Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Writing Violence

Today, I have to write a battle scene.

It necessary to the plot of the book. It's a story about war, and a war cannot be fought without a battle. And this particular battle is a turning point for my character, which means that I have make it hurt. Sacrifices will be made. I cannot sugarcoat this scene. It wouldn't be fair to the reader or the characters.

But before writing this scene, I got online. And saw the links to the terrorism attacks in Brussels.

And...I paused. I'd been plotting this scene in my head all morning, I knew just how I wanted to show it, which characters wouldn't make it and which would. But faced with the very real tragedy of Brussels--which, of course, reminded me of the other tragedies of terrorism and war throughout the world.

And suddenly this scene I wanted to write--needed to write--felt...wrong. There is so much violence in the world, real violence that has nothing at all to do with characters made of ink and paper. Part of my hesitation was in the fact that I didn't want to add more violence to an already violent world. Part of it was in the truth that I had not experienced this level of violence personally, what right did I have to tell a (fictional) version of anything so tragic?

It made me think--does the world need a book with more violence? But of course, the answer is yes. Because while my book takes place during a war, it's not about war. It's not about the violence either.

It's about surviving the violence and war and tragedy. It's about seeing the evils of the world and fighting anyway, with nothing more than the hope of a better world. It's about believing that you can make a difference, and that the price to make that difference is worthwhile.

Violence in real life is senseless and tragic and evil. Violence in fiction doesn't always have to be. Because the story I'm telling isn't about the story of war. It's not even the story of a soldier. It's the story of a person. And if I can show through fiction how wrong violence is, and that it's people who live through it and die by it, not random, faceless numbers, but people, then I have done what I can do with words to change the way the world is.

So I'm off to write my scene. And I write it with the knowledge of what's happened in the world, and the hope that one day, terrorism will only exist in ink and paper.

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