Graphic Realism is the term I apply to descriptions of people, places, events, or objects that goes beyond standard realism in writing. Often, too much graphic realism is found in loose, unpolished, writing wherein the author feels the need to describe everything in minute detail, usually all up front. Nothing is implied, no holes are left to be filled.
It would be wrong to believe that graphic realism is actually the same thing as a higher level of realism. In real life, we do not stop and study every minutia of a vase, we would not observe every detail of a body we just happened upon, etc. Certainly some characters might observe more than others, such as the person performing an autopsy on the aforementioned body, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.
So what are the pro's and cons?
- Useful for describing certain artwork in relation to the story
- Easier to evoke extreme revulsion or sexual urge
- For fantasy worlds, may be necessary at times to convey certain landscapes, creatures, or customs
- Slows down the pace of the writing
- Information Overload
- Leaves nothing to the imagination, making it harder for the reader to personalize/relate to the story and characters
- When used in sex or violence, it becomes a major turn-off for a large swatch of the market, equating to lower sales. Mundane controversy over sex and violence in literature rarely equates to more sales, but rather the opposite.
Bad: Johnson saw movement from the corner of his eye, a brief shadow. Without a second thought, he whipped his rifle around and fired a burst without verifying. He heard the scream, turned and saw the body riddled with holes. He got him. Sections of his flesh were ripped open, exposing his organs, pulsing as the
blood gushed out. The man started convulsing violently, his head banging repeatedly into the cabinet next to him, blood curdling from his mouth and nose as his head... yada yada yada.
One is descriptive and real, making the point of death and success. The second is obsessed with the gory details. There is a grey moral line about whether you are obsessing or glorifying over the brutality, or are you being judicious in your use? Want a great horror flick without excessive gore and graphic realism, but plenty of normal realism? The film The Others is a prime example fo how to create atmosphere, mood, and more through judicious use of scene cuts.