1. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    Screams of Silence, Cries Unheard: The Story of Rita Landow

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Smitty91, Aug 11, 2013.

    I am really struggling with this novel that I am trying to write. "Screams of Silence, Cries Unheard: The Story of Rita Landow" tells the story of Rita Landow, a young red fox struggling to overcome her painful childhood and make a better life for herself. Growing up, Rita was continuously sexually molested by her father, from the time she was three to the time she was eighteen. At eighteen years of age, she decides that she's finally had enough and kills her father via knocking him out, tying him to the bed, and setting the house on fire. She moves to Toronto and moves in with her brother who is currently going to university and has a boyfriend. While in Toronto, she tries to get a job, pursue an education, find a mate to spend the rest of her life with, and overcome the many issues that she struggles with on a daily basis (anger issues, binge eating disorder, nightmares, etc).

    I have attempted to write this novel at least twice, but haven't gotten further than a couple of chapters. I have done research on sexual abuse, such as the signs and effects of it, but my research doesn't seem to be helping. Someone suggested that I read novels that tackled this same exact subject, but due to the fact that I live out in the middle of nowhere and am visually disabled, it's nearly impossible for me to go into town and buy any books on the subject. My best bet to read these books online, but I can only find them on Amazon, and even then I only get the first couple of pages of the novel. Besides that, I don't think anyone would read this novel anyway due to the fact that this story has been done to death. Regardless, this type of subject is still important and peoples' stories struggling with this horrid everyday occurrence need to be told. If anyone would like to give advice or become a co-author with me on the story, please feel free to give me your email or Skype account and we can collaborate that way. Thanks to anyone who can help me in any way with this novel. I think this story is one of those where you have to experience it in order to write it properly, but I could be wrong.
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    It might be worth talking to an actual expert on the matter - psychologist, police officers dealing with these sort of things, etc. That way, you can ask questions if you're unsure and know that the answers are from a reliable source.

    As for writing the actual thing, be aware that you may not have to know much about the subject, anyway; you should probably start with her burning down the house, and then tell us about her father through dialogue, inner thoughts, and possibly flashbacks. You mention too that this story has been done to death, but this is a fact: every story has been done to death. It's how you write it that matters. You obviously want to write it because you think it has a message, and you've tried writing it before. Why then can you not bring something new to the table through your book? Write it, love it, enjoy it.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
  3. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    Thank you for the advice. I was thinking of talking to actual sexual abuse victims and seeing if that helps. Psychologists and police officers might be of help too.

    You read my mind. :D That was the same thing I was thinking: start the story with her burning down the house and reveal the abuse through dialogue, inner thoughts, and flashbacks. The only problem is that flashbacks can really slow down a story, but the flashbacks would probably be best used during her therapy sessions. Again, thank you for the advice and I'll try what you suggested. :)
     
  4. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    I would suggest not talking to actual sex abuse victims, as there are many books and interviews on the subject. Talking about it can be very painful and awkward.
     
  5. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Maybe taking some time to write short stories about the characters in your book would be helpful. Maybe it will resolve their personalities for you and spark some ideas which will shape the events in their lives.

    I have read that it is helpful for a book to have a theme--a short summary of the fundamental story of the book. Authors have stated that this helped guide them when they got thirty pages into their book and started to lose track of where it was going. I've never finished a novel so I cannot speak from experience.
     
  6. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had an ex who'd gone through many of the same things, and have quite a bit of personal experience in how she at least coped with and reacted both to the event and everyday life afterwards. I also had to sign up to a survivor's forum (as a 'secondary survivor') and that provided a lot of insight into how other people coped with and reacted to it (there's not a default response; even though they do share broad similarities, there's as many possibilities as there are people). I think the forum is question was Pandora's Aquarium.

    I would not recommend talking to anyone personally, even if they know full well what you're doing - no-one can predict how that conversation will turn out. But do lurk on that forum and get a general gist of the various ways people respond; you'll work it into your character without even realising. You could also PM me, but my experiences are limited to one person only and it's important to bear in mind that not all survivors react that way.

    It's been done a lot, but rarely done well.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think Gallowglass is right. Check online for Sexual Abuse survivors forums. I accessed a rape survivor's forum a little while ago, looking for confirmation that I'd written a victim's immediate response to being raped in a realistic manner. I found so much useful information. It was also interesting to discover that everything I'd imagined my character might have done, actually DOES get done by real victims, so I didn't need to go back and change anything in my story. Relief!

    The internet has made it possible for people to discuss their horrendous experiences without going face-to-face with anyone, and I think this has made it much easier for them to open up. Not only that, but there are many different experiences to learn about. This is a good time to be a writer, searching for information.

