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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » alternatives to violence

   
Author Topic: alternatives to violence
Christine
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I'm writing a scifi novel at the moment tha, in general, I'm really enjoying. As with many concepts, the concept leads itself to a world full of violence. In fact, I just found myself cornered into a situation in which I think a sexual assault might take place.

I started to write it but it just doesn't feel right and I'm sure that the writing itself reeks of uncertainty and misgivings. I have also (thank God) never had anything remotely like personal experience to draw on in this situation and I'm afraid it's going to come across as entirely unbelieveable, even if I can get past the violent language and acts.

Has anyone else had this problem? Does anyone have any suggestions for ways I can write this without explicitly writing it?


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tchernabyelo
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I've got a whole slew of WIPs (a five-novel series) with a female lead character, set in a Renaissance-era society, and I felt that to be true to the milieu she would almost certainly end up in danger of being raped; any woman who puts herself into a male-dominated society and threatens to be successful is taking that risk.

I do, however, feel incredibly uncomfortable writing those scenes. I've done one that is pretty explicit; with the others, I've mostly tried to work it so that the threat is there, and pretty obvious, but she works her way out of it using the traditional combination for any MC (intelligence and a bit of luck...).

I have to admit, sex scenes as a whole are a real problem. Going into detail just feels too much like trying to write erotica/pornography; using euphemisms just swings disastrously into bodice-ripper territory; but glossing over it doesn't work, because it's something that's very important to the characters involved, and something that allows the reader access to them at a very deep emotional level, illuminating their character.


I guess this means I don't have any answers but I'm very interested to see what input there's going to be on this thread...


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Elan
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Christine, I worked for a while as an advocate for a program geared toward victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I also spend time working for the Violence Prevention program for the county health department.

There is a book called "The Gift of Fear" which I highly recommend to men and women alike. The author is Gavin de Becker.
http://www.gdbinc.com/books-gof.cfm

De Becker has been studying violent behavior throughout his career. Violent behavior is usually preceded by clear warning signs... and not ones you would normally think are warning signs. He has put together this book detailing the Pre-incident Indicators (PINs) that determine if someone is dangerous. In a world with increasing incidents of workplace violence, this is excellent personal information to have, not just good research for a story.

From a writer's standpoint, these warning signs are valuable to make your character's attack feel more real. I have the book, but it's still packed in a box somewhere (I moved recently). My memory is inadequate, but some of the PINs I remember are: the rapist cultivates the victim's trust by aligning himself with her. He calls this "forced teaming." Some examples would be a stranger offering to help you carry something, making comments that paint a picture of "we're in the same boat" ie "We sure are having bad weather" or "we should do xxx"... the idea of the "we" here is that it immediately begins to disengage the victim's natural sense of suspicion. Another PIN that really struck me is that a violent offender is often very charming. De Becker said: "Think of charm as a verb, not a trait." This person is DOING something... he's deliberately manipulating your emotions. He's trying to CHARM you. This facet of abusive behavior is prevailent among domestic violence abusers. Another PIN is "too many details." De Becker: "When people are telling the truth, they donít feel doubted, so they donít feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people lie, however, even if what they say sounds credible to you, it doesnít sound credible to them so they keep talking. Every type of con relies upon distracting us from the obvious. Catchy details are a way to create a false impression of familiarity, that you know the person. This is a way to force a premature sense of trust from someone."

De Becker stresses that most victims have an initial gut instinct reaction when they are around this human time bomb. It flies against logical thought because the person is deliberately undermining your natural sense of distrust and fear. Victims tend to go with their logical interpretation of events: ie "It's just my imagination. He's done nothing to hurt me. He seems to just want to help." De Becker says that fear is a gift. Don't discount it. I know this instinctual reaction is a fact; one of the victims I worked with told me she had an instinctual knowing in her gut the first time she ever met her abuser that he was dangerous and bad news.

I have a personal belief this instinctual "gut feeling" is a divine nudging... most people have had that sense at least one time in their life, an "uh oh" that causes them to avoid a potentially horrific event. I remember once making an instinctual choice to stop at a yellow light instead of running it, as was my normal pattern. Microseconds later a car came ripping through that intersection at about 70 miles an hour, followed by a cop car giving chase. I would have been killed had I not stopped. That was a gut feeling I obeyed.

