thing, social media. Allows you to connect with people around
the world. And, depending on how you search and filter and interact,
you can move beyond family and friends into virtually any type
you might imagine, I tend to look for writers in some of my adventures
on such sites. It’s a way of sharing experiences, thoughts, suggestions
and more. It’s a way to offer support.
I came across a simple question. It was so simple, at least initially,
that I raised an eyebrow toward it and then scrolled away. And
because I scrolled away without deeply paying attention, I have
zero clue who posted it. I doubt I’ll find it again.
it wasn’t truly gone. It stayed with me. It hung around and kept
popping up again and again. I found myself repeatedly attempting
to work out an answer for it.
question on this day was based upon incidents of violence. The
person posting it explained that there were a couple of instances
in an effort being written, and there was some concern about how
readers might react. But there was a bit of a trick to the presentation.
There was little explanation beyond what I’ve already shared.
Simply put, it was whether or not to include violence in a book.
That’s it. No additional details to help navigate a response.
this point, I don’t recall the person that asked and I’m fairly
certain I won’t find it again… at least not the specific post
that got me thinking. So here, offered in a generic response to
the base issue as I recall it, is a bit of an answer…
~ ~ ~
hours since I first saw it, the exact wording eludes me. But the
basic premise is there, knocking about in my head…
person had a question about the existence of two incidents of
violence in what I interpreted to be a manuscript they were writing.
Concerns about how the audience would react. Nothing more offered.
Simple and clean version: should a writer include scenes of violence
have been thinking about the idea off and on since I first read
it. I’ve been trying to apply additional conditions and circumstances
to the question, and then pulling those conditions and circumstances
back since nothing additional was ever stated to validate applying
thoughts have emerged as the dominant parts of any response I
develop for the question:
– Quite quickly, my initial reaction was the grandmother scenario.
The basic idea being when a writer wonders “How will my grandmother
react if she reads this?” about an effort.
– The more the concept kept creeping back into my thoughts,
the more I began thinking about my Brick Wall Writing Theory.
two set into place… let’s explore a bit…
grandmother scenario is truly so straightforward it defies deep
thought. If you wrote out a scene, would it be something your
grandmother would be embarrassed or upset to read. Done. There
we’d be discussing themes of an adult nature. Still, the foundation
it puts in place works for us here, and builds as we transition
the concept from the thoughts of a grandmother to the reactions
of an audience.
that Brick Wall Writing Theory.
have a firm belief about writing that transcends the rules of
grammar and style and so on. It uses the pure joy of reading it
as the standard or quality, and how a work can completely absorb
you. It’s about reaching a state where you don’t even notice that
you’re flipping pages.
such a context, to me brilliant writing becomes about being able
to create a situation where a reader is fully immersed in what
they’re experiencing. Toward that end, it simply doesn’t matter
which words are being used in what order with this punctuation
mark or that. Grammar rules disappear. (Sort of. For one thing,
spelling still counts. But let’s not digress.)
problem comes when you are jolted out of that blissful reading
haze. When a word or sentence or situation seems to come out of
nowhere, completely unexpected or seemingly out of place. It shakes
you, often making you think less and less about the story in hand
and more about that specific incident.
like—yup—walking into a brick wall.
head back to the question… what to do with violence in our works
and the possible reaction of readers.
the answer is… nothing.
down. Settle down. I’ll explain…)
a writer, there’s a level of comfort that involves content. It
floats between conscious and subconscious. It’s always there.
Most of the time, a writer won’t even notice it though, usually
because whatever is being worked on doesn’t test the boundaries
and limits of what the writer is comfortable presenting.
specific example? Ok… remember that grandmother scenario? If you’re
writing about Christmas songs and mugs of hot cocoa, chances are
pretty good that your grandmother would be just fine reading the
story. You might very well be designing a new structure or presentation
or whatever, and perhaps testing boundaries of some kind. But
there is no issue involving a writer’s comfort with the material.
That comfort level is never tested.
thing is, each and every one of us feels a bit differently about
certain subjects and material. There are things some families
and friends discuss openly and often, while other families and
friends never take up the same conversation themes because they
feel wrong. Some writers will be comfortable going to the adult
end of the pool, some would prefer to have cocoa and cookies.
end result is, in my opinion, that the subject of violence in
a manuscript is more a question the writer should be addresses
on a personal level, and not one to be asked with regard to the
audience. Or, to sum it up slightly differently, if a writer is
wondering how a reader might react, that writer isn’t thinking
about the story. See…
real question here isn’t about how the audience will react. At
least not obviously… at least not initially. The primary concern
should be… should ALWAYS be… telling the story. During the production
of a first draft, or even in initial revisions of a manuscript,
the rest is background noise and distraction.
yet… there is absolutely something to the idea that a part of
it doesn’t seem right. Something to the idea that the writer is
bothered by it. Which in turn is where our brick wall considerations
come in to play.
a writer has decided what moments are needed in order to tell
a story, the presentation of those moments becomes important.
And it is here where the action-reaction process begins.
me, this question isn’t about whether or not violence belongs
in any writing. There are cute stories. There are horror stories.
There are fun stories… adult stories… and we really don’t need
to list all of the scenarios and genres stories.
are violent stories. Violence is possible. And, depending on the
author involved and the story being told, it may just be that
a scene of violence is a necessary element to the storytelling.
It doesn’t mean that every writer will write chapters or stories
with violence involved. In fact, a good chunk of writers will
never even be aware of the idea that violence could be an issue
because they never write scenarios where violence occurs.
it’s a flow-chart type of situation. A writer needs to decide
if that violence is needed for that story. If the answer is yes,
then the next decision is about how to present it. It is at this
point that the writer might begin wondering about the audience…
about the reactions… about the words to use and where to raise
a curtain and perhaps where to leave things unsaid.
suppose you could shrug the question off by deciding more details
are needed, and that probably would be fair enough. It’s a decent
stand to take. A yes or no to potentially include violence really
doesn’t create a debate. That answer is yes, and for no variation
of the question or additional details it should always be yes.
I find that every writer is going to approach material in the
hopes of presenting it in the best ways possible. That includes
knowing what to write, and perhaps what not to write. It includes
understanding when to knowingly and specifically tell a reader
exactly what is happening, and when to step aside and let the
reader use their own imagination to fill in the details.
includes deciding what the audience will find comfortable, and
when they’re being led full speed into a brick wall.