1. Beepbookgirl

    Beepbookgirl New Member

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    Help Writing an Abusive Relationship

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Beepbookgirl, Nov 23, 2021.

    I have a character (the main character's best friend) who is stuck in a highly abusive relationship with the major villain. He has admitted how abusive the relationship is, but the main villain has lots of political power and can get away with a lot of awful things, including physical abuse and sexual assault. The villain's public persona is very charming and charismatic, so no-one will believe the victim if they said that they are violent or a drunk (the villain's main weakness is a heavy reliance on alcohol and drugs, it becomes very important to several plot points later in the story). Their are a lot of important plot points that revolve around this, but I'm really struggling not to make it too cliche, something I don't normally have problems with.
    Does anyone have any tips on how to write this without it being too overly cliche?
     
  2. evild4ve

    evild4ve Contributor Contributor

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    Sensitivity: depending on the audience or market, as many as 1/4 of readers could have life experience of these things, so I'd suggest research is the area to focus on and the main way to prevent reliance on cliches. But it's often an area that many writers, or the OP included, unfortunately will have researched-by-living. I'd suggest there is an initial decision: is the story worth dredging these things up for real people (or the OP included) first-hand, or should survivor stories be got out from the library?
     
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry too much about the situation itself being a cliche. It's such a common situation that it can't help that. Many story situations are like that though, and what the author can do to break away from a cliched feeling is to write it in a way that isn't itself cliched. Bring your own fresh perspective to it.
     
  4. Asterania

    Asterania New Member

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    I believe as long as you're mindful of the abusive partner's reasoning for behaving that way, you should be fine. It's all too easy to write abusive people as two-dimensional villains, only cruel because it's simply their nature. But the majority of abusers feel justified in their actions -- whether it be due to destructive egotism, substance abuse, or simply a reflection of their own past.

    I would argue one of the only exceptions are those suffering from behavior-altering conditions such as bipolar disorder or CTE. Often when these people are able to step back from their abusive mindset they're remorseful.
     
  5. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Slaintѐ mhaith Contributor

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    I'd suggest there is an initial decision: is the story worth dredging these things up for real people (or the OP included) first-hand, or should survivor stories be got out from the library?

    Oh, by all means, let us remove from libraries any stories that may trigger harsh memories in survivors of abuse, While we're at it, let's remove The House at Pooh Corners (poor Eeyore is obviously in the grip of serious clinical depression and reading about his gloom might dredge up bad memories for someone), Lolita (child rape), Anna Karenina (Suicide), Alice in Wonderland (animal abuse- poor little Bill), and all those depressing war stories like MASH that could trigger PTSD. The Bible has got to go. It has something to trigger everyone.

    Suggestions of censorship obviously trigger me.

    To the OP: appallingly common situations are not necessarily clichés. Complex characters who are not wholly a product of either abuse or bad habits are important as is having a plot that moves toward a climax and resolution. Producing a litany of horrific incidents may mirror real life, which can be unrelentingly grim and plotless, but stories require contrast, variety, and balance to be readable.

    In nine years of being a victim services first responder for LE, I've seen a lot of victims and heard about a lot of perpetrators. There are many commonalities, but what strikes me every time is the unique personality of each person. That personality may be suppressed or subdued by the crisis to which we're responding, but it is always there. What makes the abused person in your story different from all other women secretly abused by socially well-placed husbands? Why would we care about her if we weren't taken up by her disastrous situation? What reserves does she have?
     
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  6. evild4ve

    evild4ve Contributor Contributor

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    How does suggesting the OP gets a book out of the library suggest censorship?
     
  7. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Slaintѐ mhaith Contributor

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    I misunderstood you. I read your post as saying such stories upset people and should be removed ("got out of") the libraries. Having you explain that you meant the OP should get a book (check a book) out of the library makes me see you were suggesting not interviewing real people, but checking such stories from the library. My apologies.
     
  8. Diana Baird

    Diana Baird Member

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    I have no actual tips on how to write it, but, as a health care professional, I would strongly suggest that either as a forward or appendix, resources be provided. An author that I follow writes MC with issues such as sexual abuse, child abuse, PTSD, and always has resources listed.
     
  9. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis Survivor Contributor

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    I agree with what I saw a couple times above, that what is unfortunately a relatively common situation is not a cliche simply because you are describing it; the issue is how you write about it and the characters' reactions, not simply painting a surface picture; if your characters feel real and human, then it's not cliche.
     

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