Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rape, Swears, and Violence: Are they really necessary?

While I'm on a tear about reality, I figure I may as well as slam what some people figure are mandatory when it comes to "real" writing.

For some reason, too many writers think that the more swearing is in their writing, the more "real" it is. However, even sailors and urban toughs don't swear as much as you see in realistic fiction, which would make it seem as if everyone used their favorite swear like a comma. The reality is that, even though there is swearing in real life, no one swears as much as they do in some movies or fiction.

The point is that swearing should be used when you need to make a point of some sort. It shouldn't be used for just creating an environment, but for actual shock value. If your characters use a constant stream of blue language, then it loses its value. It becomes just white noise, and is useless for any actual use. As such, you should limit its use as much as you can.

Far too many works use violence just for the sake of being violent. There is a lot of blood, a lot of broken bones, and far too many deaths. Now, I'm not saying I don't like to see violence (I like good horror movies, even lousy horror movies, too much). I would point out there is a reason that they are reported in incidents per THOUSAND. If they happened as often as they did in bad fiction, then we would dispense with police and just bring in the National Guard. Like swearing, violence is best used to effect, and not every two seconds. Limit it, and you may just see the quality of your writing improve.

If there is one reason I hate feminist fantasy and bad boy-love fiction, it's rape. It seems that far too many would-be heroines need to suffer being raped at some point, and some male writers have some seriously warped rape fantasies. And we're not even going to get into the sheer number of prison stories that involve dropping the soap as unintended invitation.

The problem is that the writer wants to either demonstrate how powerless the character is, either due to actuality or something in society. Although this can be fine if used once in a while, some writers tend to over-use it, or make it a point that they use it to show how realistic their writing is. You shouldn't use rape more than a handful of times in your career, and maybe once per character. Otherwise, you're using it far too much. If you honestly think that every sexual encounter is akin to rape, then use your writing to show a different way of how men and women should create kids without sex, or at least express affection in a different manner. Imagination is power; there is no reason that it should not be empowering as well.

Bottom Line
It should be noted that I'm coming down on the occasional use, or even when you want to make some sort of point. I even encourage beginning writers to do it and get it out of their system. Keep in mind that I am also a major horror fan (80's horror, not torture porn), so I'm not interested in seeing all violence disappearing, and definitely the same with nudity. All I'm saying is that moderation in all things should be key, and that definitely applies here.