From a "been attacked" standpoint, a rape victim may experience a variety of symptoms. You can learn more about it by reading this:
http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/sjrp/publicat/rape.htm

Showing the emotional fall-out will be important to make it seem real. You don't have to detail the attack. You only have to stop the scene at the point where the victim realizes, "Oh shit," and pick it back up again after the attacker is gone. In fact, it's far more powerful that way. Readers have a hard time with this type of violence. The power is in the aftermath, the emotional reaction of the characters.

Before I forget to mention it: the majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows... these are called acquaintence rapes, or sometimes date rape. I believe the statistic is 70% of all rape. (at least in the USA). But the good news is, statistically, the number of rapes are going down. I believe that is a result of more people recognizing what rape really is (many people deny that someone who knows you could rape you), and because women are becoming more saavy, and refuse to be lured into dangerous situations.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited May 23, 2006).]


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pantros
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If you take a situation that would, if it followed our preconceived notions of such a society, normally lead to rape, and give it a reason to lead elsewhere.

Rescue her before the situation occurs if you are not feeling that a rape is needed for the story. have her assailaint collapse from a heart attack in the excitement of his sick anticipation.

While sexual assault is a real danger in any society. Sexual assault is not as common for people walking down the street as the media makes it out to be. The most likely purpurtrator of a sexual assualt is and always has been, someone the victim trusted.

You are the creator, the controller, change the circumstances to make the violent outcome less likely. But, if the violent outcome is necessary for your story, you might just have to write it.

[This message has been edited by pantros (edited May 23, 2006).]


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Christine
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Elan -- you are just a fountain of good information. In my case, the sexual assault is more of a prison gang-rape thing, but I'm intrigued ineough that I might get that book anyway.

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Doc Brown
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I have read a few stories with sexual assault scenes.

Unless you have a clear reason to make your reader suffer along with the victim, you should not write it from the victim's POV. See what happens if you bring another POV character into the scene. For example, the perpetrator could be a POV character. Or another POV character could witness the assault.

It's been a while, but I think Ken Follett did this well in The Pillars of the Earth. A young princess is raped by an evil knight while her kid brother is forced to watch. Previously Follett had established all three of them as POV characters, but he chose to show the scene through the eyes of the little boy. At the time the boy doesn't understand things as well as we readers do. Later we see how that event goes on to shape both of their lives.


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Survivor
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I have to admit, this is a question that I can't answer.

However, I think that I can give a bit of advice. Fear is a very powerful emotion. And the most intense fear is of what might happen, not of what now is or what has been. So perhaps you should concentrate on the scene where the sexual assault "might" take place. Indeed, there is merit to showing a character dealing with the consequences of such an event, though that is a different question entirely. But the fear of an event doesn't seem to play much of a role in the moment of the event itself.

I think that it is a valid artistic choice to concentrate on the moment when something might happen and on the after-effects to the complete exclusion of the event itself. Think of a bomb hitting your house. When the bombs are falling, but it isn't certain that one will hit you, and afterwards when you're picking yourself out of the rubble, in these moments there is something interesting going on in your mind. But in the moment when the bomb hits, there's no time for any thought or perception. One moment the bombs are falling, and then, BANG! The next moment you're dealing with the aftermath.

That's an extreme example. An explosion takes less than a second, most sexual assaults are considerably longer. But it isn't just a matter of time. Adrenaline doesn't just speed up your muscles and reflexes, it suspends certain rational processes. You may relive the event in horrific detail in memory, but in the moment itself you probably aren't thinking much at all. I've been injected with adrenaline before, it's a very surprising sensation. Of course, it's not the same thing, but I think that the concept of portraying what happens before and after violence in preference to the moment of violence itself is workable in literature.


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wbriggs
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Thing is, a rape isn't just an event; it's something that changes the victim for years to come. If it's the victim's POV, or if it's the POV of someone who is close to what's happening and isn't a monster, you may not have to write the event (I think you can skip it), but you'll have to write the aftermath.
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Christine
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You all make excellent points about the aftermath being more important than the moment. Everytime I keep trying to think about what the character is thinking, in POV, I can't get past: "Ahhhhhhhh!" In fact, it is reasonable to believe that rational thought is so suspended as to make the moment pass by without any thought to capture at all.

That makes things a bit easier. (Well, it's not easy to write this happening to a character at all.)


