Review: Violence, a Writers Guide by Rory Miller

SFF Chronicles News

Well-Known Member
Oct 20, 2013
29th June 2013 05:06 PM

Brian Turner


Somehow Rory Miller’s book Meditations on Violence ended up on my radar. Not only was it a fascinating and educational read, it also inspired a lot of note-taking for my writing.

The basic premise of that book was in actual combat situations, martial arts do not work – but the argument came with a fascinating sphere of related experiences, not least different forms of violence, and how it affects people.

Looking for more from Rory Miller for research, as soon as I saw Violence, A Writer’s Guide, it was an instant buy.

Here’s the score: Sgt Rory Miller is a police training officer who claims a lot of direct experience dealing with violent criminals, especially through his years in the prison service. He also practices a range of martial arts, and on the training circuit swaps stories with army personnel.

Simply put, he defines himself as qualified enough to talk authoritatively about violence, and shares that experience.

His books are not about gore and horror and there is nothing graphic in his writing. Instead he talks about why people attack, what they do, how people react, and the after effects.

Violence, a Writers Guide is an incredibly resource for any writer who wants to write about violence realistically. While not comprehensive, it provides a wealth of fascinating information you can use as a writer, from different types of attack, how adrenaline affects people, and the effects of different types of injury.

He talks about weapons from handguns to swords, to clubs and knives, so it doesn’t matter what genre you are writing, there is something here you can use.

The main problem for the writer is how much to use: I’ve seen other comments online from people who have read this and considered it a great read – but decided it works against the interests of highly stylised fantasy violence, and therefore reject using its lessons.

For me, the biggest criticism is that so much of this book is directly rehashed from Meditations on Violence, and at times reads as a lazy rewrite – especially with blog posts copied in – and different simply in the way different topics are structured.

However, Violence, a Writers Guide does expand on the content of the first book, and while at times it does feel as though being a writer resource is an after thought for a general reading book, it remains fully engaging.

To help illustrate the content, here are the chapter headings:

1. Establishing a baseline
2. Context
3. Mechanics of a physical fight
4. Survival stress response
5. Bad guys and violence
6. Good guys and violence
7. Gender differences
8. Unarmed
9. Why people carry weapons
10. Weapon use
11. Impact weapons
12. Edged weapons
13. Firearms
14. Less lethal weapons
15. Concealed carry
16. Mass combat
17. Violence in other places and times
18. Being hurt
19. Being wounded
20. How you die
21. Random details
22. A final rant

Overall, this is an invaluable resource for any fiction writer who expects to cover issues of violence in their writing, and wants to cover it in a realistic manner.