG-rated reasons.

The one time they bought from me, a Jeffrey Dahmer gotcha, they were all right with implied murder and cannibalism of my character. Luckily, the taxidermy part wasn't too graphic, eh?

There really aren't many mystery markets for short stories featuring 'harder' material that's typical in novels. You can submit to every market in, like, 3-4 mailings.

Maryn

Jamesaritchie
04-14-2005, 12:19 PM
Ellery Queen has long been more accepting of "Murder, She Wrote"-level violence than what's found in your typical mystery novel. It seems to have gotten somewhat more uptight as its readership has aged.

Although a lot of murder has its foundation in sex (psychosexual murders, betrayals, fear of being outed, etc.) EQ seems far more likely to buy murder stories where the motive stems from property (money, art or gems), social standing, and other 'lightweight' PG-rated reasons.

The one time they bought from me, a Jeffrey Dahmer gotcha, they were all right with implied murder and cannibalism of my character. Luckily, the taxidermy part wasn't too graphic, eh?

There really aren't many mystery markets for short stories featuring 'harder' material that's typical in novels. You can submit to every market in, like, 3-4 mailings.

Maryn

Yes, I've sold several stories to EQMM, and only one had any graphic violence. But it wasn't the level of violence that bothered the editor, just that it was done to a dog.

It should also be remembered that there are two kinds of graphic violence. One kind the reader is told about after the fact, and the other kind the reader watches as it happens. It's the second kind that can go overboard very easily.

It's story and characters editors buy, not violence. "Good" violence is there to advance story and reveal character. "Bad" violence is there for its own sake and overshadows story and character.

NeuroFizz
04-21-2005, 05:45 PM
I responded to a very similar question in another section (Writing Novels), so with apologies to those who read the other thread, here is a repeat. The main thing to avoid in writing violence is use of "shreddies"--characters who are just there to be spindled and mutilated. If the reader doesn't get to know them, he/she will not care about them, or about how you kill them. They are just there to be killed. If you are going to kill off a shreddie, don't describe the act, rather describe the act through the investigative aftermath from the point-of-view of a character the reader cares about, or through a known character who happens upon the murder scene. You don't even have to give the shreddie a name. Why should the reader bother to pay attention to a name, or character if that character is introduced for the sole purpose of making the story graphic? Show the graphic nature of the killing through the known character's reaction to it. Have him/her step on a pancreas. Wonder how he/she is going to get gray matter out of his/her shoelaces. You don't have to describe the carnage unless it's done from the murderer's point-of-view, and it isn't repetitious.

As for killing furry, cuddly animals, look at how many writers mention their pets in their bios (sorry, but it's high on my who-cares list, even though I have two dogs, and I love 'em). I think this is more than trendy. Pets are like children, this possibly triggering the taboo reaction.