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Survivor
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Yeah, but do be cautious about my advice. I really have no idea what rape is like.
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sholar
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I have never personally gone through anything like that, but I have lived with a rape victim. In general, we didn't talk about it. When she did talk about it, she didn't talk about the event, more the realitzation of what had happened and the before. I know another person who had an assault of some sort but I don't know if the guy succeeded or what because again, that moment is skipped from the story when she talks about it. So, skipping the actual attack makes sense to me. As far as after events, my roomie was much more safe, practiced the buddy system, didn't drink much in public, focused more on school, kept busy. Did not talk about what happened much at all. Told us we couldn't hunt him down and castrate him, though that was before the judge let him off (boys will be boys and he was drunk).
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Kickle
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In my novelette which is going to be published this summer, my POV is raped. I chose not to show the rape itself at the time it occured. I showed how the rapist made her feel before the rape, I hinted that rape was a possibility and then though the rest of the story I showed how the emotional fallout taints her view of other men, the world around her and causes small flashbacks. My story takes place in the mid 1800's and the POV does not view what happened to her as rape, she thinks it is the right of the man (who is her employer) to take sex from her. In return she learns how to take advantage of him. To me, rape is not as simple as a single type of violent act. Each rape happens to an individual male or female, and each victim's reactions are individual and universal at the same time. Also there are different types of rapists.
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Elan
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quote:
boys will be boys

I realize you said that tongue in cheek, but I have to say that statements like this make my skin crawl, in regards to sexual assault. Criminals will be criminals. The men I know would never rape a woman, whether they are drunk or not. I suspect most men wouldn't consider a rapist to be merely engaging in a "boyish" prank.

Rape is a difficult crime to prosecute. Too bad so many people, like the judge you cited, accept excuses like "Whoops! I got drunk!" for criminal behavior.


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hoptoad
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This may sound naive or obvious, but is not about wanting to have sex with someone. It's more about exerting absolute control over someone and often about having the power to destroy that other person.

The horror is that the rapist sometimes views the victim's crappy life as a result of the rape with some sense of accomplishment. 'I did that.' Especially if the assault remains a secret.

The longer and worse the victim suffers the more potent the rapist can feel. The more powerless the victim becomes/seems the more 'successful' (for want of a better word) the rape.


PS: Sometimes a third party will discover the assault. Keeping it a secret only preserves the power/powerlessness structure BUT with the third party gaining a degree of power too. That sort of secret and the power a secret like that gives the keeper can seem attractive, but it is a canker. The only way to dismantle the structure is to expose it.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited May 23, 2006).]


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wyrd1
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I know a person who was a rape victim. She doesn't like to talk about it, but she has to me. She talked about before, and how she struggled until the back of her head hit a wall. She's not very fearful of men in particular but she is definitely cautious about the situations she puts herself in. She didn't give a name and asked politely fo no one to hurt the jerk. Of course five years after that incident she kneed a would-be rapist square in the nuts, the wimp ran and was caught a week later in the same parking lot. The surprising thing is the guy who got caught did it in the middle of the day.

[This message has been edited by wyrd1 (edited May 23, 2006).]


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hoptoad
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Sorry, to be clear, I was talking more about those assaults that happen within families, closed groups and among those that are somehow acquainted. Not so much about those that occur outside those sort of circumstances.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited May 24, 2006).]


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Spaceman
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Christine, I think you have two choices. You can use subtletly and you can be blatant. Both choices have merits.

I've never been invloved in a rape on either end, but I have been harrassed, kicked around, and been in other unenviable situations. My imagination is active enough that I'm willing to write a rape from the POV of a female victim. In fact, that is very difficult to do without trying to protect your reader. I thought I was being graphic and my first reader (a WotF winner) told me that I was softening the blows that way.

I have also written around sex scenes with suggestion. suggestion is very subtle and must strike a delicate balance between showing enough and not showing enough.

Neither approach is particularly easy. It isn't my style to write sex scenes graphically. I think suggestion is far more powerful for that kind of situation.

But a rape isn't a sex scene. It isn't about something soft like love, it's an attack. Were you doing a screenplay, visual suggestion would work, but for prose, I don't think suggestion has enough impact.

A rape is something that, in the mind of the victim, is going to take a lot longer than the clock says it takes. She will experience every detail of what it feels like, how she struggles, and where it hurts, but she may not remember what her assailant looks like because her eyes will probably be closed. She will relive the attack many times in the following hours and days.

Christine, in my opinion, if you are going to insert a situation like this into your story, you absolutely must show it. It will be a very difficult scene to write, but when you finish it, you will have grown as a writer, and it will very likely be an incredibly powerful scene that will be among the best you've ever written. My own experience is that I try to avoid scenes that are hard to write, and if I bite the bullet and write them, they turn out to be my best writing. I think that's true for many writers.

Do your research, take your time, and get it from your head to the page.