    However, maybe you should also (if you haven't already done so) put yourself in your character's shoes. How would you feel if you'd had that kind of childhood? How would you feel towards your father as you were growing up? (Simple hatred is too easy, make it more complicated. Fear. Love. Guilt.) What was the turning point, the one incident that would make you finally kill your father and burn the house? Was it something he said that triggered the final act, or was it just an accumulation of wrongs? How would you feel towards the other people in your life while you were growing up? Was there a mother? Sisters? You've said there is a brother. Was he an ally during that time, or was he oblivious to what was happening? Aunts, Uncles. Was there a teacher you wanted to confide in, but couldn't work up the courage? Or maybe you did confide in someone and they refused to believe you?

    Think your way through the next phase of her life as well. She'll obviously be looking back over her shoulder a bit, wondering if or when the law will catch up with her, and punish HER for what she did. Also examine her fears and hopes in her new life. What are the characteristics which might attract her to someone new, a potential mate for herself? How does she feel about herself now? Worthless? Cheated? Proud that she's finally escaped through her own dramatic and courageous act? Ruthless? Lonely?

    In other words, rather than frantically trying to collect other people's stories and basing your character on them, dig deep within yourself and make it YOUR story. You don't have to make it about you, or even about somebody just like you, but I'm sure it's within you to create feelings for your character to have, as well as actions for your character to take.

    By all means, check online for research purposes, to make sure you're not doing something totally off the wall, but I think it's the kind of thing you probably can do by yourself. After all, people write about characters unlike themselves all the time. I don't have to murder someone to create a character who does. I don't have to become a thief to imagine what a thief might do, and maybe feel afterwards. I didn't have to be raped in order to write a character who was.

    And good luck to you. This is obviously an issue that moves you a great deal. I'm sure once you are able to fully identify with your character and her feelings, you will create a cracker of a story.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    huh?... if she's not a human, nothing after this makes any sense... and if she's a human, then this makes no sense... if you meant she's a member of a first nation tribe's 'red fox clan' then it has to be capitalized and made clear... please explain...

    i don't do co-authoring, but i do mentor new writers, so if you want advice/info/help along the way and having a mentor would fill your needs, i always have time for one more mentee...

    as far as reading goes, being in the middle of nowhere shouldn't stop you from ordering used books online... i get them for only $3.50 a piece at www.thriftbooks.com... and amazon's used books vendors often sell them for pennies plus shipping...

    you can also find a lot of books available to be read for free online... just have to do some googling...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
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  9. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    To answer your question, she is an actual red fox. I think what you're not getting is that in this universe most of the animals are anthropomorphic, meaning that they go to school, they can drive, etc. With any universe, this would require rules. There are humans involved and some animals are not anthropomorphic at all. Why is this? Genetic experimentation, maybe? Regardless, I honestly hope that you don't have a problem with this character being an animal, as I find it quite bothersome when someone doesn't like one of my characters just because they're an animal. If you would like to help me on this story, that would be great. :)
     
  10. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    To answer your question, she is an actual red fox. I think what you're not getting is that in this universe most of the animals are anthropomorphic, meaning that they go to school, they can drive, etc. With any universe, this would require rules. There are humans involved and some animals are not anthropomorphic at all. Why is this? Genetic experimentation, maybe? Regardless, I honestly hope that you don't have a problem with this character being an animal, as I find it quite bothersome when someone doesn't like one of my characters just because they're an animal. If you would like to help me on this story, that would be great. :)
     
  11. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    You brought up some excellent questions for me to think about. You are correct in saying that she would be uneasy about being out on her own and nervous about being captured by the police. I have created a character description sheet for this character, but maybe I should go back over and see if I can't improve it. She did have a mother growing up, but her mother was a drug junkie and died when she was five. She also had a brother, but her parents (prominently her father) showered him with praise and affection, leaving her alone in the dark, causing her to resent her brother and a have a strong dislike for him. While this is primarily her story, it doesn't hurt to explore the other characters and see how they feel/react to the goings on around them, but the focus should mainly stay on the main character. This isn't to say that I can't change the focus character now and again, just not often enough to where it becomes confusing as to who the story is supposed to be focusing on. I'll examine the questions you proposed and get back to you with what I've come up with. Again, thank you for your elaborate questions. :) I really appreciate the help.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I was going to make much the same comment as [MENTION=373]mammamaia[/MENTION], but since she beat me to it, and since you answered it the way you did, I have another: Given the central issue you are seeking to address, how does setting the story in a universe where most of the animals are anthropomorphic help you with the telling of the story (or the reader with understanding it)? Or, to put it another way, how is a red fox being molested by her father more compelling than a human being molested by hers?

    Just curious.
     
  13. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    Well, to me, it's not more compelling, it's just what I'm comfortable with. I've no problem with writing human characters; animals characters is just what I'm into. My feeling is that if the character is compelling and believable as an actual person, who cares whether the character is a human or not?
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I guess the first question is whether you are writing this purely for yourself or do you intend to seek a readership. If the former, then it doesn't matter. But if the latter, I think you may want to consider how and why you might reach readers. It's just an opinion, but it occurs to me that using anthropomorphized foxes for a subject such as this might come across as trivializing it. Sort of like casting Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as the leads in "The Defiant Ones".
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I want to write a story about a girl molested by her father, who, as an adult, ties to him a bed, sets him on fire, then moves to Canada to pursue an education.
    ....
    ....

