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To gore or not to gore? That is the question.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Holman, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    I know the answer to some extent will be personal choice, and to a further extent genre - romantic fantasy is less likely to have gore in it than a fantasy horror.

    The question still sits in my mind. I have about five fight scenes sketched out in my loose outline. The story is fairly gritty and so readers will expect a certain amount of gore, however, several of the characters are young at the start of the story (10), ageing to mid-teens as the story progresses. They are not involved in all fight scenes and I intend to dwell on the aftermath - but given that their society hold little value on the lives of the poor and uses torture and the death penalty - public flogging, the use of a mangle to elicit confessions, burning witches, and hanging, all of which draw a crowd -they will have experienced violence in one form or another. Indeed one of the reasons that the MC has for leaving his normal world is the threat of abuse and the death of a friend.

    What is an acceptable level of gore when participants in fights are young?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't think the acceptable level of gore hinges as much on the ages of the characters as on the target audience. If you're writing this for adults, then there really isn't a limit here. Some readers aren't going to like a gory story, but there are plenty who do.
     
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  3. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    That was my initial feeling too, I am probably overthinking reactions to some of the subject matter. I am just putting together my scene list with outline comments - working the journey from plot point to plot point when I realised the age of the characters and the fights that they were involved with and it made me pause for thought, figured a quick post on here would give me some perspective.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Personally, I don't mind gore so long as it doesn't become ridiculous. I like to read Horror, and so a certain amount of gore comes with the territory. I think I've only read one book where I refused to put up with it, and that one included repeated sexual violence and torture. I threw it in the trash about 25% of the way through, when that element came through.

    But gore generally, as in bloody battle scenes and the like, don't bother me. If you're going for a gritty novel your audience is going to expect a certain amount of it, as you said. I think the important thing is don't go so over the top with it that it loses its power and/or becomes comical.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  5. Trust the story. Do what is best for it. Tell the story with honesty.

    Some readers are going to accept one level of violence and some will accept another. There's no universal standard. The level of gore will depend on how you describe the scenes as much as what's in them. Even YA can go kind of gory and disturbing at times. (one particular YA is read had a character pluck out a dude's eyeball with just his fingers, lol)
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I would ask what the purpose is for each detail. This isn't about gore, it's about detail. Pointless exposition can happen anywhere, whether describing a landscape, a person, a crowd scene, or a fight.

    In some cases, the author wants to demonstrate just how far the hero or villain is willing to go. Or wants to push them beyond their limits. In other cases, the author is trying to show that the hero is receiving strenuous training (lots of current fantasy novels indulge themselves in this). In still others, the details are there because we're going to see them again, when the emotional stakes are higher.

    The details can even be there simply to set a mood, which is fine so long as one remembers that once a mood has been set, the next instance is merely redundant and actually undercuts the mood.

    So, no, I do not think this is about reader preference--which is something we cannot control anyway. It's about serving the story, as others above have said.
     
  7. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

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    Point noted: The potential scenes that I have listed will not all be about the gore for the sake of it. I have one pencilled in where the MC has the opportunity to get revenge for the abuse that was inflicted on him and a friend, who committed suicide. I have two possible outs with this scene which will influence the character later in the story - I have both tentatively mapped out. This would be where the YA is the one being violent.

    Another scene is where one of the minor antagonists has one of the protagonists sidekicks held, and there is a stand off - think reservoir dogs and the scene with the ear - the aim is to shock - it is more about the aftermath after the one injury - the psychological stuff more than the ear being cut off.

    I hope that makes sense
     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Frank or Al? If you have to Gore, I prefer Frank, despite his being a former Niner. And he's a Colt now, so that's tolerable.
     
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  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Gore has lost much of its impact. Too many slasher films and very graphic violence on TV have sucked the shock value out of it in the written word. Considering what most readers have seen on TV, in the news or entertainment writing gore that can really shock the modern reader that does not drop to the level of torture porn has become very difficult.

    I would suggest that if there is a powerful or thematic reason to have very severe consequences to violence etc, that you show less, or perhaps even none of the actual torture or violence.

    A writer friend of mine who was a literature prof has always been recommending that I read, "Rogue Male" a thriller written in 1939. It is a classic of the genre. So I started reading it and the protagonist early on gets tortured. But none of the torture is depicted "on screen" rather we join the character crawling through the forest after he has been tortured and seeing the impact of what has been inflicted on him.

    It was a very effective approach to the problem. My imagination combined with knowing the results of the torture were more powerful and shocking than any gore that might have been splattered across the pages.

    Reader emotion is a tricky thing to trigger and manipulate. You may wish to consider oblique rather than direct methods of doing so.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I think this applies best to torture gore, the imagination can be a horrible thing. This is a bit related to the old Hitchcock addage of anticipation being worse than the act. My personal opinion is to keep both sex and non-action violence off-page. For me there needs to be a good reason for either in order for me to tolerate reading them. Set it up, give the idea, and step out to the next chapter or whatever.

    For torture and sex, I write to get out early... and we'll try to avoid any sex analogies there.

     
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