The urge to pornography
Thoughts on violence and death in fiction
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying
— Bob Dylan, It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Like rape, and threat of rape, as a plot device or character's motivation, I've (mostly — there are some brutally delightful exceptions) lost interest in death as a plot-device or, worse, as the solution to a story.
Physical violence has mostly been absent from my work, though not entirely; there's no denying that there is an inherent drama in a fistfight that doesn't exist in a conversation. Not all of us are Jane Austen, capable of keeping a plot moving through a dented feeling or raised eyebrow, so the temptation to stoop to violence and death is one almost impossible to always resist.
Well, of course it's not always stooping. Like rape, murder doeshappen in life and to arbitrarily deny to fiction the right to treat with either would be plainly idiotic. The key is to avoid the pornography that is violence for violence's sake.
In my never-finished (never yet completed) novel, The Valley of Shabathawan, I broke two of my cardinal rules of fiction.
The novel's first or second chapter includes a viscious fight/rape that serves to set the plot in metaphoric and the protagonist in literal motion and it ends with a brutal fight that culminates in a homicide, which in turn leads directly to the novel's emotional, moral and thematic climax.
So, though I don't like to use death in fiction and believe that nine times out of ten it cheapens whatever drama there is in the story, like any other rule of writing, it is really only a guideline, meant to be broken any and every time the writer knows why they are doing it.
Of course, death isn't always violent. In a very early (and very bad) story, "Dominion", my protagonist is an old man, a hero of Canadian independence and the father of his country's space program. Dying of cancer, he ends his own life by taking a space-walk from which he can never return. (I said it's a very bad story; if you think it also sounds more than a little like Heinlein's "Requiem", you're right. I knew it at the time, and considered it a response, not a rip-off, but you're mileage (were I willing to post such a god-awful piece of juvenilia) might vary.
I suppose the above — death by asphixiation in Earth orbit — qualifies as an answer to the second part of today's entry, What's the most interesting way you've killed someone?, but I still feel like replying to would I infer is the question's sub-text by saying only, "Fuck off — I don't do torture porn."
25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.
26. Let's talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!
27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.
28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.
29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?
30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/17902.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.