As posted on ENathanSisk.com
Adam Callaway at A Dribble of Ink has a great article that dissects violence, particularly in relation to fantasy. He makes some great points (especially using BioShock 3 where the violence there is ridiculous). The entire time I read it, I was trying to think of novels I loved that didn’t employ violence. I have a few, but none of them are fantasy.
And it got me thinking about my own story. In the first novel, Sorcerer Rising, I have a good bit of violence. I think of it as action, but really, that’s how we as a society put a nicer label on violence. That’s not really a problem for me, I’ve always handled that rather well and I think it has a point. Virgil isn’t dark or an anti-hero, but his reaction to horrible things is to throw a whole bunch of horrible right back at it.
Very rarely in fantasy do you find a story that doesn’t involve some type of fighting, often times coupled with horrible, gratuitous violence. With the popularity of the Song of Ice and Fire, people have gone to extreme violence for its visceral quality, not realizing that there is so much more to its success. I like the idea of some fantasy with no violence or fighting. I’d be interested in seeing what kind of stories could be produced. How much are we ignoring by stating that a story has to have combat?
I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll be the trailblazer on this. I’ve always been, I guess I’ll call it “open”, to violence in fiction. It’s rarely bothered me, depending on the context. It’s always been what appealed to me in fantasy, and until Virgil has a life changing event (or kills everyone why might want him dead) I don’t think I’m going to write this.
My second novel (Currently referred to as DITF, and no, you don’t get to know what that stands for) is chocked full of “action” and there are a few instances where he does some truly horrible things. I try to make it clear that this is an unpleasant part of his personality, but justified violence is still violence and people will disagree about what is acceptable and what is not. But it’s something I’ve had to curtail with this one. It seems like every time I need to move the story forward, someone attacks, or is attacked, or they attack someone else. A lot of my fleshing out of the story has been adding the consequences to this violence, and in parts scaling it back.
I wrote a scene last night that I really enjoyed (by the way, a little over five hundred words last night) and it’s something I want to continue. Virgil is an explorer, and before everything went horribly wrong, that’s what he loved. He loved seeing amazing things, the joy of finding something new. He was an educator as well as a soldier, and an explorer long before he was a criminal. That’s one of his driving forces, not what was taken from him, but what he was prevented from doing.
I don’t even think I realized that until writing that scene, and neither did he as a result. Nothing violent or disturbing happened, if anything it was pretty and serene. Violence gets the adrenaline pumping, but eventually it wears thin. I love the monsters and magic I have thrown around in this story, but this scene meant more to me and my character than most of that.