RARA-AVIS: Violence for the sake of...?

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 20 Mar 2005

On the first day of Spring, to celebrate getting my daily rara-avis back after my computer glitched (thank you, Bill,) I thought I'd add my two cents. In 1974 or '75, at a California writing conference, I heard this local hamburger mogul asking these questions in a late-night workshop. (He had made his fortune selling burgers in Southern Cal; now he wanted to be a published mystery writer; for all I know he became one.) "Is the opening chapter more dramatically effective if I have the protagonist driving over a paper bag of puppies? Or should that scene wait until later?" He was dead serious. Achilles takes the corpse of Hector for a spin around the city walls. Is that gratitious, or does it set up Priam's late night visit in a stronger light? Obscenities? Well, consider an obscenity to be a hand grenade. When a writer says "Fuck" in a sentence, all the reader hears is that word in that sentence, and all of the other information in that sentence goes unheard. You can say "fuck" all you want. You can run over a dozen paper bags of puppies. You can drag Hector's body from here to Santa Monica bouldevard. But think about playing pool. Before you take your shot, where do you want the cue ball to be for your next shot?

Frederick Zackel

            I shot her in the back of her leg, not the kneecap. After I examined her, I said, "I did not shatter your kneecap. The fleshy part of your thigh got it instead. No major arteries seem to be severed. You understand?"

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 20 Mar 2005 EST