I survived my first convention! And it was a LOT of fun. There weren't as many people in get-up as I expected, but those who were dressed up certainly met all my expectations. (trust me, they were good expectations)
I met quite a few very awesome people and even finally met my editor!! She is sooooo hilarious and soooo enthusiastic, she made me fall in love with Spencer Hill Press all over again.
But my favorite part of Pi-Con was the panels. Some of the discussions that arose from certain topics were so inspired, I couldn't bare the idea of leaving them in Connecticut.
I'm bringing them to you!
One of my favorite panels was headed by my editor, Kate, herself, along with two other very informed panelists. The title of the panel was True Grit and the description was:
"Gritty realism in genre works: ruins the escapism? Enhances the detail? Can there be too little or too much?"
My personal take on gritty realism is this: rather than simply describing a character breaking a leg (as an example) and the pain associated with it, you describe every minute detail in the process. Like rather than knowing a character has fallen, broken his leg, and is now in extreme, mind-numbing pain, you see the bone tear through flesh as blood pours out on the floor, the spike of pain that sends tremors up his spine and twists at his stomach until a stream of vomit drips out of his mouth to blend with the blood in a sickening cocktail.
So if the latter is gritty realism, how would you answer the question posed by the panel?
As with all things in writing, I DO believe you can have too much as well as too little. If every event were described in such minute detail, I believe you would lose the impact on the particularly important events.
For example, let's look at two horror movies: SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.
SAW is pretty in-your-face gory. It doesn't hold back and is a good example of a story that uses every opportunity to enhance its gritty realism. In fact, I think it used it too much. Rather than scaring me, it ended up making me nauseous. If I closed my eyes, it wasn't because I was terrified. It was because I didn't want to throw up.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (and yes, there are spoilers, so stop if you haven't seen it), however, was a bit more subdued. It offered suggestions of horror. Rather than seeing the demonic beast move down the hall toward the sleeping pair, you saw the door move just a fraction of an inch, or the sheets puff up under his breath. In reality, that could have been the effect of wind, but we all knew better. In fact, I think the movie was perfect in its use of gritty realism. Rather than shocking us from the beginning, it let us get comfortable like a frog in a pot of lukewarm water. If the video stops fast-forwarding, we know something small and a tad frightening (but ultimately inconsequential) is going to happen. But the events increase in their danger. By the time you get to the end and the girl smiles at the camera (and you just KNOW she's possessed), you're certain something truly terrifying is about to happen. That's when the gritty realism comes out. And it's not even visual. All the blood-curdling screams happen off-camera and it's one of the most terrifying things I've ever experienced while watching a movie. In fact, when the screams stop and all you hear are the steps on the stairs and you know you're finally going to see something, that's true terror that makes you close your eyes.
What do you, dear readers, think about gritty realism? Have you read perfect examples that used it just right? How about the opposite? Do you like to use gritty realism in your works?