Posts Tagged With: violence

When Violence Fails Writers

A couple months ago, the New York Post wrote concerning television shows — ones otherwise known for their writing — pushing violence to new levels, raising the ire of even dedicated fans. The article notes that these shows seem to be in an “arms race” to see who can outdo each other.

I don’t think the Post is being prudish here, and I get that everyone has their tolerance levels, but at some point gratuitousness becomes a crutch that replaces good storytelling. I suppose everyone’s answer to, “How far is too far?” is a bit different, but those answers are no doubt reflective our own beliefs. The article also ponders how much television is reflective a cultural norms — or is it not reflective of any majority? That’s a whole other discussion, but right now my focus is on the writing, as this applies to books as well. Novelist Robert Bidinotto wrote on how he addressed this issue:

My stories deal with rough, tough people doing a lot of vicious and violent things. However, fiction always has dealt with unpleasant subject matter, yet the finest narrative artists have never found it necessary to descend into gore-fests, or to detailed descriptions of degeneracy and perversion, in order to write tales about evil that are compelling. (Think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky [Crime and Punishment], for example.)

Art is all about selectivity in presenting reality. Artists do not have to show everything, let alone dwell on it, in order to focus on the most important things.

This dovetails in my previous discussions on details in books: Finding balance between too much or too little.

The craft — the art — of writing demands learning to balance details and to avoid crutches. Also, violence and the unpleasant aren’t to be avoided, but there are thoughtful ways to present it. Regardless of where you choose to draw the line in your books, choose craft over laziness.

Categories: Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

On Priorities

If I may digress a bit, the news often gives insight into the minds of people or, perhaps, what they are not thinking. This week, apparently a lot of people think the Confederate flag causes racism and violence and removing it will someone how cause evil to disappear. Others are happy the government is providing them healthcare – this is the same government that has mismanaged and bankrupted every other social help program. And apparently many think they need the government to define marriage for them. Perhaps the government should stay out of the relationship business – and groups/people/etc. should stop inviting them in. While all of that was going on, I think many missed this:


Not that those other issues are unimportant, and they badly need adult discussion rather than sound bite drive-bys, but are our priorities correct or is Rome burning as we fiddle away?

Categories: Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hobbit and Evil

Fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy didn’t think they would have to wait nine years for The Hobbit. It was worth the wait. Peter Jackson’s team has once again put the time (and money) into bringing this classic mythos to life.

It’s also one of those films that reminds you the power of the medium. Most films don’t gain anything from the big screen format. You might as well watch them on television. Films like The Hobbit remind you of why people still go to the theater in the age of high-def television.

I had been wondering how they would make The Hobbit into three parts (this seemed a bit excessive). Seeing how part one only makes it through the first six of nineteen chapters, it’s easy to figure out now. This should make Tolkien purists happy because this means the movie makers are following the book closer, they have the time. There were a number of things in the film I forgot were in the book making it nearly as epic as the others. They also draw on Tolkien’s background history to fill in the details, as the book isn’t as detail-heavy as the sequels. I haven’t had any issue with what deviations were made in the films. They all were done in a way that kept with Tolkien’s vision. In my analysis, I still think they are perhaps the best book-to-film translations ever attempted.

Some may see the films or books as just entertainment, but Tolkien spent a lifetime creating a mythos with far more detail than most writers ever imagine. An Oxford professor, he approached his writing as if it were a scholarly pursuit. Yet it was still entertaining and captivating, full of themes and message (though he never intentionally preached, so to speak, his beliefs informed his work). That’s why it has endured for so long (The Hobbit was originally published in 1937, mainly directed at children. Don’t see many children books like this anymore, do we?).

Tolkien drew on many influences in creating Middle-Earth. Most notably his Christian worldview, from which one of his most important themes came:

Evil exists.

Not only that, he witnessed the worst men could do while serving in World War I, which undoubtedly colored his writing. In fact, he began creating his world while in the trenches. Throughout his books, he made it clear that evil was always there, even when not obvious, waiting for a time to explode or conquer. When it did, it must be stopped.

It’s funny how Lord of the Rings, in many ways a war novel, saw a resurgence during the 1960s. Though I doubt, because of his own experiences, Tolkien would ever promote rushing into war. He also knew we can’t pretend evil doesn’t exist or that it may just go away.

It always comes back.

In time of tragedy, people always ask why? That is the normal reaction and indeed there are many causes for terrible events, like the recent shootings. It was disturbing that political groups and politicians immediately starting talking about guns, as if they whispered into these people’s ears and turned them insane. That’s the easy way out. Addressing actual causes is difficult. Admitting evil exists makes us scared and helpless.

Given that one of the cornerstones of most religions is that evil exists, one wonders why so many pretend it doesn’t. We want to be safe, secure and happy, but we don’t want to be vigilant. We’ve been told evil isn’t real and we, through law and government, can stamp it all out. We downplay talk of evil in our religions, so not to scare people away. We have made religion into another helpful fad to get us through life. Then something horrible happens. We are forced back into reality.

Sadly, most who are not directly effected by the tragedy, soon forget and go back to their lives. Evil grows and prospers and is ignored.

Tolkien believed in it. He saw it in war and never forgot it.

I hope all will pray and do whatever they can to help the people effected by the recent unimaginable violence in Connecticut and elsewhere. I also hope these things: People will realize what they have here in this country. The opportunities for them and their family and that there are some places in this world were this violence is a regular event. Remember what it took to create and defend this country and don’t use crisis as an excuse to act too quick and not address the real issues. Times of disaster and tragedy are the times we need to protect our rights the most, because in the end, if we don’t, far greater calamities will occur. Just look to history.

Some think “doing something about guns” will solve these problems. Timothy McVeigh didn’t use guns to massacre people. Nor did the terrorists on 9/11. Evil wants us to think it is just that simple, ban this or that. They want us to look the wrong way.

Ask the right questions. If we don’t, evil will continue to win.

Update: Others are also talking about evil and not pretending it doesn’t exist. See posts by John Eldridge and Mike Duran.

Categories: Books, Critical Thinking, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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