“Writing Violence in Fiction”—Writing from the Peak, with Pikes Peak Writers

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I wrote published online by Pikes Peak Writers—a comprehensive resource for writers in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Writing Violence in Fiction”

Write them. As realistic as possible. Make it gritty, make it stink, make it hurt. (It will dissuade the real thing.)

I was fresh. It was during my second or third month of training as a cop on the street just west of Denver. I was on a traffic rotation focusing, supposedly, on that stereotypical kind of cop-thing, but it had been an exceptionally busy week. We’d rarely had the time to scratch a ticket. We ended up supplementing Patrol almost without let-up on a repeated, specific and particularly time-consuming call. For whatever reason, it was a week stacked, packed, jammed full of them. Suicides. A few a day. A planetary alignment, a phase of the moon, the weather, the upcoming holidays, who knows? People were offing themselves like it was in style.

“Traffic 9, copy a party not breathing,” came the emotionless voice over the radio. The call was north, at the far end of the city, and we were the only unit available.

“Traffic 9 copy. From 52/Sheridan. We’ll be code 3,” I replied. Emergent, lights and sirens, fast.

This was all well and good. Fun even. But I knew what “party not breathing” meant. The guy, the girl, the man, the woman, the kid, the baby, whatever—would be dead. Despite the conditioning provided by many a TV medical drama, people were rarely brought back. CPR never worked. It cracked ribs, made other noises and maybe gave a witnessing family member the sense that something was being done; but the Reaper, though he be grim, was rarely persuaded to change his mind.

Thirty seconds before my arrival another cop called out on scene. She must have already been close and dropped what she’d been on (another suicide) to respond. Slam on the brakes, transmission in park, leave the engine running, overhead lights on so Medical can find you. I ran to the unit in the back of the condo complex, its front door ringed by a faded wooden fence. I opened the gate and a hurried, haggard female voice bellowed up at me from the ground.

“Take the gun. Take the gun!”


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