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I just finished an online violence and weaponry class for writers taught by Rory Miller, who is so bad ass in his creditials that I'd have to kill you if I elaborated. I've written scenes here and there that required high-octane, moment by moment violence, but my latest ghostwriting project required more. Like war. Ongoing. The deep psychological place soldiers must go. For a suburban girl whose only exposure to violence is what comes in a red Netflix envelope, it was a must-take class.
The most memorable lesson he gave was one on the unnatural state of our existence. For the first time in human history, violence is essentially foreign to us. We don't raise weapons to meet our basic needs. Mass casualties are things that largely happen somewhere else. We live in a bubble of treaties and modern philosophies and shared ethics. As writers, one of the hardest things to do is get inside the head of our characters. But for a writer raised in this bubble, getting inside the head of historical characters is the greatest challenge of all. As Miller put it: "The most evil things in history made sense to someone. As an author, if you
can't see that, your antagonists will be flat. As a human, if you can't see it,
you can't effectively fight it."
Miller's book, Violence: A Writer's Guide, covers many of the same topics as we touched on in class and is a fantastic reference if your project requires a deep understanding about the complexities of violence.