1. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    Should I avoid having sexual abuse or rape involved?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by SilentWaves55, Jun 1, 2018.

    Considering my MC used to be an abused child soldier in a dystopian world, is it best that I leave out that he was sexually abused by the bad guy? Or can that be feasible if dine right?
     
  2. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Hi - I think if you're going to include it in your story, it has to be done in the right way.

    Firstly, ask yourself, does it need to be there? Would the story work just as well without it?

    Secondly, if it has to be there, can it be there in a way where you don't have to describe in any detail what exactly happened? Can you just allude to it, can you just have the character say it happened without spelling it out in minute detail?

    Lastly, I am not a fan of trigger warnings, and I don't and would never use them, However ... because you are dealing with something quite sensitive, then I think you should include a page at the back titled "For any further help" or "If you have been affected by any issues in this book" and then list a number of contact details for centres and groups that are set up to help victims or those affected by the subjects you've written about in the book.
     
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  3. saxonslav

    saxonslav Member

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    As long as you don't write the narrative as somehow justifying it (pretty hard to do), you'll be fine. Refer to this for ANY controversial/sensitive topic.
     
  4. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    But do trigger warn agents and editors. They don't want to be blindsided by that kind of stuff.
     
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  5. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's a good point as some agents/publishers won't take anything on that deals with those subjects. Same goes for self publishing on Amazon - there are some things they won't let you publish - check their fine print.
     
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  6. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    Thanks guys. I'll try with caution. If I include it I would not go into any details about it and just have it mentioned that something happened but NO giving descriptions of what took place, is that ok?
     
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  7. saxonslav

    saxonslav Member

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    Probably the safest way you could go about it, sure. Just don't let your fear hamper your writing quality/style.
     
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  8. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    I can try.

    It seems to of worked on Berserk anime.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  9. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    Ok so if I take these steps like in my above quote, will I then not have to worry about warning agents and editors about it? Since it really won't be that revealing but up to the readers mind to speculate and guess if the MC was sexually abused or not?

    This could also be a good reason for readers to question and speculate why the MC grew up so traumatized and when a small tidbit of detail is revealed in the story that the villain did something terrible to the MC when he was alone as a child soldier, especially his awkwardness interactions with others as an adult like with females for example. And they'll have to guess if, did he get raped? Beaten badly? Forced to do something he hated to? Sexually abused or tortured? Witnessed something horrific from the villain? All they will know is the main villain is a twisted sadist and does some pretty bad things to MC and others.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  10. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I have no idea. I live in a bubble where these issues are only addressed in protest art shows and huffington post articles.

    There is no child abuse in the Realm of Middle Earth.

    Child abuse is an important thing to shine light on. I'm not used to seeing it addressed in literature. Not sure what the right way of doing so is.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  11. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    But that's my point. We won't know what happened to the MC, it could be all speculation of what possible bad and terrible things the villain did to him as a child. So if readers want to believe he was raped then that is their choice to believe that. If they want to believe he was forced to kill another child soldier student in front of the villain that traumatized him than they're free to believe that as well.
     
  12. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This is interesting. I wonder if Susan Minot had to trigger warn her agent about Thirty Girls.

    Or if Nora Okja Keller had to warn publishers about Comfort Woman.

    Absolutely no sarcasm here. I'm genuinely curious whether or not these authors took the same cautions.

    In the case of Minot's novel, it was large(ish)ly concerned with Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. It was pretty common knowledge in terms of release pretense for this book that young girls and boys were sexually brutalized by the LRA.

    Same with Keller's novel about Japanese comfort stations during WWII. I suppose that any agent/publisher even fielding a manuscript would expect some explicit/upsetting content. But, I suppose those are both fiction based on real events, so that expectation wouldn't be present in @SilentWaves55's case.

    Then, what about Sapphire's Push? I wonder if Sapphire cautioned the agents/editors/publishers that there was some incestual rape, vividly depicted. God, that one was tough for even me to read, and I have a pretty high threshold for human depravity.
     
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  13. Hydraphantom

    Hydraphantom Member

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    I've got an MC that rape/attempted rape and clearly regretted it immediately after, I too am having trouble to decide if the MC should actually go through with it or stop at last second.
     
