Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
Just finished writing a torture scene. I don't like writing such things, but I really couldn't avoid it - it seemed necessary to the story. Some writers seem to dash these things off without a second thought, but I felt unclean. Still do. I'm wondering whether to leave it in or take it out.
I felt a bit like I do when they give you too much information on the news. You know, the rapist did this and this and this to his victim. Why do we need to know?
How do you feel when you read that sort of stuff?
Interesting. I was just pondering the same matter.
A book I'm reading at the moment does have a tad too much violence/graphic-ness for my liking. Moreover, I think a lot of it isn't necessary for the plot, at which stage it becomes gratuitous to me - a mere way of shocking the reader.
This reader is not shocked. This reader is merely revolted and may skip those scenes and read on. If there's altogether too much violence, I may put the book down.
As writer, I have also gone through a stage where I was perhaps showing too much graphic stuff.
I think as writer you need to be careful not to disgust readers too much. A torture scene may be necessary for the plot, but how much of it will you have in real time?
Balance is very important, I think. It's the same with sex scenes. Not many adults are happy with the 'closed bedroom door' without at least a small peek at what's happening on the other side. In the same vein, if the plot demands torture, I don't think you can get away with skipping the scene altogether.
To me, one paragraph is more effective than a page, and I usually limit such scenes to one per book.
just my $0.02
These types of scenes are often necessary to the development of the plot, but as a reader I am more interested in reading about how it affects the people involved (on both sides). I definately don't want graphic descriptions of the technical aspects.
On a lighter note: we sat down on Saturday night just hoping that our losing margin wouldn't be too big. To actually win - well you can imagine the jubilation :-D. Sorry Linda!
I once read a scene set during the Scottish invasion during King Stephen's reign where the POV character rode through a village after the army had passed through. By concetrating on one or two fairly horrific sights, amongst the many that would have been left, the author gave the full sense of horror of such a war; set the scene for the rest of the story; and didn't have to refer to it again. It was very powerful imagery though, one of which still haunts me years after I read it. So yes, neccesray, but less should always be more in these sorts of things *g*
The torture scene I have written for TDT is now going on the scrap heap. Not because I don't want it in there but because with the re-thinking of the entire plot it doesn't happen!
I will admit to squirming somewhat when I read Fiona McIntosh's torture scenes - she's quite good at them - and then think how I could work similar activities into my writings, when needed. Writing such scenes is rather cathartic for me, I imagine that the character being tortured is someone I particularly dislike and would like to do these things to.... muahahhahahahaaa! *oops, did I say that out loud?*
This subject reminds me of the panel Jenny Fallon and I were on at Conjure - about sex in books - and we both agreed if it advances the plot then fine but if it's there for shock/titillation value only then get rid of it. The same goes for torture, methinks.
Most torture scenes I skip over. I know it's wrong of me, but I just don't like reading them, even when they're crucial to the plot. I also skip over scenes with the emotional equivalent of torture. This makes me wonder what I would do if I had to write one. Maybe all my stuff is just sweet and happy and full of fluffy bunnies eating chocolate?
On the whole I agree - even if the torture itself is necessary for the story, I'd prefer that the scene itself not be too lengthy or detailed. I generally won't skip over it if it is there, but it usually leaves a bit of a sour taste for me. Equally excessive use of such violence is a bit of a turn off too. For example I really quite enjoyed Terry Goodkind's first Sword of Truth book. I quite appreciated that he wasn't going to spare his main characters from significant discomfort because I sometimes feel that Fantasy Authors can be a bit guilty of that at times. But, by the third book when it became apparent that hig levels of anguish were going to be a regular occurrance for his characters I just got sick of it. I haven't read any more of his since.
On the other hand Russell - if you don't go into lingering detail about what happens, then what shows up on the screen in the Hollywood Blockbuster version of your work will be entirely up to the enterpretation of the Director :)
Whoops - just re-read my post... apologies to all for spelling and grammatical atrocities - I really shouldn't post when I haven't had enough sleep :)
This is interesting, because its a problem I'm facing with my space opera novel. I have a character that I've been travelling with since I was a teenager. I know I've got the perfect story for her. Problem is, part of the story is a terrible torture scene, and now I'm stuck. I honestly don't know how to react to it, how she should react to it. Although really, the fact I haven't been able to face it for years is a bit of a clue, isnt' it?
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