Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stick Before Carrot

There's a niggling thought that's been growing on my mind lately.

Imagine, for the purposes of this analogy, that I'm obsessed with bumblebees. Bumblebees feature prominently in all my work; protagonists are beekeepers, the colors yellow and black are constantly used to evoke bee imagery, analogies to bees, honey, hives, queens and the business thereof are a running theme not in merely one work, but in everything – my novels, my screenplays, my stage plays, my D&D campaigns.

Seems kinda excessive and arbitrary, doesn't it? This is how I'm beginning to feel about violence.

Now, don't get me wrong – the metaphor's not perfect. Violence, as a storytelling device, can be extremely effective and should, by all accounts, be regularly employed. There's literally no cheaper, faster and visceral way to raise the stakes of a scene than to involve violence or the threat of violence. It's been a pervasive theme throughout much of my work and will doubtlessly continue to be.

The trick is, after so much constant exposure, the violent taste, if you will, starts to go bland.

I don't object to its use on ethical grounds; I'm a firm believer that fiction is a fertile ground to safely explore content, themes and ideas that would be openly hostile, offensive or dangerous in the real world, applied with real world logic.

Nazis are a wonderful example of this phenomena; an absolutely deplorable group, who committed unspeakable, but nevertheless very real and salient atrocities, are frequently reduced to cartoonish, moustache-twirling villains in popular fiction, despite the actual seriousness of the underlining subject matter. I feel the same way about violence in fiction; perfectly safe to explore, all in the well-defined bounds of make-believe.

I'm merely growing bored of the tropes and conventions there associated. As interested in innovation as I am, I'm beginning to wonder why I feel the need to wearily shoehorn the inclusion of one particular theme, such as bumblebees, into every since work. I'm honestly interested in exploring a story whose conflicts and subsequent solutions are entirely non-violent.

That being said, conflict is the spine of all narrative and violent conflict is the spine of most narrative, so I'm far from excising the tool altogether. I simply wonder if this isn't a direction towards which I should naturalistically be spreading.

Now, off to write a bar fight scene.

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