Let’s Talk About Violence

This has been an interesting discussion but I’d like to steer it in a slightly different direction now. Let’s talk about violence in fiction. We all have read books where the author went way overboard on the violence, making it either grotesque or just plain hokey. The challenge for any writer is to describe enough that the reader gets the point and remains connected to the story, but not so much that he/she disconnects out of disgust. I could ask the question “how much is too much” but it’s been asked umpteen times and there really is no concrete answer. It all depends on the writer and how well he/she describes the event and the reader and how well he/she handles violence being described.

My question is more specific to violence against women and how men and women readers respond to it. I know some female readers who just abhor reading about violence against women. They think it has no place in Christian fiction (isn’t there enough portrayed in movies, TV, etc. already?). And yet other women think it does have a place. After all, isn’t art supposed to mimic life? And, let’s face it, sadly there is violence against women in the real world.

Ladies, how do you feel when you read an act of violence being carried out against a woman?

Men, how do you feel when you read it?

I can tell you as an author I have a hard time writing violence against women. My books include it but it is difficult for me. Whether it’s warranted or not, I write it with a certain sense of guilt. Maybe it’s because I know it’s been flashed up on too many screens and ignored in society for too long and I somehow feel I’m feeding into it. I don’t know.

What do you think?


About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on October 15, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I don't like it at all. If it is in a movie I usually turn it off. If it is in a book I usually quit reading it. I was in a writing course recently where one of the group had a regular thing she was working on which included a pedophile…I quit the course. I have not been a victim myself, but have known too many women who have. I just don't have the stomach for it. It is certainly not God-honouring to feature that sort of thing…is it?


  2. It does bother me some, but it depends on how it is done, and why – I wouldn't want to read something where violence toward women or kids was glorified, but is it is condemned and has its place in the story, I can handle it, if it isn't overdone.I am currently trying to write my first book – fiction, but it is also to make Christians more aware of the reality that many Christians face. My main character encounters viloence toward him as a kid – quite a bit, but for the purpose of the story, I feel it is necessary – and the same with violence toward women – sometimes it is almost necessary to the story, but there should always be a positive end, and the perpetrator caught and punished


  3. I don't think that Christian fiction should be sugar coated, just presented from a Christian world view. I say include the grit if it's a realistic portrayal. Then you have the power to really help someone.


  4. Dayle James Arceneaux

    I rather the possibility of violence as a method of creating suspense. Violence itself can be left off-screen without diluting the effectiveness of the novel.


  5. I can't read rape or child abuse scenes. Can't do it. Can read books where these things are part of a character's backstory, but a really good writer will put me right into the character's head and these are things I choose not to experience.


  6. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Mike -I just finished a book where the character was raped. The author built the tension right up to the rape. Then she switched POV to a neighbor reporting screams and a police officer responding. Everything from the character's POV was in retrospect. It was not an easy book to read, but it wasn't grotesque. I think women have a hard time reading about this stuff because it arouses fear in them. I don't like gory descriptions of any violent offense. What makes me bail out on a book faster than anything else is occult material presented without the balance of God's Word. Sorry if that's off topic.Blessings,Susan 🙂


  7. there is so much violence in life… but when you handle it, so far anyway, there seems to be a God-comfort tied into it… not sure i expressed that well. and no examples with footnotes off the top of my head. but keep up the good writing.


  8. I agree with others here. I think a lot rides on subject matter and the level of violence depicted. I agree with Wendy; some topics cross the line all by themselves for me. Pedophilia would probably be one, depending on how it's handled. If the statement is just flung out there that somebody is a pedophile and is being arrested, well, that's just factual. End of story. God can rescue that person too. But to describe a stalker who's watching kids at, say, a playground and to subject readers to indecent details describing his lust problem, um no. That's over the line for me, but lots of secular novels go to that point and well beyond it. I'd hope that Christian novelists would have more taste and a better sense of decency. Another sensitive subject matter would be a sexual crime like a rape or molestation. Very touchy in the CBA. The author could simply tell the reader someone was raped or molested; that would be okay probably. But don't even think about depicting the scene and making readers think the perpetrators thoughts. Most CBA readers would be turned off, and I doubt the publisher would print it. I'm not saying we can't describe some evil or darkness (since those ingredients create the conflict to some degree in just about every novel you'll ever read), but those shouldn't be our focus, in my opinion. Like Mark said, does the killer get caught? Is there a positive outcome? That's much more worthy of our focus. Because of the concept of art imitating life, some authors unfortunately think that to be real, their writing has to be gritty or push the envelope of what Christian readers will find acceptable. I don’t think it’s necessary to drag the reader through a mud puddle to depict reality. Besides, a lot of Christian readers read Christian fiction because they don’t want to be subjected to the gritty content, whether it's language, sex, or violence, so common in a lot of secular fiction. Overall they expect to see a difference and are disappointed when they don’t find it. There's a tricky thing about villains. You want readers to take them seriously but not to the point that the reader is repulsed by the level of evil. So there's a line somewhere between appropriate and inappropriate, and the tricky part is knowing where to draw it. Generally speaking, in my opinion, if there's a cliff of decency/good taste where Christian readers could fall off to the point of not wanting to read a certain Christian author again, I'd recommend staying away from the edge. Do details need to disgust or sicken readers for them to get the picture that this is a really bad dude? Just say the killer reached his hands toward the woman's neck and then cut to the next scene with the police finding her strangled body. No need to take three pages and describe every sickening detail of her rape and strangulation. But unfortunately, that’s the problem, I think, when you’re talking about horror fiction. Many secular horror writers would spend all three pages describing the rape, torture, and strangulation in stomach-twisting detail. So then what does a Christian horror writer do (I assume that’s why you asked the question)? If he wants to be like his secular counterparts, he may be tempted to use gratuitous violence too. But are CBA readers willing to stomach it? If not, he or she could lose a lot of readers. So I guess the bottom line is audience. If you want to write violence on the level of Stephen King, don’t expect most CBA readers to read it. They won't. But if you’re writing for CBA, then you need to handle violence in a much different way. Perhaps you should focus more on creating atmosphere and being creepy than on being violent. My two cents. I think this is a fascinating topic.


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