How Much Violence Is too Much in Fiction?

A recent discussion on a Facebook group I’m a member of asked a similar question to this.  I saw a variety of answers.

The typical answers said that as long as it contributes to the story, any amount is fine.  Other people said that they didn’t like violence and avoided it like the plague.  They couldn’t bare to read it.

Novels like A Game of Thrones shows an incredible amount of violent and graphic violence and deaths.  Is it necessary?  Well, considering that the world is similar to the medieval world, and that was a violent time with wars involving swords and gruesome deaths, it’s completely justified.  War is not pretty.  It’s very graphic.

I’m currently reading Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, and while it started off like a typical fantasy story, it soon proved to have an incredibly sadistic antagonist.  Some of the things he does is sickening.  Is it necessary?  I think so.  It shows how insane he is and what he’s willing to do to win.

Those are only two examples.  My opinion is that violence is often quite justified.  That includes extreme violence.  It doesn’t turn me away from a novel, unless it’s completely out of place and makes no sense.

What do you think?  Do you have a problem with violence in novels, or are you fine with it?  Please leave a comment.

15 thoughts on “How Much Violence Is too Much in Fiction?”

  1. I agree with you. I think there’s a level of violence that makes sense for every story, and thus, some books are more violent than others. Whether or not one can enjoy books with frequent or gruesome violence is a personal preference and shouldn’t really dictate whether or not such violence exists in some books. I don’t mind violence generally, although there are some specific types of violence I steer clear of.

  2. I’m fine with it. Like Therein, I may skip over a specific scene if I am bothered by it. Books are so streamlined that I have yet to encounter violence that didn’t move the plot or character. Can’t say the same for movies.

  3. Violence is a needed point of conflict in many stories. And with out conflict what do you have?
    Imagine some of your favorite books and films without any violence. Blade Runner, the androids decide escape was a mistake and turn themselves in. Dune, Paul moves to a new planets and makes some meet friends.
    Of course there is always going to be someone who tries to push the boundaries, but we should always phrase these though full questions as personal questions. How much violence is too much violence for me? Because the biggest issue on this topic arises when people think they can answer for others.

    1. The last thing you said is something that can be a concern. There are people who claim they know what’s good for other people, especially ones who think a good book burning would convince others to stop reading certain books.

  4. There is a point where violence becomes mind numbing, and I either get turned off by the whole story or begin to skip sections of the novel. Readers are not stupid, and after an author shows a graphic scene that establishes a character as “sadistic” or “merciless,” the author doesn’t need to continue to write page after page of graphic rape, torture, slaughter or even combat to make the point over and over. If he or she does then I view it as a “shock-fest” like a slasher film, where the graphic violence continues to grow to distract you from the fact there is absolutely no story to the movie or the acting is not very good. In other words, the violence becomes a crutch. Unfortunately, in fantasy, I’m beginning to view most grimdark this way. But like everything that is just my opinion.

    1. I have yet to see in Wizard’s First Rule whether the sadistic violence continues or not. I know in Game of Thrones and the sequels the violence continues, though it’s not constant violence. Lots of scheming and politics, too.

  5. GoT is deliberately over-violentized. In a real medieval conflict, there would have been loads more prisoner exchanges, and fewer “salt the earth” bloodfeuds.

  6. I totally just wrote a blog post very similar to this. It’s good to know I’m not the only one wondering because I do frequently include violence in my dark fantasy series. As a reader, I’m quite open to violence in fiction as well.

  7. I honestly am fine with violence within most forms of media, whether that be in books or on the television. As much as we try to distance ourselves from it, violence is within the very nature of humans. It happens around the world almost constantly, to have our ‘western bubble’ broken is something that needs to happen. Especially when dealing with something based around a medieval context. Violence has been a part of human life since the dawn of humanity, avoiding it isn’t going to make it go away.

    Of course, there is the point where violence becomes violence for it’s own sake. Tarantino comes to mind. But that begs the question, is Tarantino’s violence ‘art’? I happen to see him as an extremely talented artist, yet are the frequent violent aspects of his films ‘art’ too?

    Good blog post, mate, this has made me think!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes violence does become art. Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi is an interesting example. It’s so stylized and over the top that you can’t take it seriously. But then, the end scene has to be seen to be believed (not violent, just so out of place in a samurai period movie).

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