1. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    The message versus the happy ending

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ecksvie, Jan 19, 2010.

    Hey all!

    I'm currently writing a book where the ending is somewhat problematic and I'd like some guidance on it.

    My book is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who at the beginning of the story is dumped by her boyfriend for not wanting sex and then she is almost raped on the way home. As such she is very anti sex. She then meets her guardian angel who is absolutely obsessed with sex and spends the book teaching her how wonderful sex can be, breaking down the taboos and promoting safe and responsible sexual freedom. The story will eventually end with her losing her virginity freely and happily, with her meeting in the middle with her views about sex.

    However, the issue comes with this ending. My book very much tries to get the message out about how what society thinks and what the media portray about sex is often completely wrong. I want to fight against this idea that the first time is always happy and amazing - in reality its often clumsy and for girls it often hurts.

    I feel I would be going against my prinicples and the principles of the book if I made the scene at the end where she has sex all wonderful and amazing, but I feel that I would also be affecting the message if I end the story on painful sex. I want the readers to go away feeling happy that my protagonist managed to get over her hangups about sex and do what she feels is right, regardless of what other people think.

    How would you go about writing this ending?
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who says you can't have both? Just because things end well doesn't mean the characters won't learn anything. You can still be honest about your values and still have everyone end up happy.

    Edit: Ooops, reread the post. I misread what you were asking before. But in the end, just because what is realistic may not always be perfect doesn't mean that you can't still convey the message and stay true to your values and beliefs. And as others have pointed out, in the right circomstances, with the right person, it can be the way you want to portray it.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    She conquors the obstacle and while it wasn't as good as she had been lead to believe, she finds something positive in having come past it and gained experience, courage, etc.

    Perhaps move on from there and let the narrative flow into the future - she's a grown woman and has a different man in her life... She looks back on the events of the book and now she has come much further in her life, has a good sex life and feels more whole and secure in herself. She could look back at that first time with a "it wasn't at all what it was cracked up to be, but now I'm wiser and life's good" attitude.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if her first lover is gentle [and accomplished], the usual painful and awkward aspects of a 'first time' could be overcome... the pain could be so fleeting as to not be noticed all that much, in the midst of the girl's enjoyment of the act and any awkwardness on her part not be an issue at all...
     
  5. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    I hate to be picky, but I find the fact that she's almost raped the very day she was dumped for not having sex incredulous. I know it's not a big point of the story but perhaps the timing could be altered? Say a week later? I just really think that you'd have more of an impact if it's reflecting more realism.

    That said, let me say that I think that's an excellent idea for a book. With guidance from a good boyfriend, her learning to appreciate sex is actually a very realistic story, and powerful to boot. I don't think the first time she gives it up should be mind-blowing, but rather that you emphasis how it isn't necessarily a bad thing--that it can be a connection two people, and that between two loving people who are dedicated can make it even better.

    So, IMO, focus less on the physical aspect on whether it was orgasmic, but on how it can be a real bond, not just two folks boinking with no real intimacy.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unless the boy who rejected her tried to "change her mind."

    By the way, incredulous is an adjective that cannot be applied to an idea, only to a sentient being. The correct word would be incredible, or to avoid misinterpretation, not credible. What your are saying is that the idea is reacting in disbelief.
     
  7. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    There is a reason which comes out later in the story why she was almost raped after being dumped. Not worth going into here but it's not as ridiculous or impossible as it sounds, and it does form a reasonably big part of the story later on.

    There's been some great advice given so far, and definitely some food for thought. Keep it coming guys!
     
  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Well...the first time doesn't have to be awkward or even uncomfortable for all women. With a man who knows what he is doing (i.e. not a virgin) and with the right lubricant, the first time can be very pleasant and painless, unless of course the guy in question is hung like a horse, then it probably would hurt. Making the guy of average length and girth, and experienced enough to know he should visit china town orally and digitally before getting down to the nitty gritty, then she should have more than enough O faces to make the first time a very happy experience. (despite the initial pain of the first few thrusts and the breaking of the hymen.)

