Violence in Writing – July Round Robin

Anyone who’s read my writing can tell you that I use violence a lot in my work.

We don’t call it that, though.

We say it’s “action-packed” and full of conflict because the word violence tends to connote negative things. And really, it should.

As a parent, I find myself repeating the mantra that it is never all right to hit, that there are better ways to solve our problems. Because I don’t want to visit my son in prison one day.

But in my writing, the violence runs rampant.

My first novel, Sedition, starts with a duel in a tavernesque place. My second novel, Witch-Born, starts with an assassination attempt on the main character’s life in the middle of a crowded cafe.

Deviation begins with a hold-up in a bookstore.

Granted, those are all early works and there are a lot of things wrong with them. I really held to the “in medias res” concept and I recognize that it’s hard to care about a character being shot at if you don’t know who they are.

These days I try to focus on how the violence affects my point of view character in any given scene. While it was fun following Dorian Feverrette through the steampunk world of Magnellum as he hunted witch-assassins, I can admit that I never stopped to consider what sort of man that made him.

The truly interesting heroes are the ones who commit to violence and are then affected by that violence. We see them walk a tightrope between wanting to live in peace and needing to fight for that peace.

This tightrope holds a great deal of tension and opens up the character for deeper development. I’m still trying to find the right balance between action and the effect that action has on the character, but I hope to learn it soon.

Check out how my fellow authors work with violence in their novels.

Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Marci Baun
Skye Taylor
Fiona McGier
Anne de Gruchy
Rhobin L Courtright

Judith Copek, //

13 thoughts on “Violence in Writing – July Round Robin

  1. What I get from your post is that you use the violent scene as a hook, and that it is a tool for character development. Both of these are legitimate. So, “I use violence a lot in my work” may not be doing you justice.

    1. I suppose you’re right. But I was a baby writer back then and I can’t take credit for anything other than – Oooh, let’s see what he does when people are shooting at him!

  2. Being a card-carrying couch potato who occasionally dances, see my last but one post, I couldn’t really write ‘action-packed’. I know lots of people do of course and I do think your aim to show how the violent hero/anti-hero is affected by their violent action is so worthwhile. anne stenhouse

    1. I do try to show how violence affects them. In a recent novel (not published yet) I have one character in particular who didn’t do any violence, but accepts the responsibility for the death of a man because he wouldn’t be dead if she hadn’t been present. It’s been an interesting ride seeing what she does and why she does it.

      1. This trail reminds me of my writing my serial killer character and really looking at where his violence comes from and how he battles to prevent it happening again but can’t manage this. How violence affects the violent person themselves is perhaps more interesting and insightful sometimes than its effect on their vicitims…

  3. I’ve read many action-packed stories, and as in life, there are many people without ethics willing to do anything to get what they want. Then their are those, like your heroes and heroines, who commit violence to survive and ‘walk the tightrope between wanting to live in peace and needing to fight for that peace.’ Interesting post.

    1. Thank you! I think one of my favorites will always be Trenna and Nelek in the Sedition series. Saboteur really focused on what it meant to be at war and the consequences of violent action on the battle field.

  4. Your observation that what makes a hero in the face of violence, even violence he himself has committed is what make him who he is and his struggles are character developing. In our world today we have finally begun to deal with this in our young warriors – what was once called shell shock is now faced as that reality PTSD, a decent man (or woman) brought up in a civilized society trying to cope with what violence has done to his soul.

    1. As a veteran, I am very glad to see society dealing with this problem. I never saw the battlefield, but many of my friends did, and I want to know that they’re going to be cared for.

  5. I really believe that circumstances mold man or beast. Violence doesn’t necessarily beget violence, but sometimes needs to be employed to vanquish it. I’m thinking the Jennifer Lopez movie Enough, here.

  6. I don’t do violence for the sake of doing it. Like you, I try to show how it affects those who commit it, even if they are pushed by difficult circumstances, to the point where they have to ignore their own morality and do things they’re not proud of. Then how to they rationalize it? How do they “look in the mirror” without screaming? That’s where it gets interesting to me.

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