Review: Violence A Writer’s Guide

Today I am reviewing Violence: A Writers Guide, Second Edition, by Rory Miller.

Rory Miller is an ex-military guy / detention officer, and gives writers tools and information about what real world violence really looks like, and why. It is very useful to adjust your character’s mentalities, reactions, and also descriptions.

The first part of the book describes the mentality of someone entering into a potentially lethal situation, and it is really not what you would think if you have never spent time in that world. The psychology that comes into play when you actually could be dead in the next minute is different than you might think. There is also discussion of how people react to such situations, how it actually feels to “freeze”, and what things become hard to do when adrenaline suddenly hits, how long it lasts, etc. There are also interesting gender differences between the adrenaline release profile.

Then he goes into some specifics of different kinds of weapons. There was a lot of treatment of guns.

Finally, he goes into a lot of detail about what injuries actually look like, what they feel like, what they smell like, sound like, etc. How people react to different injuries, how long they can keep consciousness… and how they die, and what that whole process looks like. Some of this was pretty disturbing, but it is all the stuff anyone who has actually fought to the death (hopefully our characters rather than ourselves) would know. And would never forget.

He links out to a dozen or so external articles and images. Maybe ~3 of the links no longer work, most of the rest were really disturbing (he warns you). One showed what a machete actually does if you swing it into someone’s face, for instance. That is an image I would rather not have seen, but then again, it is something some of my characters should have burned into his brains… and something others would be totally unprepared for.

There are a lot of useful tidbits for how an experienced fighter should think, what things should draw their attention, and what kinds of injuries and damage they can take and deliver…. and likewise, an inexperienced fighter.

On the whole, I would say a worth while read.