Before I get started, I know I mentioned that I would be writing my weekly posts on Mondays. However, it looks like Tuesdays work better for my schedule. So for now on, expect posts from me on Tuesdays.
So, I am currently watching the Starz series Outlander on Amazon. For those who do not know, it is about a 1940s Englishwoman, Claire Beauchamp, who is transported back two hundreds in 18th century Scotland. Since this is the 1740s, there’s a lot of brutality going on, especially with a captain of the English army in Scotland, “Black Jack” Randall, who tortures the Scottish people left and right. There’s even a scene where Claire’s husband, Jamie Fraser, is tortured and then raped by Randall.
Now, I didn’t read the books that this series is based on, but I understand that the show is closely based on the books written by Diana Gabaldon. If so, it makes me wonder why she would put in a scene where a man graphically rapes another man. Yes, there are a lot of male-on-female rapes, floggings and beatings in Outlander, but it is easy to brush them off as that was the time period back then. But that scene has been haunting me. I guess it is because I’m one of those who has grown attached to Claire and Jamie, and couldn’t tolerate Jamie being tortured that way. Yes, Claire was raped or almost raped herself, but the show didn’t graphically display that as much as Jamie.
It also haunts me because last week, I was working on my WIP, which picks up where Claire McCormick and Daniel Poncher are in the trilogy. I was writing feverishly and in a stream-of-consciousness way. As a result, I ended up writing a part where Daniel graphically rapes Claire. Yeah, I did that. I went there.
Now, there are other scenes when Daniel does that, but it is not as brutal and more of a coerced sex way. But when I wrote that part, I was so bothered and disturbed that I had done that, and I ended up deleting it. Watching that scene on Outlander helped me do so.
Which has me thinking about why we writers write such graphic scenes, and just what the hell are we thinking? When I wrote that scene in my WIP, I was rattled and wondered if I have a sadistic side of me somewhere deep in my sub-conscious. I have to admit part of me felt truly satisfied with that scene, and was disappointed when I deleted it. I am now considering adding it back in.
Is there something wrong with me? Do I love torturing my characters? Am I sadistic somehow?
Heck, it makes you wonder if someone like George R. R. Martin, the author of the books that would inspire the HBO series, Game of Thrones, is sadistic. I mean, all of his characters go through hell, and some get brutally raped or brutally murdered. It is enough to leave readers and viewers shaken.
So, what are we writers thinking? Are we cruel? Or just going along with the muses in our heads?
I think the bottom line is whether these brutal scenes are worth it for the entire story. If it does not add something to the whole story, however violent it is, then it is pointless – and even sadistic. Perhaps what should be more disturbing is how violent human nature is, and we writers are just representing and expressing that in our work. If human nature were not so cruel and barbaric itself, then maybe we would not write such things.
But what of the satisfaction that comes with writing those parts? I think the reason why part of me was satisfied with the now-deleted scene where Daniel rapes Claire is because it flowed so well, from one action to another and another. The part before Daniel attacks Claire had me excited because there was so much emotion and action going on. But once I wrote the rape part, I was like, ‘what have I done?”
Is it worth having in the story? I don’t know yet, I’m still debating. But one thing I’ve been learning while watching Outlander, and even other shows, is that writers aren’t really sadists. Human nature is, and so are our muses. We’re just writing what works for the story and the characters, and what is streaming out of our consciousness.
But it is also vital for us to wonder whether all the violence is gratuitous and even worth portraying at all.