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colorbird
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This article might be helpful:

http://samvak.tripod.com/abuse8.html

My first novella (a fanfic) involved a gang rape scene. Rape is not sexual, it is an attack, so that's how I did it. It helped that the MC had been awake for over 20 hours so I was able to put in that sort of disorientation that allowed me to gloss over a lot of the details. The aftermath is really important, too. There were physical things that happened due to this attack that completely changed her life.

If you want a link to it, let me know.


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Elan
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Keep in mind that just because you write the scene, doesn't mean you are forced to keep it in the story. Once you've written it, if it just doesn't fit or if you get back repeated critiques advising against it, you can always take it back out again -- but this time, with a greater sense of assurance you are doing the right thing.

I disagree with Spaceman that this particular scene HAS to be in. I commented earlier that readers have a hard time with this kind of violence. Same with child abuse scenes. There are just some things that disengage the vast majority of readers. A rape may be an attack, but it's not fisticuffs. It's a personal violation of the most intimate kind and I am not speaking merely about the physical violation, but the violation to the psyche of the individual.

Weigh the pros and cons of including the scene. Recognize the costs of putting the scene in. And go ahead and write it, knowing you might choose to take it out later.

I have used that technique myself, to write scenes that are critical to the development of my MC's character yet eventually unused. The writing of the scene was crucial to the story even though I left the scene out, as it allowed me to work through the MC's history, responses, and reactions.


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Keeley
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I've read Pillars of the Earth as well and respectfully disagree with what's been said. I seem to remember that Follett used the princess's POV during the rape until penetration, at which point she fainted from the pain and the POV switched to either the boy or cinematic omni... can't remember that part.

I'm pretty sure it was omni simply because I don't remember the author mentioning the rage the boy felt while he watched, though it's mentioned later in a different context.

I do remember that I hated each and every rape scene in that book, graphic or not and nearly stopped reading each time I came across yet another rape, suggested or graphic. It ruined the sex scenes where rape wasn't involved because none of those soft, cushy scenes had the power and strength of the rape scenes: it almost felt to me like the author was more aroused by rape than he was by sex. I learned a lot from reading that book about why rape should be avoided in a story.*

However, I have written a rape scene before.

Christine, if you feel it has to be in there and there's no way around it, it will be difficult to write no matter which POV you use, so I would recommend using whichever view best expresses the point you're trying to get across.

If you use the victim's, you and your reader will feel the helplessness and pain of the victim.

If you use the assailant's, you and your reader will feel the arousal and lust/power-trip of the assailant (another reason I had a hard time reading Follett's PotE).

(Using a third-party POV can be downright confusing if it isn't done well: often it comes across as cheating. I recommend not using it unless the story says that's how it wants to be written.)

I say, if there's any way you can get your character out of the situation, do it. And, as has already been said, if you must write it, you can always throw it out later.

* Note: Follett's a good writer and I stuck with the story because of the priest -- one of the few good people I've seen in a story who doesn't have to do bad things to have depth.


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pooka
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I don't know if you want to go with authenticity so much as what a reader would expect. Step back and consider that a very authentic account of, say, childbirth, is unlikely to be effective for a lot of readers. If they are men, they don't care. If they haven't had a baby, they don't care. If they are on the other side of the natural/epidural fence from you, they will be offended. Just bring in the emotions surrounding the event and let the reader imagine what it would be like to be in that situation. My two cents.
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Christine
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If you've ever read my opinions on the cussing argument then you know that I believe affect is far more important than authenticity. The purpose of fiction is to create a story for the reader.

In that way, I have decided to skip the scene for sure and I may even let my character out of the abuse altogether. It would dfeinitely be a challenging thing to do and I'm sure I will have the opportunity again, but I am second-guessing the real import of it in this particular story.

Either way, I think showing the scene itself is more likely to make readers put the book down than not showing the scene (those who wanted it may be disappointed but if they like the rest of the book are unlikely to walk away).

Thanks for your help, everyone!


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Spaceman
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Keely - there is a huge difference between one shocking scene and a continuous barrage of shocking scenes. The former can be used with great effect to bring the reader to a specific emotional state. The latter, to me, is just graphic for the sake of being graphic.

If somebody is raped once, it is traumatic. If someone is raped repeatedly over years, they go numb to it. It's routine. Look at the faces of some long term abuse victims. They are closed off from the world. You can see it in their faces. I don't think many readers want to live that through our characters. Perhaps that's why you struggled to finish that book.

Elan - Your disagreement with me shows that our writing is different, nothing more or less.

