How Much is Too Much?
Here I am, late again. I'm really not planning to make a habit of this. I've been involved with a new story for the last three days. Just sent it out to a second round of Beta Readers.
For those of you who want to know what I've been working on, the story is called White Buffalo Woman. It's the story of the Battle of the Washita or the Massacre on the Lodge Pole depending on which side you were on.
I struggled some with this one. I've never written anything graphically violent before, but this story could be told no other way. I hope that I did it justice.
So that brings up another topic of discussion. How much violence, sex, and coarse language is too much? The answer will vary from writer to writer. I know of some where any is too much. I feel that may be fine for them, but they have to realize that they do severely limit the stories they can tell. I mean, even the bible is full of sex and violence.
Other writers deliberately go for the shock-value of graphic depictions. If that's what they want to do, and the name they want to make for themselves, that's okay by me. Personally, I feel that it is too often a cheap devise to make poor writing saleable. It rarely works except for pornography.
So what is the right amount? My answer is just what the story demands and not a bit more. Most folks find lingerie sexier than full frontal nudity and the same can be said for violence. A little goes a long way. In the case of the story I just finished, I needed it to convey a sense of horror and revulsion, but telling it exactly as it happened would have been far too much for all but the sociopaths among us. So I tried to walk that fine line. My readers will determine if I was successful or not.
Strong language is another area where just the right amount is sometimes called for. A cowboy on a cattle drive or a frontier marshal is going to let go with the occasional expletive. That doesn't mean that they should "curse like a sailor". For the average western (about 70,000 words), three or four expletives should add enough realism without overdoing it. Much beyond that, and we risk needlessly losing readers.
I'm sure that there are writers out there who will take exception to my thoughts on this matter and that is their right. They get to tell their stories their way.
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