“As I continued to read the book I grew to like him more and more!! ”says Yvonne Lee about Senka in her review on Amazon
“Are you going to go see what’s left?” she asked.
“We could if you like. The patrol hasn’t passed in over an hour. Askil’s had a hard-on for us for a while. Eventually he’ll realize we aren’t among the dead and likely send a party looking for us anyway.”
Muhjah offered her a hand. She took it and allowed him to pull her to a standing position. She could feel his solid strength as though he pulled it from the very stones beneath him. It surprised her. But how could he be anything other than strong? She wanted to rail against his solid frame like an angry man might a wall to avoid hitting his wife. She wished he were a cold and unfeeling inanimate object instead of the callous and detached human he was. She didn’t want to understand what they had done.
They made little effort to hide as they crossed the river. Chiyo indicated the direction Emiko had gone, and the men followed. The glen they came to was small. There were flowers sneaking up among the grasses, and the trees were just starting to shed their leaves, rustling underfoot but still blocking the sky from view. It would have been a beautiful meadow.
The grass was stained red. It was drying, becoming black with the coming darkness. The ground below was soft despite the lack of rain. The stench was unbearable, worse perhaps because it was from the blood, gut, and gore of those she had known, if only briefly. The bodies were gone, but there was evidence enough of what had occurred. Chiyo noted a discarded hand, gray and lifeless. It was missing two fingers, lost perhaps in a futile attempt to ward off the coming blow.
She sank to her knees. She could feel the cold wetness soaking through her pants. Shouldn’t it be warm? she thought. She gagged. She wanted to wretch but found that she couldn’t muster the strength.
Chiyo felt Senka and Muhjah watching her reaction closely and somehow wondered if it would affect her immediate future. She looked at the grass in front of her sway. The earth doesn’t seem to know that a tragedy has just occurred here, Chiyo thought. It might even consider the recent events nourishing. And the cycle continues, regardless of the manner.
“Why did they take all of the bodies?” she asked.
Muhjah shrugged, disinterested.
“Display most likely, as examples to others of what happens when you defy the nyim.”
“Everyone seemed to know that working as a conscript was tantamount to death anyway. So what difference does it make?”
“But no one sees those dead, so hope remains. There’s a big difference. Terror has to be seen to be effective.”
Guest Post:In Defense of Gore
A scene of graphic violence can be difficult to read. There are some who understandably choose to avoid them for just that reason. But like so many other things in life and literature they have a legitimate place. It serves as a natural antidote to the sanitizing effect of the written word.
Here is an example: A number of years ago I had a conversation with my aunt in which she regaled me with a detailed account of reading the grizzly description of the sound of breaking fingers in Robert Ludlum’s Borne Identity. By way of this post her visceral response to that scene reaches to us today, even though at the time of the discussion it had been some time since she’d read the scene, has been several years since we had the conversation and I still haven’t read the book. A simple “he broke the man’s fingers” would not have put her in the moment as strongly and would never have made the same impression on her or me. But there is also a more fundamental reason for the gore’s inclusion.
Should the blood and such be censored then there is nothing left to evoke the readers’ feelings of disgust, fear or loathing. These are important. These are what remind readers that even if the book is fictional, fractured bones, torn flesh, and broken bodies are a reality. These are what remind normal readers (because there will always be the exception who revels in violent depictions rather than be revolted by them) not to take too lightly the death throws of your characters.
For centuries people have been worrying about whether exposure to violent media can cause individuals to behave violently in real life or even simply become desensitized to it. While I don’t expect to come to a conclusion that has escaped the grasp of far better social scientists than myself, I do think that realistic depiction of violence is important to reduce the likelihood of glamorization, or rather glorification.
Now, I’m not at all saying that the death or disfigurement of a character in every book should be accompanied by a detailed account of the biological accoutrements of their demise. Obviously, one doesn’t
need to “hear” the death rattle of those who pass quietly into the night. Children’s books should probably go light on the death in general, and it’s fair to assume a minimal amount of accuracy is acceptable. But is it really OK to present a gunfight, for example, and pretend that flying projectiles don’t have the potential to produce a virtual Rorschach pattern on the wall behind the victim? And if we do should we then be surprised when death isn’t taken seriously?
Humans are largely visual creatures with an amazing ability to create images in their minds. As an author I am always conscious of the potential power words have. Ripped sinews, dripping blood, brain matter, shattered bone, and broken fingernails provide details that both make scenes more realistic and disturbing.
While I am, without a doubt, arguing that authors choosing to write scenes of violence shouldn’t be afraid to throw that reality at the reader. (In fact not being able to commit fully to it could be seen as a weakness.) I’m not a proponent of being indiscriminant. There is such a thing as too much. The gratuitous use of violence, chronic in the modern entertainment industry, is an irresponsible use of the power of the pen. It has its place and it is the responsibility of the writer to find it.
So, while it is easy to gloss over what may seem to be irrelevant or sensationalizing details in a fight scene, remember that writing such details is as uncomfortable as reading them. They are there for a reason. Appreciate them.
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