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What's your opinion of torture, gore and depravity in your writings?

BearBear

Inkling
I haven't done gore yet but there's some torture, something like kidnapping and unlawful detention, interrogations, etc. I haven't been able to bring myself to write about heinous stuff, demented, maiming or even depraved stuff to any large extent and I think I need to because my novels are very clean and my characters never have even a scar regardless of what they do. Kinda like me to be fair, I've had quite the adventure in my life with no permanent damage so far. But it doesn't feel realistic.

What do you think? What have you done?
 

pmmg

Vala
They don't bother me. Generally, I know what I am getting into if I start reading. If it does, I would stop reading. I am not one of those who read to the end no matter what. If its really off base, I might think something about the author, but....

And all of my characters have scars.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I never put the details in. Ever. That's partly because I've seen the results of this in real life, when on UN peacekeeping missions helping to pick up the pieces after wars, so graphic details tend to trigger flashbacks and other aspects of my PTSD. But it's also because I don't feel any need to provide those details, I just have to imply it and then my readers imaginations will add all the detail they want. What do emphasise in my stories is the effects these things have on people, physical and psychological scars, the way they act, what motivates them etc. It's another way of driving the plot forwards, and also a way of kicking off a plot or sub-plot.
 
I’ve pondered about the popularity of the fantasy genre, and in general I’ve kind of come to conclude that there’s some really brutal and graphic stuff in some of the books I’ve read - but fantasy sort of manages to allow the reader to detach themselves from reality a bit, so I think it also allows the writer to explore the dark depths of good and evil in that way. Whereas I’ve read fiction based on reality, say a book about WWII, that is far more harrowing to read. I haven’t yet written those ‘gory’ details yet, but there is death and evil in my story that I’ll choose how I portray those aspects.
 

M Corbett

Dreamer
I’m not yet an experienced writer but as a reader I always want gore and violence to serve a legitimate purpose. Is it essential for the plot? Does it make me feel something I wouldn’t have which furthers my experience? Is it essential for me to understand the character and/or their development? Would merely suggesting the gore or violence not achieve the same end? If you can’t answer yes to any of those, I reckon leave it out.
 

BearBear

Inkling
I'm all for it! Wait, in my writing? I thought you meant in my basement.

Either place I think it comes from something inside you either way. I'm not sure I can, really.

Is it essential for me to understand the character and/or their development?

In my next book, that's the idea, not just because I want to try it but to tell this story properly I think it needs it. I hate this kind of stuff and having to write it is difficult to consider. Some kind of conveying it without conveying it is probably how it's going to go but it feels like I don't want to get my hands dirty. I'm too invested in my characters, it's a thing I have, so I move past that or find something inside me that needs this if you know what I mean.
 
I tend to use most gore in violent acts, while I let any torture go "offscreen" to let the reader's imagination go to work. It's a similar theory that I have for sex. Introduce the scene and cut away. Combat is a different matter, I'll get more graphic there, but it's also when things are moving fast. Neither torture nor sex scenes nor lingering to describe someone's intestines on the field of battle appeal to me as a reader, so I don't really write them.

Of course, I also have a scene where someone's soul is Sundered from the Gods while he's killed, arguably more tortuous than just the physical, so! Maybe I'm understating my torture scenes. However, everything serves a purpose.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
You don't need to show anything explicitly to get the point across. A lot of this depends on the type of story you're trying to tell. There are stories that require such things to fulfill their purpose. There are stories that don't need it at all. Neither of which are squeaky clean.

Do not confuse explicit depictions of things with realism. Used in certain ways, it can swing things into the childish and cartoonish. (Eg. the Evil Dead 2 movie). You don't strive for reality. You strive for believably. Because nothing is real in writing. It's just the illusion of real. Real life is filled with lots of boring fluff. Stories trim that fluff away. Because nobody wants to read about how someone spent an hour in the washroom watching cat videos on youtube, when that has no purpose to the story. It's realistic, but it's boring.

There are tons of unsettling movies that show almost nothing.
 

pmmg

Vala
In my next book, that's the idea, not just because I want to try it but to tell this story properly I think it needs it. I hate this kind of stuff and having to write it is difficult to consider. Some kind of conveying it without conveying it is probably how it's going to go but it feels like I don't want to get my hands dirty. I'm too invested in my characters, it's a thing I have, so I move past that or find something inside me that needs this if you know what I mean.