    If you have her getting it on in the end with another virgin...well...yeah...it's probably going to be clumsy and painful. Of course you could always make that the first time that night...and have an encore performance to make up for the pain of the first one.
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Coupla thoughts. This is what I'd call agenda-driven fiction (if your point is to send a message to someone). So, my question would be what audience are you targeting and what message are you trying to send?

    The adult audience is likely to be well aware that the first time isn't necessarily the same as the best one, regardless of what "society" would prefer to imagine or what "media" might (or might not) portray. On the other hand, a young adult novel that illustrates how a young person can overcome sexual hangups may be less likely to get published (that may not be what publishers think they can market and sell to that particular audience). So, I'm confused about who your target audience actually is.

    I think you have to be clear in your own mind about the message you're sending and to whom you're sending it and why. That should help clear up what to do with your ending.
     
  10. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    My audience is around the mid to late teen age group. I'm targetting the kind of people who are at the age where sex is becoming an issue, perhaps considering sex or feeling under peer pressure etc. The book promotes responsibilty, challenges taboo and things like that - I want the readers to think about the issues raised and hopefully apply it to their own current or future sex lives.

    Publishing isnt much of an issue to me. I'm writing it for myself because I enjoy it, and I'll enjoy seeing my family and friends reading it. If I can get it published, great, but not too worried if not.

    The guy she ends up having sex with is her guardian angel (I've had some religious folks tell me off for that, but if I say angels can have genitals, then they damn well do as far as my story is concerned), who is very accomplished and really knows what he is doing.

    I've had some great pointers from this thread, and I'm definitely much closer to deciding on what to do. I'm currently only half way through writing the book, so I've got plenty of time to think about it. I think I will make it painful, but not too much so I can show it does hurt, but put the emphasis on it being with someone she loves and feels completely comfortable with.
     
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Yes, same reason why your religious readers are objecting to angel genitals, publishers may have issues with selling young adult novels that deliver the particular message you're shooting for (because their parents may think it encourages having sex rather than, well, you know ... putting off the inevitable or whatever). But, long as you're going primarily for your family and friends, why not? I mean, if you write it well enough, who knows what might happen with it.

    I remember the book(s)--there were two--that I bought to read to my young boys about sex (I think they were maybe 5 & 8). It was pretty well known 25-30 years ago, but I don't remember the name or its author. I thought it was great. Terrific, fun pictures; the message was positive and fairly accurate (this was for young kids, so nothing about pain, of course). Its reputation was controversial, and my boys tolerated the first one, even got a chuckle or two from the pictures and so forth. So, when I went to the second one, which was a little more advanced, my oldest informed me they weren't "ready for more" yet and could I please just wait and read it when they got older. (They just wanted to get on with their Leggos or whatever they were into at that age, and I think they'd had it with drawings of plump dads and moms doing things they didn't find very appealing.) It was controversial, I think, because its message was twofold: first, that ordinary people (apparently plump ones) have sex not only to have children (that was part of it), but also to have fun.

    Anyway, sounds like an interesting project. I hope you enjoy writing it.
     
  12. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    I think overall my book has a good message to it. It promotes things like responsiblity, but overall, it encourages people to make their own decisions and do what they feel is right, and not what they've been told is right!

    It's a story to make people think. The best example is a scene where the girl catches the angel masturbating. She's grossed out, but they talk about it and there's no real argument against it. It's just that people say it's wrong and say it's gross, but there's no reason why. It's these kind of messages I want to get out. It's quite controversial, and I'm looking forward to giving it to different people of differing sexual opinions to read.

    It's a shame so many parents are prudish in terms of their kids. As you said, prolonging the inevitable rather than encouraging them to think, act responsibly and be sure they're doing the right thing, which I what I want my book to do.

    It's highly unlikely it'll ever get published, but I might send this one out just to see what they say.
     
  13. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Remember, not every ending has to be happy. I've never seen Saw 1-6, but I'm guessing they didn't always have the most happy endings, either.
     
  14. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    That is a brilliant point that never occured to me and quite logical plot development too.

    lol, I ought to keep that in mind. Thank you.

    I like the idea of the book, since it's a good message to send. It encourages young people that sex should be treated with respect. I think neither sex-shaming or using sex as a means to become popular or liked is good, and this story shows how important that is.

