VIOLENCE

Violent acts are all around us one way or another every single day. If you’ve indulged in a bit of road rage on your way to work or barged past someone who was walking too slowly, holding everyone up, that’s violence. Dragging someone into the street and giving them a damn good thrashing with a baseball bat is also violence. Threatening someone is also violence.

All in all, it’s everywhere.

I’m writing book three of The Circle series at the moment and like the others, there will be conflict between different people and creatures which means I’m going to have to include some violence. So why is it that violence, which can cause so very many negatives, is so popular in our fiction?

We see every day on the news, a seemingly unending supply of examples of brutality from all over the globe. Acts of terrorism, murders, wars, and any other act of violence that you could possibly care to dream up yet we all love stories which include just those very acts. Now it would be too easy just to say that as a people, we’re all becoming desensitized to violence because we see it so often that when it pops up in a book or on TV we just see it as being part and parcel of life, but for e that seems too simple.

Computer games and films are regularly blamed when a violent act is perpetrated as being what pushed a person over the edge. The music of Marilyn Manson has been pointed at as a driving force behind violent behaviour from someone who listened to it.

I can’t recall a time where a book was held up as an example of driving someone to violence.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned way back when amid a moral panic regarding it’s contents and we’re all no doubt familiar with the phenomenon that is 50 Shades. Books of an erotic nature like these immediately make people angry but all manner of depictions of violence are held in the pages of a library so anyone can dive in and swim around.

After the 50 Shades book was released, there was an increase in the number of injuries of a sexual nature which were reported to hospitals as people gave the practices in the pages a go without doing all of the research they needed to. Yet there seems to be no qualms about descriptions of violence in other books. Granted, we’re unlikely to see a Val McDermid book be released and than have thousands of people set off on macabre killing sprees but why is it that there’s never the clamour for the books with violence in them to be sanctioned?

Now I recognise that 50 Shades books are held up as examples of normalising violence against women and the dynamics of the relationship in the novels is far from healthy, but people found it a way to explore their own sexuality and decided to give some things a go, potentially unwisely, which resulted in the injuries.

We see books where serial killers conduct almost unspeakably brutal actions as the hero chases after them. I’ve read books which included people being tied up in the mouth of an underground tunnel like a spider at the centre of a web and left to be killed by the arrival of the train. Val McDermid and a description of a torture device involving a naked man, a chair with no seat and a razor and hook covered and electrified cone is not something that I would ever wish to see come to pass in the real world and the entire works of Clive Barker seem to speak for themselves yet that violence doesn’t appear everywhere after the release.

Violence is a great tool in story telling. Violence can provide a level of connection that the reader may not have without it. We recognise what it would feel like to experience the violence so can empathise. We can also see just how far a character may have been pushed if they are willing to commit an act of violence. We know that we would never do something like that but also, exactly just how bad things must be if they’d reached that point of striking out.

But violence is not a thing of it’s own. Violence doesn’t exist separate from anything else just randomly doing it’s thing for no reason. Violence is the tool of a stimulus. Control of people can be maintained by acts or threats of violence. Emotion bring violence to the fore. Anger spilling out, envy and also sadness. People are driven to violence because of their situations and we’ve got to remember that it isn’t always something which should be squashed. Violently breaking free of oppression, self defence. These things mean that we need to recognise that violence isn’t the end point.

The works of Shakespeare and so very many religious books all have examples of the kind of brutality that would make your toes curl yet we encourage our young people to explore these books when they’re young as positives.

I’ll continue to use violence in what I write when the story requires I do. Just throwing it in there because you’re feeling bored won’t add to the story and could just look sensationalist. When my characters are violent, they have to be because of the story I’m putting together. I won’t have them being sadistic just because. There’s always a cause to violence and very often, the journey that matters is finding out what that cause is.

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TRYING TO CONNECT

Another convention weekend draws to a close and all of us fans of the show Spartacus can look back on great times meeting the cast of the show but also getting the chance to meet up with friends from all over the planet.

Each and every one of us is filled with our own passions and having the opportunity to spend time with others with the same feelings is what we’re all searching for.

In a world where divisions are highlighted and the differences we may have are the only things anyone seems to care about, recognize that everything, everywhere is better when we all come together.