  14. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Why do you wanna know, huh?
    I'd say that you could include fairly specific details. But don't include detail about it unless it adds to the work, either because the specifics of what happened are plot relevant or because a certain amount of graphic detail is useful for establishing the tone of a scene to the set the tone of the work in general. I wouldn't suggest take risks with this subject, but it's far from untenable.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I would find it all but impossible to feel anything other than utter contempt for a character who committed rape. Unless you’re an incredibly skilled writer and creator of characters, more skilled than most published writers, probably not a good idea.
     
  16. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    As somebody who's also writing about a character who survived this kind of violence from a boyfriend when she was 15:

    Rule 1) Research

    Learn as much as you can about the thing itself, both from clinical descriptions and from personal testimonies, and about how the thing has been portrayed in other works of fiction (especially by writers who've lived it themselves). There are a LOT of mistakes that a lot of writers make who haven't lived this, and if this is important to you, then you'll want to avoid all of them, including but not limited to:
    • Using the MC's trauma to focus on the villain for doing it more than on the MC for surviving it.
    • Having every single thing that happens in the present revolve around that one thing that was done in the past (or, in the opposite direction, have the person be so well-adjusted that, if you don't show the act itself on the page, then the reader wouldn't know that it happened)
    • Portraying the act as something that the victim should've prevented
    • Portraying the act as an act of sex that happened to be unpleasant, rather than an act of violence that happened to be sexual

    Rule 2) Feedback

    You haven't lived through this, so no matter how much you read about it, you can't understand this as well as somebody who has lived it. When you feel like you've gotten a handle of what specifically you want your portrayal of this to look like, ask somebody who's lived through this if they could give you pointers on anything you're missing and/or taking in the wrong.

    And accept feedback, even when it's negative. If you end up disagreeing with a survivor that you've talked to, then you should have a very good reason for why you feel that you know better than they do, and a large part of that should be that you're agreeing with another survivor who disagrees with this one (and who has a specific reason for disagreeing).

    When you're writing about characters who are different from yourself, it's not your story. It the story of the people who are like the character (which you happen to be telling, but which you do not own).

    Rule 2.5) Not getting feedback

    If you ask somebody to look over your notes and/or your text, and if they say "No," don't push it. Just find someone else. People who've survived this do not exist merely for the sake of satisfying your personal curiosity.

    https://www.wired.com/2015/06/rape-scenes/

    There's a long and depressing tradition of subjecting female characters to harm solely to generate reactions from male characters; it's so common that comic book writer Gail Simone came up with a term for it, inspired by a scene where Green Lantern's girlfriend was murdered and stuffed in a fridge: Women in Refrigerators. If you've ever heard about a female character getting "fridged," that's what it means.

    The same is true of rape scenes, which so often end up being stories about how men feel about women getting raped, rather than how those women feel about their own assaults. As one woman noted after creating a statistical breakdown of rape in Game of Thrones, although the rapes of 117 women have been described thus far in the novels, "only two rape victims in books tell their own story rather than having a man tell it for them—and they're both villains." Too often, women and their abuse are treated as a tool for inspiring feelings, reactions, and character development in men; the story of their rape is not about them, or how it affects them: It's about a man, and how it affects him. (See: Theon's tears as Ramsay raped Sansa on Game of Thrones this season.)​

    https://www.apex-magazine.com/writing-about-rape/

    Official Writers’ Guide to Creating Clichéd and Offensive Rape Scenes

    Chapter One: The Rapist. ... But if you want a real challenge, try making your rapist sympathetic. Show how he didn’t really mean to hurt anyone. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the moment. Maybe he lost control. Maybe he feels really, really bad about what happened. Portray him as the good guy who just made a mistake, even if that means shifting the blame onto the victim.​
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
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  17. irite

    irite Member

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    Writing a scene of exactly what happened will be too much for some people to read if they haven't experienced it. If your not writing from personal experience it will not connect with a reader who has experienced it. By alluding to it the reader rates it on their own scale connecting them with themselves within their own personal boundaries of understanding.

    It's a bit hard to put a concept into words sometimes but if you rate abuse on a scale of 1-10 then a reader who's most abusive experience is being called useless, stupid, worthless and pathetic (and they still carry that pain with them.) Then alluding to level 10 abuse will draw that connection with the worst experience they have had. Everyones 10 will be different but they will all go to their 10 when prompted by the open ended allusion.
     
