FOR THE artistic & imaginative WRITER

Off With Their Heads!


There’s always an issue with adding violence in a story. In a way, violence should be included to make your story realistic. After all, it can be easily found in our daily lives. On the other hand, it can also be triggering and therefore it should be written with caution. This is what I will be discussing in this new article.

But how do I know when I can add violence to my story? When should I not?

  1. Know your audience.

That’s it. I mean sure, we will discuss this topic more in detail but this is the most important thing you have to keep in mind. You have to know your audience. Who are you writing this story for? Who is going to read it? If your story is aimed towards children, you can’t write about people getting blown to bits. I mean, come on. You can’t write graphic scenes of torture if children are gonna read your book.

Now there will still be teenagers and grown adults that won’t be able to stand the violence going on in the novel and for those people, there’s another step to follow.

2. Respect your genre.

Besides the age of your audience, you have to know what your genre is about and respect it.  

If you’re writing a horror novel, for example, then you have to include violence in it. Like, it’s a horror novel for goodness sakes! People are expecting bad things to happen. Horrifying things are supposed to be in a horror novel. I’m sure that a sensitive teenager or adult who picks up a horror novel knows what they’re getting into.

In fact, many times, a book loses its value simply because people don’t die and there’s unrealistically no violence in it. Some people still point their fingers at books where a huge battle is preparing and in the end, nobody dies and there are no fighting scenes. You’re writing about war. War is unfair and violent. Bad things are going to happen. Your hero is gonna get stabbed (that’s a good way to do it).

Most fantasy stories have a war going on. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, you have to include some violence. At least kill someone if you don’t want to write torture scenes because your book will lose its value because this genre requires some violence. 

Now if you’re writing a romance, you have to be careful about how you write the violence. Don’t go to the extreme because a fourteen year-old girl who picked up this book knowing it’s going to be a love story will not expect violent scenes and if you included guts and blood, this girl might cry and she won’t be able to stand it. The most violent thing she probably expects is for the cheerleader to beat up the main character. 

But how do I know? 

That’s what trigger warnings are for.

3. Add a trigger warning.

Trigger warnings are the new trend because people are becoming over-sensitive. That’s not mean, that’s the truth.

If your story has strong language, you have to add a trigger warning saying beware, strong language.

And of course, as a writer, you can’t be perfect. You can’t always know who’s going to pick up your book. This reader might not even know what a genre is. They might not know what to expect and that’s why you can add trigger warnings. They will save your life because you will have warned your reader. If the reader was disturbed because somebody lost a leg in your story, it’s no longer your responsibility. You added a trigger warning. You warned them.

For example, rape is no joke. Rape is horrible. You have to add a trigger warning if you’re going to write a rape scene.

And in the end, trigger warnings aren’t just for people who can’t handle a big amount of violence. They are for people who have experienced a big amount of violence. Remember how I said that violence can be easily found in our daily lives? This is what I meant.

In real life, there is violence around us. Whether it’s verbal or physical violence, we’ve all experienced some kind of violence during our lifetime. And sometimes, people just don’t want to be reminded of this violence. They don’t want to read about it.

And sometimes, this trigger warning is for people who were violent before. Some people are brave enough to treat themselves to stop being violent. They work on themselves and if they read about someone being violent, they might relapse. You need a trigger warning.

Now that you know what you have to consider before adding violence to your story…

Are you comfortable in writing violence?

We talked about the readers, but can the writer themselves handle the violence? Before you think about how the readers will react, think about yourself. Can you write this? Can you handle it? You should never ever have to write something that you’re not comfortable with. The hardest thing for a writer is to write something that they don’t want to write about.

Write what you want to write about. Not what your audience is expecting, not what’s working in the market. Writing is always for you. Even after it becomes for a large audience of readers, it remains yours.

But how do I write it? (Trigger warning: violence & examples of violence).

Your hero is going to be kidnapped by the enemy. I don’t think they will serve them cookies and tea. NO. THEY WILL FREAKING TORTURE THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ENEMY.

If your hero is a girl who loves her hair, for exmaple, they might cut her hair. This will break the heart of your reader who’s rooting for the hero. That’s a good way to do it.

They might cut them, burn them and beat them. Ways of torture vary and writers are often seen as scary because we research those methods of torture and we always have to clarify that hey, we’re not psychopaths, we’re not serial killers; we are writers.

This enemy might beat your hero every day. The might cut them with a blade just for the fun of it. They might burn them with a curling iron for example. They could throw them in a room full of snakes or wolves or other dangerous creatures. Get creative with that.

Sometimes, the violence isn’t even that extreme. Sometimes, the hero’s half-sister might push her in the mud. She will purposely shove her and drop her books on the floor. This is minimal violence but it’s still violence.

If you want to write violence, get creative (this sounds so bad). But seriously, think of the harshest ways a human being (or fantastical being) can torture another. Think of what you wouldn’t want to happen to you and write it.

You are a writer. I’m sure you’ll find a way to write it.

–A Ghost Writer, Murielle Azzi

Murielle Azzi was our writer for this week and we hoped you enjoyed. If you want to read more of her posts you can here, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Thank you for joining us for this week’s Ghost Writers post. We hope to see you next time!

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