    And if it doesn't sell...who cares? You're writing a meaningful story and that's what counts.
     
  15. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    When you do, it'd be really interesting (and educational, too) to hear what agents tell you. Keep us posted!:)
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a general problem with what Molly has called "agenda driven fiction", because it's really hard (impossible, I suspect) to make it honest, and that's exactly the problem that you've hit. Real life doesn't deliver nice tidy messages, and whilst readers will happily suspend disbelief for goblins, time travel or, indeed, guardian angels, as soon as anything resembling an agenda appears they'll feel they're being preached at as if they were a kid, and will resent it (unless you're already preaching to the choir). I think the only thing you can do is leave it to your characters. How would it really be for your characters in that situation? If that doesn't match your message then your message is false and you should rethink it.

    In this case, there's simply a disconnect between the message ("sex is good", if I can paraphrase it like that) and your intended illustration of it ("great sex first time"). I think you probably need to admit that your heroine's loss of her virginity probably isn't going to be wonderful, but neither is it going to be the horror she expects. Good enough to be worth trying again; maybe it will get better -- that's the best (ie, the most honest) I think you can achieve.
     
  17. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    I'm aware that the first time won't be great. There's this message from films and the media that your first time will be great and awesome and if it's not then you're some kind of failure. My first time was excruciating, it really was, and I almost asked my boyfriend to stop. I dont want that kind of message either because I know now in hindsight there are things we could have done to make it better (which is another lesson I want to pass on), but I want it to be realistic. I was quite pro-active before losing my virginity. I was aware I didnt know much about sex (my sex education was quite appalling) so I read up on it. Before I did that, I had no idea that the first time could hurt or about the existence of the hymen. You can imagine how freaked I would have been after all that pain during sex and then bleeding after, even though it's perfectly natural. I know I cant have been the only person to have had similar thoughts, and people who werent as pro-active as me and have just been brainwashed by the media into thinking it will just be great. The message I want to get out is one of realism, but I also want people to see it as something to be enjoyed but not take it too seriously. Your first time is not the be all and end all. I might make her have sex again later after the first time, I might not. There's gonna be an epilogue which may well complicate things afterwards, but I'll also be able to include her afterthoughts on it if necessary.

    As for the way the characters act, the guardian angel is absolutely obsessed with sex. There's a reason I won't go into since it's kinda complicated, but it makes sense and is acceptable in the context of the story. My protagonist changes throughout the story in her views as things happen with her guardian angel. She starts off very anti-sex and aware of the peer pressure because it seems like everyone else is having sex but her. In the end her guardian angel teaches her to do what she enjoys because she enjoys it, regardless of what anyone else says. Her guardian angel also learns some restraint which he was previously lacking, and how to respect the feelings of others in sexual acts which you can't do by yourself.

    It might not be the most realistic story, but I like to think that the readers will be able to identify with the standpoint of at least one of the characters (there's also the ex-boyfriend and her friends which I havent mentioned previously, but they also feed their different sexual viewpoints into the story) and learn from it.
     
  18. digitig
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    But you also say "I feel that I would also be affecting the message if I end the story on painful sex."

    So either your message goes, the loss of her virginity won't be written honestly, or you don't end there. I assume your not entirely great first experience didn't put you off for life, and hope you have had better experiences since! That is the reality of sex, and if you don't want your readers to feel betrayed then I reckon that's how you have to write it. If the loss of your heroine's virginity is her last sexual experience within the story, and you want to finish positive about sex, then I think you need to address her reaction to it, and base it on your own. Why didn't a painful first experience put you off sex completely? Was your reaction at the time "never again", or was it "this could get better", or was it something else entirely? If you're not going to take your heroine on the same journey as you went on to (I hope) a satisfying sex life, at least signpost that road!
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you read Mike Riddell's "The Insatiable Moon"? That has a wonderful scene with two angels sharing a joint after having sex whilst they were supposed to be helping a minister prepare his sermon. And a married woman's sex-life is revitalised after extra-marital sex with somebody who might be the second coming of Jesus, might be an angel, or might just be a mentally ill tramp. I understand that on the basis of that novel, Riddell was invited to leave his post as a theology lecturer for a Baptist seminary. I think you'd like it.
     
