Blood and Gore in Literature

Ever since the decency standards disappeared, the movies have been made increasingly spectacular. Conventional wisdom is that the better the special effects, the more spectacular the violence, the more realistic the sex and the dirtier the language, the better the movie will sell. Unfortunately there is some truth in that. It is easier to sell the more spectacular movies, especially to the younger generation. Some of the youngsters (defined as 30 and below) have come to expect certain things. Case in point, when I was teaching, some of my students refused to watch any movie that was in black and white. When I showed an excellent video on navigation to my geometry class, they objected that it was from the History Channel. Simply not enough excitement.

I have previously expressed my views on profanity. Just because too much profanity has invaded our lives does not mean that literature should be filled with profanity. We, as authors, are obligated to be honest, but at the same time, we write better literature when we minimize the profanity and soften what swear words we use.

My thriller, Chased Across Australia, was recently reviewed by Simon Barrett. He gave me a complement when he wrote, “What sets Chased Across Australia apart from the regular action/adventure thriller is the lack of blood and gore. This tactic is one that more authors should take heed of.” At the same time, the review is very complementary about how a very average couple could get involved in a plot that caused terrorists to chase them across eastern Australia.

Apparently he thinks there is enough action to make a good story. This begs the question, how a good action story can be written without blood and gore. Obviously, it can. Our literary predecessors wrote books that have become classics with only traces of blood and gore. Some have no violence presented it is all implied.

That does not mean violence is absent. A good book must have conflict, and what better conflict than violence or the threat of violence. Chased Across Australia has violence and threat of violence so how can Simon say there is no blood and gore? I suspect it is because I did not focus on the gore. Sure, I have a man shot. I have an assault team prepared to assault a house when police blunder onto the scene. I even have a car chase that ends up with one driver wounded and crashed into the cliff while the other car rolls over the side of the cliff. The focus is not on the blood, or the crashes. The focus is on the plot. Of course the action is part of the plot, but I found ways to work it in by reference. The reader knows the driver is bleeding after being shot. The first rescuer to reach the scene comments on the wound. The reader is aware the car was seen to roll over the cliff, and later the police even ask one of the survivors to identify the car in the ocean. In these ways the reader can form an image in his or her mind that is probably more vivid than any word picture I could have written describing the blood or the car tumbling down the side of the cliff and hitting the ocean with a splash.

I am working with the written word, but if Chased Across Australia is made into a movie I hope they minimize the special effects to just enough to fuel the viewer’s imagination. Sometimes the imagination works wonders.

I intentionally avoided excessive blood and gore when writing my book. I am pleased that, in doing so, I was able to adequately support the plot with those glimpses of action and suggestions of violence that I used. I call on authors and screen writers to be very analytical when they write their action scenes. Perhaps suggestions of violence can be used to forward the plot better than lurid descriptions and graphic special effects. Let’s put some class back into literature and movies.

Mr. Barrett’s review of Chased Across Australia can be found at on his website.

He also interviewed me. The interview can be found on this link to


About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website
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One Response to Blood and Gore in Literature

  1. terry1954 says:

    i love a good black and white film once in a while, but what saddens me is when what you say is so true. movies sell because of language, sex and blood. the point being our culture has lowered their standards to some point, and get cheap thrills from quick highs, instead of sitting back and reading a good book, or spending an evening chatting over world news or a good book that was read. what happened to people’s morals today, especially when they are being pushed on to younger and younger audiences, and some wonder why young people are lying on the couches of psyches………….


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