Character Violence

ViolenceBaM!  SmAcK! POW! 

Violence! We love it! And in many genres it’s 100% necessary! Most of us include some type of violence in our novels.

In literature, violence can be:

  • thematic: Think Fight Club or The Old Testament or Heart of Darkness or The Things They Carried or Persepolis.
  • Biblical: Wrestling with an angel, a la Jacob wresting with Metatron, OR the Crucifixion of Jesus OR a devastating flood
  • Shakespearean: “Tis not so deep as a well, nor as wide as a church door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find a grave man.” ( Mercutio to Romeo after Tybalt stabs him) OR “Et tu, Brute?” ( after Brutus stabs Caesar)
  • Allegorical: The stoning or just the whole darn story in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
  • Transcendent: The flames of passion  engulfing the two lovers in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate
  • Metaphoric: Violence is equated with masculinity in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
  • A plot device: Most action-adventure movies
  • Symbolic: In God Of Small Things, a character is beaten to a bloody pulp by the cops. It’s symbolic of: 1) the injustice of India’s caste system, 2) the consequences of disregarding cultural taboos, 3) cost of true love in a racist society
  • Gratuitous: What can I say? Some of us need a little BAM! POW! BASH !

Some factors to bear in mind when writing that violent scene:

  • The proximity of the two adversaries. The closer they are, the more intimate (personal) the violence.
  • The location where the violence occurs. A fight in a church has different implications than a fight in the forest.
  • The weapon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer kills demons with a wooden stake after kicking their evil ass. Nice and ‘old school’!
  • The ‘evilness’ of the bad guy! Does the Bad Guy get his comeuppance or is his less-than-painful death a symbol/metaphor for some point you’re making about culture/humanity/religion/gender/etc
  • What body part delivers the hits? Fist, leg, knee, hand, finger, head. elbow. A knee to the groin is ever so much nastier than a fist to the nose.
  • What body part takes the hits? A gal’s cutting a guy’s woo-hoo off is VERY symbolic.( hey this is a PG blog, my novels, however, are not.) And we all know what a stab in the back means! Hits from behind are associated with cowardice. Frontal attacks are usually equated with courage.

Have fun terrorizing your characters!

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