Mmm.... I dunno. There's nothing wrong with exploring that stuff, but considering the biggest influence on me it generally comes down to not having a story if they don't.
It may have been "accepted" in older times, but these days it isn't. In modern research terms it's usually regarded as a form of coping mechanism for cumulative combat stress.>someone who has seen a lot of violence might be so accustomed to violence and hence so unfeeling about it that they don't even think twice about using violence, much less think about about the consequences.
Here again I think of Simplicissimus. The mercenaries who spend whole decades under arms, with pretty much annual destruction of communities, became notorious for their unfeeling violence. That certainly implies a level of consuetude.
This is something which military training encourages. It isn't a new idea at all, in fact it goes back to Ancient Greece, where experience showed that building a group identity (think of the Spartans) gave a more effective fighting force. That written, experience and modern research also show that in such a tight knit group severe losses can have a disproportionate effect on moral and combat effectiveness.The brothers-in-arms angle is another that interests me. We see loyalty expressed in Roman legions--consciously cultivated from at least the time of Marius. There can be a feeling of acceptance and understanding even when it's between men who've never met. They're simply both veterans. Maybe both served under the same standard. In other life circumstances, they might be indifferent or even hostile to each other, but this common experience binds them.
Speaking from personal experience of combat, the only positive aspects are my ability to use those experiences in my writing. The other aspects (the memories and the PTSD in particular) are things I can live without.IOW, there are some positive aspects to the common experience of battle.
Pretty accurate, much from personal experiences. Also a vet here. USMC grunt and 3 combat tours.OMG. What a question to ask a veteran with PTSD. But you asked in good faith so I'll do my best to answer.
People become very detached, almost nihilistic in some cases. They don't seem to relate to anything, just sort of sit staring. If you can get them to do things thye have trouble concentrating, or they seem very tired, like it's all been too much. You have to sort of lead them by the hand because they don't always seem to be able to prioritise things, or they focus on small things. They can get sudden mood swings, and some sounds or events will trigger almost panic reactions in them. I have a friend who stills dives under a table if he hears a sound like a car backfiring. Nightmares are common - I still get them, waking up soaked in sweat in the middle of the night. Anxiety and distrust, irritability, and a desire for very fixed routines. Being very tense, almost hypervigilant, never able to relax. Insomnia - I sometimes don't sleep. Very restless sleep. Flashbacks - oh how I hate them, but still they happen. And some develop acohol problems.
And also, sometimes, an acceptance of violence and methods that in other circumstances they would have reacted against. Things like walking up to a captured enemy soldier, cutting their d*** and b**** off and then leaving them to bleed to death. A willingness to be at least as nasty to the enemy as the enemy were to them. There's also a lingering sense of hatred and a desire for revenge. Old tales get told, of how great great grandfather helped beat them last time, and what he did to them. And the spiral just goes on, usually downwards. You get domestic violence too, people seem to sort of react with violence in situations where before they'd have talked it through. Casual violence and harsh punishments seem more common, like the rules of society have take a 400 year step back.
Children aren't children any more, they seem grown up and somehow responsible. But they also seem a bit lost, like there's something missing from them. And they can never quite go back to being children, even when they're not yet 14. When a child has had to take charge of others, has been a leader, they grow up in a way which stops them ever going back.
But also, an acceptance of other veterans and their behaviour without even batting an eyelid. There can be a sense of brotherhood, and sense that you all understand one another. Those who haven't been there don't understand (and that isn't criticism).
I don't know if this makes sense?
I can add to this from my own experience. It now helps with my job. I’m now a firefighter and EMT. I’m used to dealing with the pressure as well as things going wrong. Same with doing trauma as an emt, I don’t really get phased when I see it. That’s everything from vehicle accidents to gunshot wounds. PTSD, I agree, would be happier without it.Speaking from personal experience of combat, the only positive aspects are my ability to use those experiences in my writing. The other aspects (the memories and the PTSD in particular) are things I can live without.
@Mad Swede bring up the issue of effects, which in turn brought to mind my own interest as a historian in this question. The 20thc effects (and 21st, now ... congratulations, humankind!) of combat have been well documented, but much less so have earlier centuries. I wonder if anyone knows of some scholarly work on the topic.
Violence can be good for a story, but it must never be there for its own sake. I mean, fact is that human history had been shaped by warfare and that warfare and intelligence go hand-in-hand. This however also means that a) warfare usually has a purpose - it is not violence for its own sake and b) as warfare becomes more destructive, so do systems designed to prevent or limit impact of warfare become more complex. Diplomacy developed fundamentally to stop people from killing each other.I'm about to post an article on my blog about the utility of violence in a story. What is the point of it in a story? What is considered "good" or functional violence and what is considered "bad" or gratuitous violence? My opinion is that violence serves the same purpose as dialog: ideas are communicated between two parties who hold opposing views. Words have failed and violence replaces it.
There are other forms of functional violence, such as establishing tone, but these expressions are usually divisive and alienate many readers. Look at GoT, or the recent House of the Dragon episode. These shows attract a larger viewership, despite the presence of abundant violence. I think these shows (and the books they're based on), use violence in the "good" or functional form.
So, what are your opinions on violence in a story? What is good and what is bad? Do you tend to write a story with abundant violence, or do you like to scale it back? What guidelines do you use when dealing with violence in your stories?
Violence can be good for a story, but it must never be there for its own sake.
Basically, meaningless violence is when violence is there for shock value or to "pad the story", so to speak. Violence should be used to either 1) move the plot forward, 2) develop a character, 3) show something about the character.I mostly agree with this. I think a better phrase I'd go by is violence cannot be meaningless. The question I originally posed is what is considered meaningful expressions of violence and what is meaningless?
I think this is a phantom concern. I think authors include violence for exactly those reasons. It may not execute well, but they did mean something by it.Basically, meaningless violence is when violence is there for shock value or to "pad the story", so to speak. Violence should be used to either 1) move the plot forward, 2) develop a character, 3) show something about the character.
It just kind of goes with the territory of fantasy fiction.
For sure. Violence is a staple in many works of fantasy.
I think I'm not representing my thoughts properly. I've been a D&D DM for thirty years (off and on). Every now and then, I'll watch someone's campaign online (currently watching Viva La Dirt League D&D). When combat happens, there are two ways for it to play out. One is when the players roll for attack and damage, the DM rolls for the monster's attack and damage, and the battle ends by who is the luckiest. The other way is when a story is made around the encounter. The characters are vested in the consequences of the encounter.
(I mention the channel I'm watching because you can see evidence of both types of player investment.)
Both are violent. One is meaningless and the other is meaningful.
Stories can have both kinds of violence. A character who kills without any residual consequences, feels empty. It feels meaningless. Just like the first example of the D&D encounter. It's ho-hum, boring.
Continuing on with that example, the DM may think by adding more encounters he's spicing up his game. He may think the narrative is dynamic and unpredictable. But violence isn't the answer to the problem of a boring game. It's the underpinnings beneath the story. It's the meaning bolstering the reason for violence.