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  18. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    I'm really curious about this too. I give my readers content warnings but it's never occurred to me to do the same for agents. It's not that I think they'd be fine with everything; I've just never seen it done.

    I didn't realize this was satire at first and I was like WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THIS FORUM. lol. I love Jim Hines.
     
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  19. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I know they don't speak for everyone, but I was at a table at the Midwest Writers' Workshop a couple years ago, sitting with a couple of agents, and they went off on a tangent about how much they hate stumbling onto a rape scene or whatever, and if they weren't warned, they throw it in the trash. I can't blame them.
     
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  20. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    Good to know!

    The only time I've written a (non-graphic) rape scene was when I had an MC who was in forced prostitution, which was explained in the query, and I assumed that alone was going to make a lot of agents nope out immediately. So that was pretty cut and dry. I think what makes this stuff tricky is that triggering content often isn't graphic at all; for example, I have a scene in my current story which feels reminiscent of date rape to me even though no assault happens (a character gets someone else drunk and takes advantage of them in a non-sexual way). I've warned readers about that scene before, but I'd feel weird about including a note in a query that was like "btw there's a scene that sort of feels date-rapey even though there's no actual rape." That's the nature of triggers and warnings, unfortunately. There's a lot of gray area.
     
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  21. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    It actually does add to the plot, it would be apart of who the MC has become, play into his long term affects and trust with others and even his awkwardness or lack there of interest in persuing women or open up to allowing in any relationships.

    Thank you for the guidance. I will be sure I look into all this and see if it helps my writing into this.

    This however I'll have to disagree on as my main villain is supposed to be very unsympathetic and not care for what he's done. Too many main villains I see today who do bad things turn out to be good at heart or meant well for their actions and we then have to sympathize for them. My main villain is power hungry and selfish and he lusts to acclaim for further power and wealth. The sexual abuse is just his way of further abusing his power onto men women and children, especially onto children, showing how he easily overpowers them. His a non remorseful sadist who cares only for himself.
     
  22. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    Yes that's true but I myself have experienced sexual assault and abuse from a man when I was a kid, but I can't speak from my experience if it would relate the same to others, since others could be worse than mine but I could still add from my own experiences to the story right?

    Even if I give no details of what happened but small hints to leave the readers imagining and guessing what could of happened?
     
  23. irite

    irite Member

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    Some great information in your post.

    I've got a male MC in the process of overcoming his past, so what made him a victim doesn't need to be layed out. It's more about psychology of the after effects and being in the moment struggling to create a future. I feel like I'm venting on/attacking the reader at times (honest but harsh in how i put things). It's very hard to write for the reader and as you mentioned in your post it's an over used process of a female victim used for effect, but it still gets published or it wouldn't be over used. There's not much room for the male victim but I don't know whether this is because men don't put their story out there/women writing the male victim doesn't work or the general assumption that men can't be victims. It's hard to know how much is written and rejected when all we see is what is published.

    In keeping with the male victim idea of the thread... If it is being written, then, looking from the business aspect as any company will, is the male victim story rejected because it doesn't sell no matter how well written or because it's somewhat unexplored and there is no data on how well it will sell?
     
  24. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I would say yes.

    I would go as far as to say that an agent/publisher should be warned of anything touching on abuse of any kind, especially abuse aimed at children. That said, I would have thought that an agent/publisher would either read the book, or go into a detailed synopsis about each chapter before deciding to take it on or not, so that chances are it would come out in conversation then
     
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  25. SilentWaves55

    SilentWaves55 Active Member

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    I've been wondering all this myself too. I notice that we rarely ever see male victims of rape compared to females in stories. But female victims of rape doesn't seem to stop publishers from accepting it since it's continued to sell and being that my MC is a male victim, I'm not sure if any publisher would accept this as many are too unfamiliar with ever hearing such a thing happen. If we can accept showing females being raped and attacked from an early age or onwards in books, shows and movies, show girls being mutilated in horror movies, kids heads blown off, whether human or zombies than why is it so difficult to explain the possibility of a male raped victims even if it's a brief moment of mentioning "the villain did something bad to me as a kid" is so terrible to write.
     
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