Many novels – and all of my novels thus far – are about good versus evil. The struggle between good and evil, of course, is not always platonic. Sometimes evil attacks good with violence. Sometimes good defends itself with violence.
Violence has been a part of suspense novels since Beowulf slew Grendel. Since violence seems a valid component of storytelling, how should a suspensenovelist like me employ violence in a story?
I think a first step might be limiting such a story to the right audience. For me, that part is easy. I only write for adults. Each book’s cover and metadata should make that clear.
Secondly, I try to remind readers that violence can have ugly consequences. A punch to the face might, for example, break teeth, split lips, or dislocate a jaw. Eyes might even be put out. Readers should, in my opinion, be shown that violent action is inherently dangerous.
Thirdly, I try to show that one can be violent in an intelligent fashion. There is plenty of fighting technique that can be acquired, even by ordinary persons. Knowing what to do can trump being strong and mean. You see this, for example, in THE DALHART PURSUIT when bare-handed Harry Winslow takes on five deadly thugs at once.
Fourth, luck can affect the outcome of a violent encounter. Ideally, heroes and heroines would win, but, realistically, they might not. Such uncertainty builds suspense. It also again reminds readers that violent activity is inherently dangerous.
Fifth, describing violent action is not the same as teaching violent action. Ask any martial artist. Doing punches and kicks correctly, for example, comes from much practice and sound coaching. Muscle memory is necessary. Reading about fight scenes does not make one a fighter any more than watching the Super Bowl makes one a quarterback.
Such are my guidelines for myself. Ten years from now my list might be longer or shorter. All the same, these guidelines seem to work for now. In my opinion, one can follow these guidelines and end up with a really good story that does no harm in regard to violence.