Writing The Distasteful

No Frills, No Thrills. (Gregorio De Ferrari [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

No Frills, No Thrills. (Gregorio De Ferrari [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

I do not like violence.

I like writing about it even less.

While working the Psychic manuscript, I have great misgivings about  how nasty I should go, regarding a certain scene that comes later in the book (to be honest, I have a couple scenes, but one, in particular, really bugs me).

Do I back off it, or give it its full measure?

It’s not a pleasant scene. Very distasteful to write.

I’ve written plenty of distasteful stuff over my writing career, most of it may never be seen, since it was my early horror writing years (unless I do a collection of my short stories—which I really want to do!—and clean up the more presentable works…). In The Uninvited, I have some nasty scenes. And after writing my last post, many might well wonder, what the hell, Frank? Really? Practice what you preach, man!

Being a writer puts a person in an interesting position. For one thing, when you write something, people wonder how much of it is really “you.” I get it. It’s like when I hear songs, I often wonder the same of the groups singing them. Curiously, I don’t necessarily think the same of writers, because I do understand the process…that just because a writer writes something inflaming or physically nasty or offending doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is the same. I do begin to question that, however, if there is a series and they’re all nasty (I’m defining “nasty” as incredibly violence, distasteful, offending in some manner, beyond just taking a haymaker to the head or saying “someone was raped”).

You see, when you write “nasty,” you have to focus on that. The nasty thing you’re writing. For extended periods of time. And when you focus on something for so long, it’s in your mind. A lot. Even when not writing. I don’t like to focus on the negative and violent. So, any time I do have to write a violent scene, I try to make it as short as possible, while not cheating the story. When I write violent scenes (say the front lawn bathtub scene in Uninvited), they serve to advance the story in a way merely talking about them, “politely referring to them,” simply cannot do. I need to show the bad side of a character or event for a reason…whatever that reason is. I may not even know that reason…you see, I don’t outline ahead of time. I don’t preplan. When I write a story, I let it flow out of me, on its own. It’s called “organic” writing. I just sit down to the keyboard and start typing. It’s only later, when I “reverse outline” the book, that is, I list out in outline form the beats of the story. Then I rework, reshuffle, edit x 3 my work. But as I’m laying down the first draft, I allow the story to come to me in its own form…its own way. I do not censor in any way. I don’t sit and think, “Gee…it would be really cool if this scene was in there…” or “Wow, something more graphic would really stir up the pot!” The story reveals itself to me on its own. In its own way. Afterward, I may or may not do some of this (and, in fact, I did add an “inorganic” scene to this novel, after a friend of mine read the thing and made a suggestion that just nailed the whole “Victor Black” thread…). I will, however, embellish.

So…I have to be true to the story.

If all I did was gloss over certain things I found objectionable, it would be akin to the old “No Frills” books that had been put out in 1950s. Fifty or sixty pages long. “He was abducted and tortured. The good guys came, killed the bad guys, and released him. He went home.” There’s no emotional investment in any of that. Nothing to get you all riled up and pissed off at the adversaries. To really root for the hero/ine…feel his or her pain and, later, redemption. It’s not like the writer has to get incredibly graphic…but they do have to give you enough…mentally or physically—even spiritually—to make that point. Make you feel a part of the story. Sympathize with the characters. Drive that emotional stake into your soul.

So, this section has bugged me, since I wrote it, 14 years ago. I’ve reworked it, thought about removing it. Gave it less shrift than it deserved, perhaps, but finally decided to dive into it and face it. I’ve been working on it some 2 1/2 weeks. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been so focused on it this past few weeks that it’s become a “issue” for me, and it’s really nothing at all to be worried about, but, I think I’ve done all I can with it (for now), and am leaving it for a spell. See what my proofreader thinks about it.

But, in any case, I simply need to get away from it!

It’s tough when your spouse asks you if you had a good morning of writing. “Yeah! Sure did! Man, wrote a killer scene in which a person gets (<brutalized>). Repeatedly. Man, the things I thought of reworking that scene (Being intentionally vague, here, since don’t want to give the scene away)!

So, don’t take me (or other writers like me) to task over these things…don’t ask me why do I think of this shit. Don’t rub my nose in them. They are what they are, and they came with the telling of the story. I didn’t sit around thinking of them, trying to come up with their horrific content. I don’t walk this Earth contemplating mean and nasty ways to abuse others. But, when the story demands a needed scene, I try not to shy away from it. If my stories don’t “ring true” (verisimilitude) to real life enough…my stories won’t work, because I deal with real life situations, not fantasy writing.

And there’s another consideration.

What if…these stories I’m relating…have something to do with other lives of mine. A Zen reincarnational aspect to my life, where I’m releasing and dealing with tendencies from other lives in a more positive and less violence manner than I may have in those other lives? I do believe I’ve lived and fought in the Civil War, was a WWII B-17 tail gunner…and it’s been mentioned another thought I might have been a Roman soldier.

It always comes back to the metaphysical for me, doesn’t it?

But might there be some truth to this? We don’t know everything. And, it’s all energy…good and bad, are forms of energy. If I have had more violent existences in other lives, maybe my writing is giving a cathartic release to that type of energy and yielding a more positive growth experience for all involved?

It’s something to think about.

I know, on the cosmic scale of things, to readers, this [most likely] won’t be a big deal…but to me, the writer, to my constant focus on the subject matter for 2 1/2 weeks, it was problematic. I think I’ve worked through it, I think I did it justice…and that scene will make a later scene even that much more “sweeter.” Okay, maybe “sweeter” isn’t a good word choice. More justified.

And, I know, I can’t please everyone. It’s impossible. There’s good and bad out there, and in my work, I do try to mirror that so that—in some way—I can help explain it. And in explaining it from my point of view, hopefully see how we can do better. Give new or different points of view from which to act…and if the points of view are no different, maybe the words are expressed differently enough so that the end result is easier to see, to act upon in our own lives.

Again, these scene just come with the story.

In the end, I am driven to write. These stories beg my attention. I do my best with them.

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About fpdorchak

Upmarket paranormal fiction author. I write gritty, Twilight Zone-like fiction. Please check out my website: https://www.fpdorchak.com/! Thank you for stopping by!
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2 Responses to Writing The Distasteful

  1. Marc Schuster says:

    Having written some nasty (not necessarily violent, but certainly distasteful), I know what you mean. I never revel in writing such scenes but feel I have to write them to be true to whatever it is I’m working on.

    Also, I’d like to publish a collection of my short stories someday, too!

    • fpdorchak says:

      To stay in motif, it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it, Marc? Then, you have all your relatives and friends looking at you weird (“er,” in my case…) for a while….

      And thanks for the retweet!

      Hope you do published them–I’ll be there to read em!

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