This weekend saw the expected fun and games of a convention but I think, although I’m not certain, I witnessed the early stages of a new spiritual movement. Proving that these events are so much more than just the chance to meet the actors, we saw one of our number elevated towards his true rock star status. His name was chanted by all and all the differences we may have had didn’t matter a jot.

I suspect I’ll be needing the help as I battle with an iffy internet signal.

‘MAAAAANDEEEEEEP’.

ALMOST OVER

For this post I only have a single point to make.

I feel that after the 2016 we’ve all witnessed, where division and anger seem to have exposed the gruesome heart of the human race to the light, I open my arms to everyone out there, regardless of all those defining characteristics we all cling so very tightly to, and which seem to be always pulling us apart, and say to each and every one of you,

“Let’s celebrate our humanity and do what we can to make the lives we touch every day a little bit better. Let’s make sure 2017 is the perfect antidote to what we’ll soon be leaving behind us.”

Have a good ‘un all.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

I’ve posted on here before that I’ve tried to make sure I use enough truth in what I write. Not that I believe that there are huge magical armies out there but that I take well known, and indeed not so well known, tales of mythology from all kinds of places around the world just to give what I write a place to start, if you will.

When you read any kind of story you automatically look around for elements that you recognise to hold onto. Characteristics in people that you have a strong feeling for, parts of a story that you recognise. It’s those things that allow you to then believe all the other bits of fiction that come rushing along out of the blue.

So all you have to do to create any form of engagement from the reader is chuck in a load of references to all kinds of religions, mythology and folklore and you’re sorted, right?

I’ve just been watching a TV show recently which deals in magic and monsters and I’ve noticed that, whereas previously it used the details of already established stories quite sparingly, it had eventually begun throwing all kinds of things together as a whole with an almost insane abandon. As each episode passed and more and more elements were piled upon the altar of story telling, the central narrative began to creak and sway under the accumulating weight.

By adding in nuggets of other stories, sprinkling just a hint of these details throughout any piece of work, you can allow for improvements to the experience but, as every chef will attest, if you add too much of a particular ingredient the overall flavour can be destroyed. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

I’ll bet that you’ve read all kinds of stories that have taken some kind of well known mythology as a basis but it’s the ones that either stay honest to the source materials (the Percy Jackson novels I feel fit here) or only use the stories as a starting point which do the business. Mixing too much together often ends up with the baggage which comes with each of the myths getting in the way. You find it hard to believe that elements could link because of the wider histories of each tale.

I need to have fragments of ‘fact’, as it were, in everything I write. It allows me the foundations to build on. But you have to always make sure that you’re using information in the correct way. Less really is more.

GREATEST?

How many books have you received as gifts at this time of year, during your lifetime? Can you remember all of them? Were they all good? No doubt we can all remember a handful of stories but what is it that makes the really good ones stand out in our minds?

At this time of year, the story of Christmas is waved around and we all recognise the details because we’ve all heard them all before so many times. So many people around the world will just ‘know’ what the details are and what the sub-text of the story is. Could you imagine having that kind of reach as an author? J.K.Rowling and then some.

Now the point of this post isn’t to make any kind of comment regarding religion, rather an investigation of longevity.

Religions are a great example of how people spread the word on a specific topic, drawing others into the shared mindset. Peoples have also passed the details of stories down through the years. The oral tradition in so many cultures has allowed for all those stories within said culture to be sent through the ages without the need for a written text. Written histories have replaced the spoken but they still perform the same function, allowing the cultural significance to be carried on.

Today, familial, national and international stories are passed around and there are more and more ways for those stories to pass from one person to the next but ease of passing has no weight on a stories longevity.

Tales of communities were given from generation to generation as part of a rite of passage, religions have been handed on as the keys to a better life but also under the threat of untold agony in the here after, and in ages gone by, this life as well.

So it would appear that a strong fan base is the way to go. If I can have fans helping me spread the word, an ever growing group of people spreading the word for me and extolling the virtues of my stories, maybe I’ll be able to have the stories of mine reaching out and lasting for who knows how long.

Enjoy the silly season everyone, and if you’re at a loss for a gift idea, give The Circle of Fire a go.

Spread the word.