Writing Violence Into Your Story

If you don’t know anything about guns or violence, except that which you’ve seen on the big screen or television – or read from your favorite authors, please don’t try to fake it! I’m not saying you should go out and kill something (or someone), but there are plenty of references that would give you a better idea of just what happens to the human body at the time of death, whether the instrument be rope, blade, bullet, club, gas, drugs or a boring narrative!!!

My experience comes from my life as a hunter, police officer and finally, an oncology nurse who spends hours taking care of the actively dying.  A significant amount of my time is spent with people who are in the last moments of their life.  Of course, many will reject the notion that death by disease process is in any way similar to death by violence, but as having witnessed both intimately, I can tell you the only thing that separates the two, is the abruptness at which they occur.  Physiologically, they are very similar in the last few moments.

As for violence, gun blasts do not pick people up and toss them about the room.  In fact, the amount of energy transferred  to the intended target, is exactly that which is experienced by the hand that holds the gun!  Even the vaunted .44 Magnum “The most powerful handgun in the world and can blow your head clean off” (to borrow from Clint Eastwood), barely causes a body to quiver.  Believe it.

So, how do you build the intensity into your violence if you can’t toss bodies around the streets and through plate glass windows?

You have to know what’s happening to the body, and be able to help the reader understand the “act” of violence and the “effect” of violence in gritty detail.  I’m not saying you have to add gore to impart realism.  I’m saying you have to help the reader understand that death is an intimate thing and be able to help them witness the violence in an honest – yet evocative way.  If they’re used to Hollywood’s version, yours will probably seem understated.  Still, it can be effective and believable.

More to follow.

Dan Chamberlain


About danielchamberlain

Former Chief of Police. Former Special Agent, AFOSI (Retired). Former Director of Security of multi-national corporation. Currently, Registered Nurse. Father Husband Outdoorsman
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