Pulling Out All Stops.
“Do not be nice to your characters,” they say. “Pull out all stops. If it’s going bad, make it worse. Make them confront the dark, their worst fears.” And then you picture them throwing back their heads and cackling madly to a thunderstruck sky, fire blazing in the distance, raining soot and ash.
Oh, please. Do you know how often this gets repeated? It’s like when corsets were in style and women were told they couldn’t get a man unless they had a man-made waist. Why do you need to artificially throw bad things at your characters in order to make plot happen?
Plot does not consist of Bad Things Happening to Good People. That is not conflict. That is not even very responsible. If any of you readers are Christian, consider this. God does not make a list of everything that could happen to you and make it all happen to you at once. Not even to Job, and he had it really bad. You should not do the same to your characters.
One of the main reasons I have come to feel so strongly about this–is rape.
I am tired of authors thinking it is a great idea to rape their female characters. I am beginning to wonder if any of these authors (male and female) have BEEN raped. If they had, they would not handle the subject so brusquely to be thrown into the story as a “great plot element” for our heroine (or hero, if they’re feeling audacious) to deal with.
But these days it seems that it is quite within the fashionable norm to do so. I don’t know, maybe they look at statistics and wonder. They say, “Huh, look at how prevalent rape is in the world. I wonder if that means I should make it happen to my protagonist. Okay, that sounds like a good idea.”
Yeah, sure. To them, I say, “Look at the statistics. See how many people get murdered every year! Why don’t you let THAT happen to them instead.”
Please, authors. Think. Think of all those women who wish they could read your books, but instead–since they have been raped or abused–you throw triggers at them and then the rest of their week is ruined in the fight to recover themselves. Please, show some responsibility and realize that there are plenty of OTHER conflicts that can happen. Break the mold. Overcome plot fashion. Grow some creativity–and maturity. Let someone ELSE write rape into their plot. You can pick some other conflict. Stop hurting my friends.
Please help heal the world by not writing rape.
Give the victims of the world a safe harbor in which to lay anchor. Injured souls will benefit more from this approach than by any other. There is no depiction of rape (whether on or off the visual stage of the progressing story) that brings catharsis. It only retriggers the trauma.
If you are dead set on using the theme because of its prevalence in the world, show us how to be free of it, how to escape it, or how to defend from it. Or if you want injured souls to have a champion who understands them, put the event in a character’s past. However! Don’t let it happen. Anywhere. Not even on the page.
Remember, that with as many stories swimming about your head as you have, what you choose to write about is as important as how you choose to write it.
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If you want some personal statistics.
Number of friends I have had who have been raped or sexually abused: 10.
Number of said friends who are at the point they can talk about this relatively openly without triggering…2, maybe 3?
Number of book series I’ve stumbled into where rape/sexual abuse is an issue at some point during the course of the story, (aka not including the distant past of a character): 9 (different authors)