Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Graham Smith’s new crime novel Watching the Bodies available now from Bloodhound Books. I’m thrilled to share with you this awesome guest post from the author. Enjoy!
When Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.
As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive.
Guest Post by Graham Smith
Is violence on the page entertaining or gratuitous?
This is a debate that’s as old as the hills or at least the debate about using clichés in writing.
Let’s be clear from the start; violence of any kind towards a human being or another living creature is abhorrent.
Yet as a writer, I love the elements that violence puts into my toolbox.
First and foremost, violence or the threat of violence, is a major driver of stories. Once our hero, Clint Squarejaw, has been established as a decent person we need to have something for him (or her) to do.
As someone who writes at the darker end of the spectrum, I’m not going to have Clint looking for a lost wedding ring or kidnapped cat. I’ll give him a task I find more interesting.
In my hands he’s basically going to be tasked with one or two scenarios. He’ll either be investigating an act of violence or trying to prevent one. It could be a single murder or a plot to kill millions.
Sometimes I’ll use both methods. In the case of a serial killer, the first murders are being investigated in the hope future ones will be prevented.
Now that I’ve established my jumping off point, I think it’s fair to point out that my stories include a lot of violent acts. In a different series, I have had someone executed with a nailgun, another person lost a limb to a blowtorch and naturally, I had to decapitate another character.
The issue I always have with violence is striking the balance between using it to drive the story and writing gratuitously visceral scenes. As a reader, I have read about torture as it happens and have read passages which had me wincing and shifting my eyes from the page every few lines.
I’ve never wanted to have my readers doing the peek and wince method so I keep most of my violence off the page. This is especially true for the more brutal murders which my villains tend to commit.
I’m very much of the opinion that Clint Squarejaw’s imaginings of the vicious murders is far more palatable than me writing page after page of some poor character being killed, dismembered, raped or otherwise hurt. The aftermath is always a more fertile playground for me and I can toss in a little forensic detail, some mysterious element and a sense of angst for poor old Clint.
Another facet to this, is that I firmly believe my readers are more interested in my characters than the random acts of brutality which litter my stories. Once in a while I will show some violence on the page and it will usually involve my hero fighting those who are guilty or are trying to hurt him.
For me this is acceptable violence to show; as however violent my hero may be when the need arises, he’ll never cross to the point where he’s being brutal for the sake of it. Sure, he may kill people and dish out a generous helping of retribution from time to time, but he’ll never be sadistic for the sake of it.
Any violence I do put onto the page which involves my villains harming their victims will always be done with the minimum of detail and will often focus on the emotional implications rather than the physical ones.
This is my outlook on violence in crime stories, but please comment below or look me up on social media as I’d love to hear what other writers and readers deem acceptable.
Wasn’t this interesting? Thank you Graham for sharing your thoughts on violence in novels. I for one appreciate the violence being left off the page and not the focus of scenes!
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009
He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team and one book, in a new series featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.
Be sure to stop by these other fantastic blogs on the tour