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Violence and gore are an integral part of my story. However, I can usually keep the focus on the emotions, and the reactions, rather than the description of the injury.

My problem comes with one of my villains, Best Dad. His entire persona is as a performance artist in gore. You can't take that away from him; I don't want to diminish his image! Best Dad is supposed to be creepy, repulsive, and irredeemable to the point where his own teammates are scared of him.

Yet, I don't want to disgust the audience too much. How do I strike this balance?

  • Side note: tendons will snap, disconnecting muscle from bone, before bones will break. This is why a "torn tendon" is not an uncommon sporting injury - a proper warmup and stretch before exercise is designed to reduce this by ensuring elasticity of the tendon. The sickening crack as the tendon detaches may sound like bones breaking though. – Chronocidal May 4 at 9:29
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    Transpose this Q with similar questions here about "How can I stretch out my novel with more descriptions of scenery…?" The answers are never about deciding how many trees to describe or whether to go into details about rocks… the answers are always "What does this have to do with the story, focus on the story, lots of scenery is neither good or bad but it simply cannot replace story…." I feel like you are presenting factoids that belong on the back of a card-collecting game. How many times will 'Best Dad' infect 100 people? Are we really suppose to be wowed every time? Does this power evolve? – wetcircuit May 4 at 12:58
  • @wetcircuit I designed his powers to be able to go on without repeating the execution method for quite a while. As for the 100 people, he always does but doesn't reveal who he infected. His tarot card is Death for a reason. – Mephistopheles May 4 at 19:49
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Nothing should be in your writing unless it serves the larger story. It doesn't matter how cool a concept or a character is, if it isn't creating the experience you want for your reader, out it goes.

I think you've answered your own question in a certain way. If your aim is to show how distressing this character is --within the story! --then show that through his impact on the people around him. The things that are often most disturbing in fiction are the things kept mostly offstage, so that the audience uses their own imagination. Instead, you can build up this character's horrifying reputation among the other characters, and just give little glimpses to the readers. Write the full scene, if you must, but keep it as backstory. It doesn't have to go on the final page. (Going full-out isn't just disturbing, it also runs the risk of tipping the balance and becoming unintentionally laughable.)

If you, the writer, just want to indulge in a gratuitous bloodbath, AND force the reader through it, that's your right, but you may lose most of your audience. Or not --Game of Thrones is notoriously brutal, and while I could personally never stomach it, it certainly didn't lack for fans.

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I think that the description of gore is fine - if presented properly. Tips:

  1. Show the villains enjoyment, rather than the actual gore. Maybe try to say something like "The floor, red and slippery, was covered in pieces of flesh. In the centre sat Best Dad, revelling in the glorious display of colours he had created..."
  2. (Like @ChrisSunami's answer)Show the effect of the actions on the people surrounding him. For example, saying that "Whilst Best Daddy sat, his heartbeat resonating in his chest, he watched the squirming, and silent screaming of his next victims - a young mother of three and her kids..."
  3. Focus on the villain's motivation. I would approach this by examining the villains motive - Best Dadddy likes killing because it makes the world an emptier place, freeing him from the shackles of responsibility. Couching the description within motivations can create a deeper villain, and allow you to create a moving scene. "I stared at the art before me - deep scarlet paint, mixing on the damp chair, creating a pool of blood, in which floats the head of the most recent plaything. "So you watch me after death do you" I snarled, "But now you are gone, I am free - I don't need to look after anyone like you again."
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