    You did get that she was a fox, right?"
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ever considered that perhaps the reason you're struggling with it is because you've cast your character as a fox?

    If everything your character does is perfectly human and she inhabits a world that's also perfectly human, then casting the characters as animals is pure gimmick and will likely get your book rejected and thrown into the trash. If you cast them as animals, make sure that actually serves a story purpose - don't do it just because you like it. Usually when you do something just because that's what you're into, but you have no story purpose backing the decision up, disaster ensues.

    Of course, if you plan on never publishing or getting very many readers, then by all means do what you like. But if you were hoping to make an impact and make people think, then you may want to rethink either who your character is (eg. fox or human - human would communicate your point a heck of a lot better and more effectively and powerfully too), or else rethink the nature of your story. For example, a human girl murdering her father is shocking and tragic - a fox murdering her father is... well... I'd say relatively normal. Animals kill each other all the time. Your message of sexual abuse/rape could get mixed up in things you hadn't even intended on saying and may not even think, simply because you chose to cast your characters as animals.
     
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  17. Kelson
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    Kelson Member

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    Hello Smitty,

    Okay, now I feel a little weird because I totally got what you were saying from the beginning because you said, "red fox" not fox as in sexy beautiful young lady. I don't see any issues with the anthropomorphic animals either. My only initial concern was that it could come off as a "child book or young adult" which, in my humble opinion would go catastrophically wrong.

    I saw some questions about how does the anthropomorphic animal move the story forward, etc. Am I really the only one getting the possible why of this? Really? I am not saying what I am thinking about the reasoning is the reasoning but I thought of a what many people may think about why the story is the way it is.

    Did anyone else consider "Watership Down" or "The Fantastic Mr. Fox?" with George Clooney which was called "groundbreaking." I know, I know, I know...that is not how Smitty presented this and the animals are supposed to be totally indistinguishable from humans as far as I can tell but, as noted, I can see what reasons readers would think drove this distinguishing feature.

    Any takers on what I am thinking...?

    ~Kelson
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I admit, I hadn't thought about that. Now you mention it, there's also Animal Farm.

    Well, perhaps what Smitty needs to do isn't research on sexual abuse, but rather research on how other authors have written characters using animals that nonetheless expressed deep and complicated, adult themes.

    Basically, it's one of those things - if Smitty pulls it off, it's probably gonna be really, really excellent. But it's gonna take a damn fine writer to pull it off at all.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought - OK, my second thought, but you seem set on the fox choice - is that your story, as described, has a theme but not really a plot. It seems to me that your character could be building a new life, recovering, etc., _while_ pursuing some other goal that gives the novel structure. For example, _The Queen's Gambit_ by Walter Tevis is focused on the emotional and other problems of its main character, but the novel gets structure from her quest to become a chess grandmaster.
     
  20. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    I have to disagree. Two of my novels that featured the characters as animals have gotten published. If you're speaking in regards to English professors, you are most certainly correct. I do plan on getting this story published. About the message of overcoming childhood trauma, think about many of the Disney films. Almost all of them featured their main characters as animals. Regardless, the fact that their characters were animals didn't overshadow the message of the film. However, you can take something like "Finding Nemo", modernize it by doing a live-action adaptation, and the message would be exactly the same.
     
  21. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    I do plan on getting this story published. I understand where you're coming from, but I'm hoping the species of the characters doesn't overshadow the overall message of the novel. It's funny that you should bring up Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I've never heard of "The Defiant Ones", but my point being is that the Looney Tunes cartoons weren't made for kids; they were made for adults. In fact, if you look at some of the box sets there is a message on the back warning parents that some material may not be appropriate for kids.
     
  22. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    And I am no "fine writer" by any means, so I do not think I can pull this novel off at all.
     
  23. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    I don't think it has a theme, but I do think it has a plot. As stated, the plot revolves around Rita Landow and her struggle to overcome her abusive childhood while trying to find solutions to her various problems. Other characters could be added to the story and how each of them either a) affects Rita or b) is affected by Rita to help build on the plot.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, I still see that as a background/situation, rather than a plot. I'm not insisting that you need to have a simple, explain-it-in-twenty-words plot, but I do feel that a plot needs to have a somewhat clearer direction. The character in the novel that I mentioned was trying to overcome her own abusive childhood, her substance addiction, her trust issues, her issues with relationships, but the fact that she had a specific goal gave the story a plot to hang those things on.
     
  25. Smitty91
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    I get what you're saying. Rita's main goal is to overcome her childhood abuse and move on with her life, find someone to spend the rest of her life with. The only problem is that she has an extreme aversion to men because of her father, so she also struggles with her sexuality, questioning whether or not she could be a lesbian. If you would like to help with the plot/theme of this story, please feel free to contact me. :)
     

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