Copious Amounts of Blood.. Overkill?

In trying to write action scenes for my current WIP, (Middle Grade Adventure/Fantasy), the question pops up, how much violence is too much? What goes over the top?

I was listening to an archive recording of Writing Excuses, (which if you don't listen to religiously.. then I have to ask.. WHY?).. because I was looking for some suggestions on this topic and they were discussing some really interesting ideas/thoughts.. when one of the podcasters, (I believe  Dan Wells) speaks up about a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie where there was a huge fight scene with hundreds of bad guys and the 4 turtles, 3 of them using deadly, bladed weapons.. and not one drop of blood in the entire scene.

How incredibly unrealistic it is to have a massive ninja style fight scene with all these weapons and bodies flying around, and not one single drop of blood. Obviously, the movies have to do this for rating purposes.. but it begs the question of what do we, who are attempting to write Middle Grade, use as a base level for violence in our stories?

Brandon Mull has people die all over the place in his Fablehaven series, but I don't recall many really descriptive deaths, apart from in the second book when they are fighting the thing below the floating catwalk.. (I will leave this intentionally blank so as to not put a spoiler in for those that haven't read the series), and in Harry Potter, Malfoy is hit by a dark spell cast by Harry himself in 'Half Blood Prince', (Sectumsempra), that causes him to bleed profusely.

"Blood spurted from Malfoy's face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged floor with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand. "No —" gasped Harry. Slipping and staggering, Harry got to his feet and plunged toward Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest."

In my WIP, one of my characters is a life-long fighter.. my Writers Platform first writing assignment was based on this character.  He's been in captivity for most of his adult life, fighting for his life. His body is covered in scars. How do I NOT make him an embodiment of violence? That's my whole thought process for this character.. he's a potentially very violent man, not by choice but by having it thrust upon him. His ability for violence is a central part of the story. Not that it makes or breaks the story, but it is key to him, and to his part in this world.

How do I scar him, give him such a history, and then shackle his scenes with near misses and hefty body blows.. but no blood, or not much blood?  This is a person who has survived despite tremendous odds, he has known violence, pain, and death.

I know it's a fine line, and obviously I'm wandering all over and around it without much direction.. but how do you stay true to your character and yet maintain an appropriate level of decorum for the target audience?


  1. Sometimes violence in stories can be inferred without the author having to spell out all the bloody details. For example, a protagonist can have the memory of remembering someone close to him being blindfolded and forced to kneel by a villain, and then the protagonist closed his eyes while hearing a gun go off and the thud of a body hitting the ground. Sure, he closed his eyes and didn't see what had happened, but the reader can probably guess what was going on without the specific details. That's my take. Good luck with your WIP.

  2. Violence seems to be easier to take in a book. so while the harry potter books might be mg, the movies were pg13. i also think bleeding from a magic spell is different than slicing someone open. its a tough subject!

    i would think of the target audience and picture what you want them to see. my boys have no problem with spurts of blood, like in video games. some blood should be fine, just not buckets, right? good luck!

  3. Think about The Hunger Games trilogy and how much blood was in that series. Mind you, it was terribly violent, but not bloody because they didn't focus on the blood too much. It is all a matter of where you put your focus. I think you can do some awesome things with that character without showing a lot of bloodshed. Good luck, brother.


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