  20. Ecksvie
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    I think it's going to be in the skill of describing it. I want it to be realistic, but my story is in first persofn so I can easily describe it as "it hurt but..."

    There'll need to be more emphasis placed on the mental than the physical, I can see that now. I hadn't thought about it before, so I'm glad I started this thread.

    I think some research will be necessary to see what other people have experienced. Everyone is different, and I know not everyone was like me where it was still hurting around the 6th and 7th time. God knows I love it now, but it was a while after I started before I could properly enjoy it. I don't want to scare people off forever, because the description of my own first few times sounds like a horror story, but I want people to have realistic expectations. It did hurt, but there were good physical and emotional things that came with it as well - I think that's the road I'm heading for.


    I've not heard of that book before but it certainly does sound interesting! I'll have to look that one up.

    I'm gonna take notes from this thread and go back to them when I get to the end of my book. Maybe write a few alternate endings if necessary.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ain't that always the way with sex? That's why we men have so much trouble. ;)
     
  22. ManhattanMss
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    I think sex comes in various packages--whether it's one's first experience or last night's. Whether physical "pain" is the salient quality of first-time sex has quite a lot to do with attitude, preparation, expectation, and physiology--one's own and that of the partner. More likely, it might be expected to be awkward the first time, given the first experience is what it is, and no amount of explaining or detailing anyone else's experience is likely to change that.

    Point is, I don't know any reason to focus on physical pain, per se, in order to convey a message of hopeful anticipation for further improvement. Why not just focus on awkwardness, which seems to me would more likely be universally understood, whether one had ever had first-time sex or simply looked forward to it or planned to avoid it. Besides that, "awkwardness" can be at least as "painful" an experience as physical pain that might (or might not) be associated with sex--first time or otherwise. "Awkwardness" might even be a very real part of "first time" sex with a new partner, regardless of how much experience one had.

    I keep thinking about a funny story my sister told me. (There might or might not be a tie-in with respect to the theme of your story centering around the physical pain of first-time sex when that's not necessarily universally so.) Anyway, she and her husband had always encouraged her son to talk to them about anything at all, including most especially sexual encounters--mainly protection. Respect, of course, was part of the conversation, and thinking about the potential consequences and meaning of relationships and feelings, I'm sure. But certainly the importance of protection and consensual decision-making would've been at the top of the list.

    Good. Case closed. Discussion over. "He can always come to me" opportunity squarely in place. (I'm guessing this was what she imagined as the great benefit of this open line of communication, which probably felt pretty satisfying in contrast to the experience of not having had such a pipeline to our own authoritarian parents).

    So when her son had sex the first time (in high school), he sat his mom and dad down and described the whole thing in pretty great detail. It was apparently wonderful, incidentally, both for him and his girlfriend, and they fully intended to continue their sexual relationship. My sister really hadn't given much thought to what conversation came next, having been given way more information than she ever anticipated (or really needed to know). After the revelation, she now had the two of them madly in love spending time in her son's bedroom, and elsewhere, and she could no longer simply wonder what they might be doing up there (though she was pretty sure they were enjoying it).

    (I guess I'd file this under: "Be careful what you wish for.")
     
  23. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    I haven't read through all the replies yet, so I apologise if this has already been pointed out.

    If she was raped, then technically this experience would not be her first time. And if she was raped, chances are it would be very rough and unpleasant, where as her 'first time' would be gentle, caring... blah blah.

    The way I see it, it would be very realistic to assume, that since she has been forced into unpleasant, painful sex before, this would have eliminated some of the 'first time' pains one would normally experience.

    I say this because the character in my story was molested as a child and there is a scene when she is older where she compares the 'first time' sex experience with her girlfriends at school. I have noted in this scene that she didn't experience the pain and/or bleeding like her friends. This is a reminder of what the offender has taken from her... her virginity, sensitivity.... if that makes sense.
     
  24. digitig
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    "Almost raped" was the wording.
     
  25. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    You're right. Apologies.
     

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