Discussion: Is there such a thing as too gritty?

Gritty doesn’t bother me. 
Well, I should rephrase that and say gritty doesn’t usually bother me. 
I ran across a book this week which, for first time in my recent reading history, was so gritty it bordered on ridiculous. It was too over-the-top with violence and language. Before this book I didn’t really think there was a limit on how much grit I could handle. I realized that the “gritty” factor made the book unbelievable and the constant cursing stopped being a nice spice to the dialogue, but got incredibly tiring and overblown.
This experience made me wonder, with the recent surge of gritty fantasy books, in your opinion, is there such a thing as too gritty? Do you think that some authors go over the top for shock? Basically, is there a line that authors cross where gritty becomes unrealistic and cursing is overdone? And if so, how does this affect your view of the gritty fantasy movement? 

7 Responses

  • Littlechoo2

    I love gritty but I like it to be done well. I love the Downside Ghost series and the Elemental Assassins series, which I'd class as gritty done well. I've only really seen it done poorly in The Turning, but that book was a DNF for me so I can't say whether or not it improved.

    It annoys me when something is classed as gritty But clearly isn't (the Darkfever series?).

  • Mark Lawrence

    There aren't any absolutes. Clearly a novel can be too gritty, romantic, violent, navel-gazing, lean, or detailed for any given individual. A book can very easily be too romantic for my tastes 🙂 The level of violence is largely immaterial for me, it's more a case of whether the violence pushes the story forward or whether it's just there for titillation. I'm more interested in the characters and the story – make me care about them and I'll buy into the rest.

  • Memory

    For me, it's not so much about the amount of grit as the way the author handles it. A potentially over-the-top gritty scene can work very, very well if the author maintains control and adheres to the rules they've established for the characters and their world. If they disregard the perameters they set out in earlier scenes, there's a much greater chance it'll flop for me.

  • Scott

    I also love gritty when done well…but I've been known to get annoyed with it when it's overused as well.

    Joe Abercrombie's THE HEROES is one…the whole thing is about a battle…but the grittyness is so overdone that by page 150 I wondered if I could read any more about men's heads being cleaved in blood/bones chunk-spattered gore. I love the man's writing usually, but I had way too many instances where I just wanted nothing more than to have a rest from the gritty for a chapter or two, but it's fairly relentless.

  • DJL

    I think anything in overabundance in books can be rather annoying, and grittiness might be one of the features that has to walk a fine line. It's one thing to encourage the flow of story with a rather violent fight scene. But if there is no breathing room whatsoever and everyone is either getting their heads chopped off or their bodies blown apart, that can really be a drag.

    The same goes for cursing. Occasional swear words to either make a point or break the dialogue is welcome, but with characters who are constantly dropping F-bombs all over the place just because they can, I would like to see them killed rather quickly in the story. I can't say I've come across a novel that is too gritty, but then again perhaps I gave up on such a novel before I really got into it.

  • Gina

    I love grittiness, and am always on the search for new books, but I have yet to come across a book that was too much for me. I think I am able to suspend my disbelief further than most people because I just try to enjoy the ride, but if it hits that point of ridiculous and unrealistic I'm done with it then and there. I think it's unrealistic to ignore grittiness in books, because life itself is gritty.

    On the other hand, I love cursing, especially when it is creative. It's just satisfying. Check out Chuck Wendig's blog: I've never read any of his work but his blog is hilarious. Then again, some posts are too ridiculous for me in the beginning so I don't bother to read them through. Though my mood could be a major factor in this.

  • Stefan Fergus

    I think the point when I get annoyed with "grittiness" is when it moves from "graphic" to "gratuitous", and it's graphic for the sake of graphic, rather than moving the story along. And Scott's word – "relentless" is a good way of describing when it gets too much.

    A novel's story/plot can, however, make me not mind as much about these problems.

    As Mark Lawrence said – it's largely down to personal taste.

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