Choosing Non-Violence in Writing

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I write all kinds of stories, but my favorite ones are where my character is presented with an opportunity for violence and rejects it.  It’s where my real life persona bleeds into my writing.  

 It’s difficult as a writer to create stories centered in nonviolence.  A death, fight, or even the threat of violence creates stakes in a work that keeps readers interested.  If no one is going to die or be harmed, then what drives investment?  

  1. Build interesting Characters.  Characters a reader wants to learn about benefit ALL works, but building a curiosity about “what will happen next” when a reader is confident the character is “safe” is crucial if you aren’t going to hold anyone’s life at gunpoint.  Readers have to invest because these your characters are funny, charming, quirky, intelligent, or determined.  
  2. Build Relationships.  Core to the soap opera genre is the “will they won’t they” “What will happen when Susie finds out?!” kind of drama. While soap operas also offer violence, often because serials have gone on soooo long, every relationship twist has been picked clean.  If you create deep complicated characters with established relationships, they you can hold interest with their interactions a long time, without ever threatening anyone’s life.
  3. Have a lot of characters.  People are social animals, and we like social interactions.  Instead of two main characters.  Have ten.  Let them have their own side plots, spread them out in your world.  Let them argue, separate, go their own ways and meet back up.  Conflicted goals and ideas can create a rat race to see who achieves their ends firsts.  Watch the “good people” get lost in less than moral means to their ends and the “bad people” gain humanity as they see all the harm created from theft x.  
  4. Add Mystery.  If people aren’t going around stabbing each other and shooting up schools, then there needs to be something else happening.  A quest, a pilgrimage, a strange ritual, or an action element that’s out of place.  Something curious or suspicious that makes readers wonder “what’s really going on?”
  5. Add Movement.  Violence is often equated with action, but it doesn’t have to be.  Dance, chases, cooking/cafes/restaurants/hotels all incorporate motion by design.  Giving the reader little actions to focus on 

Would You Rather….

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Fellow writers: would you rather a reviewer tell you that the book’s story and characters were amazing but the writing quality didn’t meet expectations or that your book’s writing was mind blowing but the characters and story were cliche retreaded territory?  Follow up bonus question: are your feelings hurt by either or these critiques?

 

I’m asking because I write a lot of book reviews (check me out on Goodreads/shameless plug) and they are critical, even on books I like. I wonder like many aspiring writers might, what effects if any of my reviews have on the authors and on my ability to reach out/break into their world of publication.  Am I speaking to other readers or do authors also follow discussions on their books?  Am I closing doors by breaking a book down or am I showcasing a thoughtful and attentive mind by considering so many facets?  For me these answers break down to whether my comments are offensive and insults are often in the eye of the beholder.

 

Assuming for the moment that critical discussion on aspects of a book don’t automatically equal injury, I want to know what specific kinds of critical discussion would be fair to discuss with an author.

 

Personally, I’d rather have characters and plot that a reader falls in love with than pitch perfect writing.  Things I want to hear include: “The characters felt very real,”, “I felt like I knew everything about these characters,”, “I needed to know more,”, “I’ve never seen this kind of story explored this way.”

 

That said, I have a distinctive sing song almost poetic style in all my writing.  I have an unique “tone.”  If someone compared my writing to another person’s style, I’d be curious to read more of that person’s work and excited to meet a kindred spirit.  If someone doesn’t like my style, I get that too.  It’s heavy in description, relies on alliteration, and is simile/metaphor heavy.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

Grammatically, I know I need serious help.  Critiques to that effect can dishearten me after I’ve gone through editing that relates to correcting grammar, but it doesn’t cut me.  Either I can go back in and correct the grammatical errors (a bonus to electronic publishing), or I’ve made the error in favor of how a phrase flows or draws out a feeling fragmented instead of a full detailed thought.

 

Does it all boil down to where we as writers are insecure?  My confidence in writing style makes me believe problems in my book must be character/plot related, and therefor I’m more concerned with feedback from those quarters.  I still want the feedback.  For me there is never enough feedback or feedback that’s too harsh as long as it comes with specific examples so I can follow another’s thoughts.

 

Please give me your thoughts.  Do you fear another kind of feedback?  If someone published you would negative or mixed reviews hurt your feelings?  And how do you rate books/media?