Breaking the Fourth Wall

Women are weak.

Powerless. Defenseless. Victims.

Right?

In fiction their only purpose is to act as a catalyst for our strong male protagonist to either save or avenge. They are props that get killed, raped and mutilated. Titillating pieces of  meat, flesh, that are vapid set decorations to high testosterone storytelling.

Right?

I’m co-editor of an online flash fiction magazine called Shotgun Honey. We specialize in short crime, hardboiled, noir fiction. Talking about gender roles or submissions in general puts me front stage, breaking the fourth wall. But, I think it needs to be done.

It is easy to make women the victims. Most atrocious crimes committed by men are against women, generally acts of passion, rarely pre-meditated. I am not opposed to reading or receiving  stories that harm, maim or kill women. What I find appalling are stories whose only purpose is to glorify the act(s) and make no attempt to tell a story. The act itself cannot be the story.

Horrific violence happens in real life. Yes. Crime fiction for the most part is violent volatile fiction. Often to an extreme. Good crime fiction takes the foibles and tells a story.

I can’t speak completely for my co-editors, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a story where the typical gender roles are reversed. Yes, at Shotgun Honey we’ve published stories with female protagonists in the past from Matt Funk’s Det. Jari Jurgis and Fiona Johnson’s undercover cop Gemma.

We’ve also published John Rector’s “Folded Blue.” The ultimate culmination of degradation and depravity towards a woman, so it sounds hypocritical to call out stories who parade such violence. Rector’s story stands alone, it tells a story of depression and rejection. It burns slow until the reveal. The story isn’t about the act, the murder or the post-mortem interaction. It’s about the character, not the victim.

The question as a writer that has to be asked: Is the violence for the sake of the story or the story for the sake of the violence?

I’m not asking for a spate of stories where women who dole out some desperately needed comeuppance. Variety is the name of the game. And on that note, as a writer considering to submit to Shotgun Honey or one of the other many venues, think about how broad crime fiction can be? Violence is easy, telling a good story is harder.

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff, Ron. Thanks for writing it. I address a similar issue in an upcoming piece at pattinase in the How I Came to Write This Story column, which is about Mapping the Territory, the story published in Shotgun Honey.

  • JaneHammons

    Good stuff, Ron. Thanks for writing it. I address a similar issue in an upcoming piece at pattinase in the How I Came to Write This Story column, which is about Mapping the Territory, the story published in Shotgun Honey.

  • This is very true, Ron. I have trouble writing violence toward women, I’ll admit. Women can be as violent as men, but I find that women are often the ones acted upon by men, even today. We have a long way to go, baby. I have one story of violent revenge by a woman, hopefully it will be popping up at Powder Burn Flash soon. 

  • This is very true, Ron. I have trouble writing violence toward women, I’ll admit. Women can be as violent as men, but I find that women are often the ones acted upon by men, even today. We have a long way to go, baby. I have one story of violent revenge by a woman, hopefully it will be popping up at Powder Burn Flash soon. 

  • Chris La Tray

    Excellent, Ron. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Excellent, Ron. Couldn’t agree more.

  • “Violence is easy, telling a good story is harder.”   Well said!  Thanks for the post.  Because people know I love the WILD BUNCH they have recommended blood nerd films and splatter porn, never understanding that violence need to be about something bigger.  I clearly don’t mind going rough, I just want to know the human cost and gain.  I want violence to tell me something about us and how we live.

  • “Violence is easy, telling a good story is harder.”   Well said!  Thanks for the post.  Because people know I love the WILD BUNCH they have recommended blood nerd films and splatter porn, never understanding that violence need to be about something bigger.  I clearly don’t mind going rough, I just want to know the human cost and gain.  I want violence to tell me something about us and how we live.