Sex & Violence

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’ve never been a fan of romance novels – even as a teenager I was reading crime and horror. I tend to say I don’t like my violence tainted with romance. In spite of this my amateur sleuth is telling me very clearly she wants a sex life, however, which is taking my stories about her down a route I never actually planned.

However, things are a bit more straightforward with my short story collection. The short stories in SOUL SCREAMS were written over a period of 20 years. I’ve been analysing the ratio of sex to violence in them. There are three stories in which sex occurs, but all the scenes are skated over, which admittedly I tend to do with sex scenes. Hence, there’s nothing very explicit, and if these stories were films none of them would be rated anything over a PG-13, at least as far as the sexual content goes.

It’s a different story when it comes to the violence, however. There are horrible deaths featured in 12 of the 13 stories. Even the one in which nobody dies doesn’t end happily, but I won’t say any more for fear of giving away spoilers.

I’ve done a tally of the manner of deaths in these stories, and this is what we have.

Four car crashes
Three stabbings
Two decapitations
One electrocution
One drowning
One death by fire

I am really not sure what this says about me. I am not, by nature, a violent person. But perhaps this is because I write about my violence, instead of engaging in real-life violence.

I write about the things I fear. The things I have trouble dealing with. Clearly violent death is something that terrifies me. It’s no coincidence that car crashes appear at the top of this list. I have a pathological fear of dying in a car crash – it’s something I have recurring nightmares about. I have to consciously not think about this every time I set off to drive somewhere, because if I let myself think about it I’d never get in the car. Fire is another fear, to the point that I’m suprised it doesn’t feature higher on the list.

Readers of SOUL SCREAMS might quite understandably come to the conclusion that I’m not a fan of the happy ending. But like most of us, I go through life looking for happiness. When I find it, I want to hold onto it. That’s why it never ends up in my stories. I write about pain and misery and death because I am trying to exorcise these things, as far as it is possible (death, unfortunately, we can never eradicate from human existence, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with). I make my characters very miserable. But ultimately, they are characters. I don’t want to share that happy ending with fictional people. When I find it, I’d rather keep it for real life.

And that, I think, is why I’d rather write about violence than sex.

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