Last time I talked about sex, so this time, let’s talk about its everyday companion: violence.
For whatever reason, people in my country (the United States) have far more issues with depictions of sex than they do with violence. Consequently, our media have overbalanced in that direction. Some genuinely shocking amounts of violence appear in our entertainment. But it’s like profanity: a little of this goes a long way.
To great success, you can — and some do — saturate your work with violence, depravity, and gore. If that works for your readership, then more power to you. On the other hand, I want to be read by the broadest spectrum of people I can attract, which means putting a cap on that stuff.
I say this as a man who’s had serious moments of violence in his work. But that’s the key: moments. My feeling is that violence is like any other intense element. Used as punctuation, it makes the sentence stronger. Used constantly, it’s just repetitive and dull.
Put what you want in your writing. Not only can’t I stop you, but I don’t want to stop you. I wouldn’t say I like being told what to write, either. But you come here for my thoughts, so I’m sharing them with you. And I’ve learned that there are limits, which are far stricter than we tend to realize. So maybe dial it back a notch or two next time you write. You might be surprised how well it turns out.