Literary Underworld Ramblings
In an effort to raise awareness of our consortium of writers at the Literary Underworld, we’re offering guest blog appearances on the craft of writing. Today, Steven Shrewsbury invades the Ramblings with his ideas on violence in writing. If you haven’t read any of his work, please check out his books at
Use this code LUBLOGTOUR and receive a special discount on your purchase. Thanks for supporting independent authors. Without further ado, here’s Shrews:
TEMPERING THE BLADES?
I’m author Steven Shrewsbury and I’m filling in today. Let’s talk violence.
I’ve been told that my sword & sorcery works and horror novels are too violent. Some say the violence is extreme and shouldn’t be put in such close quarters where sexual situations just occurred, much less dialogue with God or demons. My usual answer to these statements is, “Ever read the Bible?”
Now, my work could never be confused with Biblical scripts, but I mention this to let the reader know they might need to grow a pair. Okay, it’s only a story. It cannot hurt the reader. Much. Yes, sometimes violence one reads can stay with a casual reader, an act so revolting or crazy it pops up in the mind later at work or during dinner. Fine. While that isn’t what I go for, to gross out or make the smashed potatoes hit the wall via projectile vomiting, I do desire to entertain and tell a story that might last in the mind. One might say, “That Shrews, he goes to far.” However others say, “That Shrews, I bet he’s a crazy bastard. I bet he’s fun to have a beer with.” It’s the latter. Trust me. Most days, anyhow.
That said, even a writer who likes to sling the entrails and mix up heads on bodies after decapitations feels that tempering the violence is a good idea. If the story degenerates into describing battles or an act of murder over and over with such vapid detail, at times, one will wonder if the writer penned it with his pants around his ankles. It’s my natural inclination to use humor (albeit dark at times) along with the violence and spread it out as the story unfolds, but also to make it credible. I’m not using Green Lantern Rings or powers endowed by a Yellow Sun, but usually iron and steel. Things bend and break under such force and usually, its more fun to describe the will behind the steel that made such an incision.
Real life is screwier than fiction, I’ve heard tell. I’ve never been in a sword fight in my life, and I bet that’d be pretty scary to face down a man (or woman) who has been. That is reality, not pulling a blade and making a mess. The person behind the instrument can invoke bravery or cowardice.
What one will do in a given situation, that is interesting. Wouldn’t one want to run? Sure. Would we really stand and fight if given the chance? Maybe. I love to relate the story of the hero in Robert E. Howard’s “The HOOVED THING” for it is set against the usual H.P. Lovecraft setting: New England, unspeakable horror, a monster out to get us all. This time, though, the main guy isn’t an erudite man from Mass who will commit suicide rather than face the ultimate horror. The lead character in Howard’s tale (shockingly) is a strapping Texan who grabs from a curio cabinet a sword blessed by a saint (lucky!!!) and decides, screw it, I must fight this thing or it will kill everyone else. Do or die, gung ho! The line “Fear can become so intense it defeats itself.” What courage. What a guy. What balls. Ya gotta root for that fella and hope YOU have that kind of stones in such a case. It isn’t high art, but it makes the point, literally.
Is violence bad? Sure. It hurts. Emotional scars run pretty deep, and might last longer than the Vicoden can ebb away a broken limb. Frankly, I’ll say what many might not want to: Violence is good for a story, and it makes it more interesting if used properly. Forget S&S or horror, but pure action or thrillers, a fight breaks out or the weapon is drawn, the game is afoot like a motherf—okay, I already did a blog on foul language in fiction, so I digress.
So temper the violence, folks, and try to entertain. Many can do it. Now, I’m off to try and figure out how to write a vampire work without bloodshed or lots of violence. Dunno if that can be done, but I hear racks of books are being sold by authors penning vampy romances, apparently writing with condoms over their heads. Wish me luck. What will come out will probably be a really blood-soaked, brutally real look at the genre, but I promise you this: It won’t be boring and the only sparkling with be the glisten off the blood pooling on the floor tiles in waning candlelight.
Cheers from Central IL
Author of OVERKILL, THRALL, HELL BILLY, BEDLAM UNLEASHED and HAWG.