The Growl Under the Bed Part 8: Drained

Mixing pain with art is nothing new.  Tattoos are a perfect example of it.  So is any S&M scene worth its weight in leather restraints.  Writing a scene that uses pain, art and sexual imagery (in this case a nude female) and making it work is something totally different.

There is a balancing act that needs to be performed.  Too far one way or another, and you have something that is either so graphic in the blood department that it takes away the rest of the scene's power.  Go the other direction and you have something so erotic that it makes the violence seem almost like an after thought.  I just wrote a scene a few days ago that needed to be between the two, while at the same time being viewed at by an outsider who had never seen such a thing, and administered by someone so used to it that it was second nature.  For it to work, it could not seem like you were reading it.  Instead, the reader had to be there.  The narrative could not cause the reader to contemplate, but had to force them to be in the moment.  That meant no delving into anyone's thoughts and only writing with the senses (and I had to pick which senses would be heightened by the experience).

Unless you've tried to do this or have realized what you are experiencing when you read it or see it in a movie, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, which could be a good thing, as that means you've probably never realized it is taking place.  A movie can sometimes easily pull that off.  A book cannot.

I focused on key things that a first-time witness would focus on.  The nudity.  The blood.  The face.  The noises.  The words spoken.  The actions taken.  Nothing else even comes into focus until after the scene is over.  Nobody died in the scene, and it didn't involve force, so there weren't those jarring elements.  It was art created with sexual imagery and blood.  It elicits a different reaction from people, conflicting reactions within one's own mind, but I couldn't focus on the character because the reader in this case had to be the character, and I didn't want to tell the reader what to think.  Instead, I had to show the reader enough to get them to form a reaction that I wanted.  It is manipulation, and it is not easy because the scene either works or totally falls apart.

Did it work?  Time will tell when I go back to do my rewrites.  I have a feeling it does because I'm actually good with those kinds of scenes (and dialogue, of course).  Will it work for everyone?  No.  But my guess is that regardless of whether or not it works, readers will see it through to the end.  As for the rest of the manuscript ... that remains to be seen.  

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