1. emconcetta18
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    emconcetta18 New Member

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    Theme Writing About Controversial Topics

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by emconcetta18, Jun 14, 2015.

    I've recently ran into an issue with my plot and I'm hoping some other, better seasoned writers can give me advice.

    My main character is a prostitute by force and ended up in this awful situation because of his drug-addicted brother. The reason his brother chooses to sell him goes back to an issue years in the past. As a young adult, my main character was raped by the neighbor. His brother is so sick in the head that he decides to exploit him further and benefit from it.

    Last night, I wrote the chapter where my main character recalls of the rape, yet I'm worried that I'm not writing this situation properly. I know this is such a serious topic and I don't want it to come off as insensitive or incorrect. Despite the issues my book deals with, it's not written in a sexual way at all. It focuses mainly on my character's emotions, not the actual actions that are taking place. I'm still nervous it's not right, though.

    Do you have any tips for when it comes to writing chapters like these? I've done some research, yet all I've found are people insisting that these topics should be avoided in stories. I can't remove this scene, though, as it's very essential and the base to my entire plot.

    If I'm going to keep a rape scene in my novel, what are some things to avoid?

    Thanks a ton!

    ~Em
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say you should avoid having it be gratuitous, and avoid having it be designed for titillation. Sounds like you've got that covered.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hi there! Welcome to the forum! :)

    As for your questions...

    Sounds like you're on the right track. Put yourself in her shoes and you should be fine. I don't think anybody needs to spell it out to you that rape is a horrific crime so her thinking back to it won't be a nice ride for her or the reader. One tip: it's not fun to recall that stuff. It can get buried deep down so that the memory doesn't ruin what little happiness there might be in your life. You don't wanna think about it. You wanna make it go away. Yet somehow... when someone asks you about it, it can be surprisingly easy to talk about it. Even in a cold, pragmatic way. Okay, this is what happened. It's like explaining a scene in a movie.

    But that's just one approach to it. Oh, another thing: memories get fuzzy or mixed up. She might remember things that didn't actually happen or details that seem super vivid, like it must have been there, but later realize they don't add up. You weren't wearing those jeans after all 'cause you got them for Christmas two months later. Stuff like that. But again, this is just one way of looking at it. I'm sure there are other ways, other perspectives, and different experiences.

    I guess as for how to write it, my tip would be to kind of like... keep it real? It might seem artificial if you spend ages working on some beautiful, beautiful, complex metaphor while for the character the situation might just be what it is. Pain, humiliation, helplessness, vulnerability, self-loathing, anger, etc.

    As for people insisting these stories should be avoided... Yeah, fuck them. This is your story. Your rules. I think what they may have meant is that authors shouldn't use rape or basically any mindless violence as the only tool to develop a character 'cause that's a fairly simple solution and can lead to a one-dimensional character. Doesn't sound like what you're doing here, so even those critics should be okay with it. If you happened to care what they think to begin with.

    What I just mentioned above about using it as the only tool to develop a character. Also, gratuitousness, but that's a given. You're seeing it from the victim's POV, so she isn't going to think it was sexy anyway, so you should be fine. Although, even this is not an absolute no-no. If you've read Sapphire's novel Push, you know what I'm talking about (Precious thinking back to her father raping her). If you've heard of the Vagina Monologues, you may have also heard of the infamous "good rape" line. So, in essence, there are many ways to discuss rape and its effects on the victim.
     
  4. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mixing up details is very common, as KaTrian said. Another common phenomenon is the victim mixing up or being unable to remember the chronological order of events. And of course traumatization in general can have a whole slew of negative effects both short-term and long-term.
     
  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is the rape victim male or female? From what you write, it looks like it is a man.

    So long as you are writing about the victim's recollections it is unlikely you can be insensitive. Everyone reacts to trauma differently. A man is less likely to immediately expose vulnerability when talking about something like rape. Even if the victim's recollections are critical of his/her own inability or failure to prevent the rape, that is still a valid mental state. There is more likely to be a reader problem with how the listeners respond.
     
  6. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I feel you mate. I'm working on a project (so far, called A Girl Named Violet) about a girl named Violet who is an orphan that lives in an abusive foster home. A dysfunctional marriage, the stepdad a pedophile, and the stepmom a histrionic and narcissistic bitch.

    Anyway, she gets burned with cigarettes if she doesn't obey, and occasionally the dad sexually abuses her in seclusion. I have trouble writing those scenes. The words aren't that hard, but the concept ... it disgusts me. And it came to me like a fucking boulder: Isn't that what I'm trying to do, disgust the reader?

    Rape is gross. Don't try to make it beautiful.
     

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