A guest post by Author Sevastian Winters
The coolest review I've received to date for any of my books, delivered a mere two out of five stars… from an author, no less! Bar-none, it's my very favorite review of all time. In fact, I use it to sell books! I'd take 1,000 such reviews over 1 Million reviews from 5 star fans telling me how fucking awesome I am. Ripped directly from Amazon, here's what it says:“This review is from: Wolf's Rise (The LupoSapien Project) (Kindle Edition)
Winters had an interesting concept, and had me turning pages as he knew when to leave one scene hanging, and pick up with another. I would have given him a 3 or 4 star. However, with that said, I never finished the book. Here are the reasons why: For one, there was graphic violence throughout , including a gang rape described in enough detail to feel immersed in it - a little too much for me to handle! There was also some vulgar language which I couldn't stomach.”
How is that not the greatest review in the history of great reviews? Seriously, I could have kissed her full on the mouth. The golden sentence, in case you missed it was this one:
“For one, there was graphic violence throughout, including a gang rape described in enough detail to feel immersed in it - a little too much for me to handle!”
Spectacular! I might add, by the way, that one of the things that makes me proudest is that the rape never actually happened in the book. It happened in the reader's mind.
Though I will give her that the lead up was intense, here's what the reader actually sees in the book (Don't worry. I'm not giving the story away):
The skinny man leaned in, licked her ear, and whispered “We don’t give a fuck how this goes down, but if you wanna’ live you will make sure we all have a good time! Got it? All of us!”
The large man in front of her fished his hand into the flap in his underwear as the crowd continued to tighten around her.
Megan choked back her tears and despite her anger she nodded that she understood. She wanted to kill them, but knew fighting would be pointless. She’d been with guys like this before, but this time she was out-gunned. She braced herself for what she knew was to come.
“Okay then! Let’s have a little fun!” someone in the crowd shouted as someone else cut off her skirt with a knife, yanked it out from under her and threw it into the cheering crowd.
Three hours later, naked, bleeding, bruised, and humiliated, sore, reeking of both semen and urine, but alive, Megan was tossed into a dumpster.
The lead up to the rape (not posted here) was graphic. The aftermath (also not seen here) was graphic, but when it came time to actually ram a sweaty, blood engorged penis into her unforgiving, spit-lubed anus, I skipped ahead three hours and dealt with the aftermath.
I didn't have to. It was a choice I made to move the story along...and to keep from crossing the line from pop-fiction into deviant pornographic fantasy.
The writer's job is to move the reader from this world into the world that we create... to make sure the readers see, feel, taste, smell, hear, and sense everything in the story...as if they are actually there observing.
It's not our job to respect anyone's delicate sensibilities. It's not our job filter the story, to act as commentators, or serve as judges. It is ours to serve as a camera and a microphone.
We don't have the rights to the 'bleep' track, and readers find it as annoying when we play it as TBS viewers do when Samuel L. Jackson shouts that it's time to get the “Bleeeeeeeeeeep snakes off of the mother Bleeeeeeeeep plane”. The only discretion we're given as writers is the option of deciding, like a film editor, which pieces of truth make the final cut and which ones stay on the cutting room floor.
How graphic is too graphic? That's the wrong question. Here are the right questions:
1) What happened. (Show. Don't tell.)
2) What's important to the story? (Nothing else matters.)
3) Is there anything that happened that will result in distracting from the showing of the story? (If so, start cutting.)
Those are the right questions to ask. I didn't include the actual rape, because it would have served as an indulgent scene of rape-fantasy that served no purpose in propelling the story forward. In this case, it was important to rape the girl, but not important to see her gush blood from her over-used anus.
Graphic scenes in books whose purpose is to be graphic, are ridiculous ploys by poor writers who haven't grasped their duty. That said, our job is to absolutely immerse our readers in story, to employ every one of their six senses, and to shut out this world, in favor of the world we provide.
Not every reader will want to stay in the world we create. That's okay. The writer of my favorite review couldn't stomach to finish my book. It was too much for her. Different strokes for different folks! But for the time they are with us, it's our job to make it real... to elicit visceral responses.
Our reader should be so immersed in story that they reach for a blanket in the height of summer, because it's winter in the story world, and “Linda”, the protagonist, is stranded in the snow.
How graphic is too graphic?
I don't know. Are you okay with snow that's white but not cold? How about cold, but not wet? How about cold, and wet, but lacking the unique taste as it melts upon your tongue? Are you okay with a snow storm that doesn't make the sky smell amazing? I'm not. I want the whole experience. I want to see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it, and feel it in my soul. Otherwise, I feel gypped!
The terms “graphic violence,” and graphic language” are nothing more than labels imposed by tight-assed executives trying to make sure that tight asses like themselves have something to watch on television. If their priests told them it would make them more money, they'd show pictures of disaster victims holding teddy bears and smiling, and never the bleeding child looking for mommy in her family's burned out home. They don't give a shit about truth. But you should!
I'm not dogmatic about much, but on this subject, I'm too right not to be: Writers who actually give a shit about the quality of their work won't ever limit themselves by filtering the truth for the sake of who might be offended by the story. Characters have an inalienable right to be themselves, and stories have the right to live uncensored. Any writer that thinks otherwise is a shit-writer and should probably never write anything again, except possibly an apology or a refund check. Some reading this might disagree. They're wrong.
Do you want to be a very much gooder author? It's easy! Show the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and employ all six senses when you do it. Everything else is shit. Thanks for reading!
P.S. ~Most of the time, when I drop in with a guest post on a blog, I make a point of saying a bunch of funny, insightful things that leave readers clamoring for more (or so I imagine). Then I pitch my books. I've reached that point in this post, knowing full well that I just took some readers to the woodshed. But I'm going to go out on a limb and surmise that a few people reading just shouted “Hell yeah!” and others will chew on this post for awhile and decide that despite how brash I am, that I'm worth checking out, so I'm just going to put it out there and beg you to buy my books (My accountant and my wife recommend it).
My latest three releases are these:
“How I are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author”- an author’s guide to branding, writing, editing, publishing, and selling books.
“Wolf's Rise” (referenced in this post)-a military thriller with genetically engineered werewolves. Everything was going well in their quest to build a better soldier….until the experiment got out of the lab! If you like adrenaline pumping, visceral stories with believable characters, chest-pounding action, and guts so real you can smell them, then lace up your running shoes! It’s time to run with the big dogs!)
“Five by Sev”-Five fun short stories. They each take about ten minutes to read, but they'll stick with you for a lifetime. Perfect for the reader who loves stories, but has limited time in a day in which to read them. This is volume one in the near monthly series and includes "The Red Door," "The Day that Jesus Came to Church," "Sundown Town" "Cause of Death," and "Closing Arguments."
In : Guest Posts
Tags: writing graphic authors censorship novels violence rape
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