Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: violence

Pacifism and My Violent Book

     I’m a pacifist. Not a passive-ist. A pacifist. I am against violence in all forms for any reasons. Strange, eh?

     I wrote a book that has a lot of violence in it. Bad guys killing and harming good guys. Good guys killing and harming bad guys. Alignment-unknown guys killing and harming … everyone. Blood and death and harm and stuff. It almost makes you wonder how I reconcile that with my beliefs.

     I also tend to enjoy media that has violence in it. Game of Thrones is probably my favourite show in TV right now. And if you’ve ever seen a more violence show, I’d be surprised. And I’d ask what kind of sick cable channel you are subscribing to. Most of the books I read have violence. Every video game I play involves blowing something up.

     So what gives, Matt? You some kind of ridiculous hypocrite or something?

     Probably. But not for that reason.

     I find violence reprehensible because of the suffering it causes and the damage it does to the violent’s soul. But I cannot deny that violence has been a part of the human experience ever since we crawled out of the goop. I’d be willing to bet that everyone has an ancestor who took lives through violence. It’s engrained in us. That’s one of the reasons most people find the idea of pacifism so repulsive.

     Art is not idealized life. It’s elevated life. Art (literature, paintings, performances, TV shows, etc) needs to show every true aspect of life. And one of the most basic and foundational truths about the lives we live, is violence and death. Like Hemingway said, “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.”

     A writer, or any other artist, has no right to keep from his or her reader those things he disagrees with. That’s one of the reasons why I find it very difficult to reader Christian novels. They are sterile. There is no shit, only poop. And it’s not poop that ever hits the fan.

     I hate violence in any situation. But it’s a part of life, so it needs to go in the stories I make. Just like I hate malice and conflict and suffering and sickness and cancer. These horrid things are all around us. The writer who leaves them out of his book had better have a good reason for it.

Writing Exercises – Emma and Nathan

I have decided to write some opening scenes for novels I never intend to write. I don’t know the stories behind these openings, but I want to analyze them to see what sort of story could be expected from them.

     Nathan took Emma’s face in her hands and kissed him. The kiss was deep and honest. It was their first. Emma felt sick in the middle of it, knowing it would be their last.
     “I love you,” Nathan whispered. He pulled back and gazed deep into Emma’s eyes. “I love you so much.”
     Emma stroked his cheek. “I love you, too.” It was not a lie.
     He pulled her close and hugged her. It was better than the kiss. Easier. Emma reached into her sleeve and pulled out a thin dagger. A flick of the wrist and it was done.
     Nathan noticed the wetness before the pain. He reached up and touched the place on his neck where she cut him.
     Emma pulled back and looked at the questions in Nathan’s eyes as his life drained from his throat.
     “I’m sorry,” she muttered as she cleaned her knife on Nathan’s sweater.

     Some promises are made right off the bat. First, Emma is the protagonist. She’s the only interesting character that’s not dead, after all.
     Second, the stakes are high and violent. This novel cannot be about Emma trying to find a cute guy or trying to outdo her high-school rival. Unless her high-school rival is running around killing people. It’s gotta be dark or else it’s disingenuous.
     Short, choppy paragraphs help in violent or action-filled scenes. It makes things feel quick.