If its not you, its not you. Nothing wrong with a brand of one who does not. If it must be there, use the implied route.

I try to give the story what it needs. If it call for a torture scene, I'll write it. So far...I think there have been two. One is off camera, but its know to happen. The other has more camera time, but I handled it respectfully...I think. But I'd not avoid it if it really needed something graphic. I can't imagine my tail will go that far. If I had written Kushiel's Dart, I might have gotten more graphic, but I didn't.

Many years after reading the Elric series, the brief scene with the torturer is the one that still sticks most prominently in my mind. I would just put this in the category of tools in the tool box. Use as needed, dont as not.
 

Aleshe

Troubadour
No, don't do it. Just like like others have said, just set it up and leave out the details. Personally, I don't want those visuals in my head.
 
The inclusion of anything ought to serve a purpose beyond merely provoking a strong reader reaction.

I'm super annoyed when a main character is kidnapped and tortured merely so we can see how the rescuer and the main character are deeply in love. (I guess, fridging.)

Also, if there are no lasting consequences, then I don't want the event or scene in the book. If a main character is tortured, I can't believe he will bounce back in a chapter or two, heh. In fact, in most cases, the effects will need to linger throughout the rest of the book, at least if the torture was severe.

Exception: Things that happen to various red shirts or incidental characters. But in those cases, I don't need to see all the gruesome details in some drawn-out scene. A cursory overview of what happened, or even some implications, can serve the purpose well enough.

What I don't like to read, I don't like to write.
 

Nighty_Knight

Troubadour
As long as it serves a purpose. And the purpose has to be more than just shock. I have some of it in mine. It's part of the story, the details all depend. I have two times a character is tortured. Both are pretty brutal but not really that graphic. Just enough to let the reader know what is happening and the effect it causes. One is supposed to be more disheartening. More from other character perspective that they can hear or see it, and less describing the details. The second is more that characters reactions and pain to it rather that the details again. As for gore? I have that too, but again not for shock reasons. More for dread, since there are horror elements in the story. More atmoshpere, less eww yuck I guess.
 

pmmg

Vala
The inclusion of anything ought to serve a purpose beyond merely provoking a strong reader reaction.

I dont know if I can go this far. I suspect I can invent a scene where merely provoking is the goal. But I dont know, lack of sleep is catching up to me. I think that is just too broad, but not by much. Fifth always has good insights on stuff.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
I'm pretty ok with it and a limited ammount of graphic stuff if it really is important to the story, but even then I tend to read small pieces of texts when such things occur as I can't say that I enjoy it even while I understand it might be necessary for a darker kind of fantasy story. Say for example Asoiaf. But I have no interest in such things for their own sake.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
You don't need to show anything explicitly to get the point across. A lot of this depends on the type of story you're trying to tell. There are stories that require such things to fulfill their purpose. There are stories that don't need it at all. Neither of which are squeaky clean.

Do not confuse explicit depictions of things with realism. Used in certain ways, it can swing things into the childish and cartoonish. (Eg. the Evil Dead 2 movie). You don't strive for reality. You strive for believably.
Might I suggest that we as authors aim for a sufficient suspension of belief? That isn't the same as believability. Some of the descriptions of torture in Joe Abercrombie's books are very graphic, but the reason he gets away with them is because they're not believable. That makes those books enough of a fantasy to enable the reader to suspend their belief and enjoy the story.
 

BearBear

Inkling
That makes those books enough of a fantasy to enable the reader to suspend their belief and enjoy the story.

I want something a reader wouldn't be comfortable with and get away with it for half of them. I want this book to be out of my comfort zone, I just don't know if I can stand it myself.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I want something a reader wouldn't be comfortable with and get away with it for half of them. I want this book to be out of my comfort zone, I just don't know if I can stand it myself.
None of that requires graphic detail. In fact, it works better without the details, mostly because our readers can usually imagine something unpleasantr enough to scare themselves. It's all in your writing, the way you imply what is happening.
 
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