Our round Round Robin Blog this month is about how we deal with voilence and danger in our writing. I don’t write suspense (at least not yet) or action adventure. I write romance and there’s a certain expectation of romance readers that does not include a lot of graphic violence or danger. But in spite of that, we live in a world surrounded by violence so the inclusion of it, at least the knowledge that it’s there, is a must if we want to make our books current and real. Danger puts us on the edge our seats and keeps us turning pages. If nothing is at stake, there is no story.
In my most recent book, KEEPING HIS PROMISE, book 5 in the Camerons of Tide’s Way contemporary romance series, the issue of recidivism and young offenders becomes a wedge between my hero and heroine. Jon Canfield is a cop so he knows well, how easily young men with no good role models can be seduced into crime and how hard it is for them to get out of the abyss once they’ve gotten into the system, so he’s all for the new mayoral candidate’s project to create a Second Chance shelter for these young men. Having done their time and seen more of the criminal world than they wanted, these young offenders have a hard time finding employment, shelter or support to turn their lives around. Leonard’s Place is all about giving them just what they need to succeed. But Kate Cameron Shaw sees it very differently. This is her small “safe” hometown and she has no intention of letting this idea get any traction and putting her kids and others in danger. She’s an investigative reporter and she’s focused on digging up any dirt she can to put a stop to the project. So there is the acceptance that violence and danger can be found anywhere, even in places people once felt safe from those awful things that only happen somewhere else, and Kate refers to many of them in her arguments against Leonard’s Place, but I don’t show them.
In this same book, I show Jon Canfield dealing with the aftermath of an argument between a teenage boy and his alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, but again we don’t see the boyfriend abusing the woman, the mother hitting her son or the son punching the boyfriend. We know it happened and we see the emotional toll on the young man, but the actual violence does not happen on the page. Had this been a gritty story of a street cop dedicated to helping troubled youths, sexual abuse, the fist fight and the boy’s mother’s violence against her own child could have been shown in troubling detail, so it very much depends on what genre you are writing. Rape is a violent and ugly crime, but it is dealt with much differently in a police procedural than in a romance. Consider the difference between how a young woman who was drugged and raped at a frat party in college is shown on Law & Order – Special Victims Unit and how the same woman is dealing with the same offense in a Hallmark movie. The crime is the same and the violence is there, but in one we see the gritty details and in the other the troubling emotional aftermath. TV Viewers who love NCIS Los Angeles are addicted to the adrenalin rush of action, exploding buildings, crashing cars and gory murder scenes and they would be disappointed if the same story line were told without the mayhem. But people who enjoy Blue Bloods are perfectly satisfied to know someone got murdered, or even see a dead body briefly, and they follow Danny Reagan as he doggedly pursues the investigation into who did it. The violence is still there, just not on the screen as much. And if the same story were being told in a Hallmark movie, we probably wouldn’t see the body at all and Danny wouldn’t get into a physical confrontation as he pursues the murderer.
My new project is a mystery series with a female sheriff deputy detective assigned to crimes against people. She’s going to deal with murder, rape, and abuse and I’m going to have to show more of the actual action and violence than in my romance series if I want it to be successful. Exactly how much of that visual action I will show is going to be an experiment. I’ll have to let you know how it works out. Some of my favorite authors, which includes Lee Child and Vince Flynn, show lots of in your face violence. They let you into the heads of those committing it, as well. I think that’s going to be my biggest challenge. I can’t even begin to imagine myself ever wanting to hurt someone physically however angry they have made me so it will be a stretch for me to put myself in the shoes of someone who not only gives in to the urge but relishes it. I’m sure there are writers out there who find that creating a character who deserves to be beaten both physically and mentally and then going ahead and doing both on the page is a very cathartic way of relieving anger and frustration against real people they’d go to jail for beating up. Certainly, as readers, we feel justified and vindicated when the bad guy gets his just reward, is shot, beaten, jailed, found guilty or even killed. It isn’t always so in the real world, and we get satisfaction when it happens in our fiction. The good guy might get shot, beaten, threatened or have his house burned down, but he survives, and in the end when he triumphs we all cheer, close the book feeling satisfied and look for our next story fix. We all have different levels of violence we want to experience in the telling of the story, but we all want the chaos resolved and we want the good guy to win.
Check out these other authors and see how they deal with violence and danger in their writing.
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1i2
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
Judith Copek, //http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/