Christine - You know your story and the writer better than anyone else. It would be pretentious of me not to support your decision. I mentioned how I would write it, but then, based on what writing of your I have read, you and I write about as opposite as can be.

[This message has been edited by Spaceman (edited May 24, 2006).]


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Corin224
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So . . . here's my 2 cents worth.

It doesn't have to be graphic have the right effect. Readers will fill in the details that would create their worst nightmares if you communicate to them that it's what they're supposed to do. It also depends on what the effect you're trying to have is.

If you want the reader to be disgusted . . . show it from the perpetrator's point of view. Make the reader sympathize with the bad guy right up until that WTF moment where the realize they're sympathizing with a rapist. While it's an interesting effect, it can also turn a LOT of readers VERY much off of your story.

If you're wanting to emphasize the horrific nature of it, really ratchet the suspense up as high as it will go, do NOT have the whole thing be a surprise. Let us see it coming two chapters before it happens. Drop hints through character behavior patterns about what's about to happen, and show the victim walking right into it, even as you're screaming inside for it not to happen. For a reader, the suspense comes from knowing what's coming and being powerless to stop it. In this case, you don't HAVE to describe the whole thing. Just get it to the point where we KNOW there's no way out and then jump ahead to the aftermath. Like I said . . . a good reder will fill in the details if you provide the before and the after.

If you're wanting shock value . . . blindside the reader COMPLETELY. No hints dropped, tell a story about people watching an opera, or listening to birdsong while painting a picture. Then have this come out of nowhere. (and while I say don't drop hints, it STILL needs to be a logical (or rather, a predictably ILLOGICAL) series of events that leads up to the scene.) Again . . . you don't need details. Provide enough detail to get to the point where we know what happened, then pick up with the aftermath.

One final trick. The more violence your POV character experiences, the less detail you can get away with showing. For instance, a victim who is bound and gagged will have to notice and remember every detail for us to believe the story. One who's been first nearly suffocated, then slammed against a wall so hard they've nearly lost consciousness is going to have a hard time reorienting themselves. The disorientation itself is a great descriptor of violence, adding to the intensity even while it lets you off the hook for having to describe gory details.

Same thing if your rapist is the POV character. If the victim doesn't put up much of a fight, you're stuck having to show us his POV, which is not going to be pleasant to read OR to write. On the other hand, if she fights back, it's gonna piss him off, and aside from the distraction / disorentation of pain, all the though you have to communicate at that point is just blind rage . . . which can be just as plausibly disorienting as a blow to the head. And again, you're off the hook for gory details.

An important thing to remember is to keep asking yourself the question . . . "What would more detail add to the story?". If all it would add is more detail, you don't need it. If it adds believability or clarity, then you need it. Especially in a scene like this, you need to ask yourself that question after every sentence . . . maybe even every phrase.

So . . . that's my $.02. Hope it helps.

-Falken224 (posing as Corin)

(Just realized this whole post is moot, but I like it anyway, so I'm going to leave it. GL with the rest of the story Christine. I hope we all helped, even just a little.)

[This message has been edited by Corin224 (edited May 24, 2006).]


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Keeley
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quote:
there is a huge difference between one shocking scene and a continuous barrage of shocking scenes. The former can be used with great effect to bring the reader to a specific emotional state. The latter, to me, is just graphic for the sake of being graphic.

I disagree there's a huge difference, though I do agree that a single rape scene can be used to great effect, if it fits within the story. I just feel that a rape scene is powerful enough that it should be used with extreme caution and avoided if something less powerful can do the same job.

As for Follett's book, I think part of the problem I had with Pillars of the Earth was that I got turned off pretty early on in the story by something that surprised me.

SPOILER WARNING
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Early on in the book, there's a mason traveling with his pregnant wife and family, looking for work. They meet a mysterious woman: the mason wants her desperately but doesn't do anything because he loves his wife.

Follett does an excellent job showing the love between the mason and his wife. When she gives birth, you feel this incredible sense of awe for the mason's wife because of how Follett shows her through the mason's POV.

Follett then kills the wife off (she bled to death from the birth) and within that same day the mason, who I'm supposed to continue to sympathize with and appears to be a major character, has wild, passionate sex with the mysterious woman who was just hanging around, waiting for the wife to die.

Maybe it's a chick thing. I'd like to think a guy would at least wait two or three days after his wife's death before he started looking for someone else.

I guess you can tell, I put the book down for several days and didn't pick it up again until I'd cooled off. Luckily, Follett started off the book with a curse and a hanging, so I was able to focus on that mystery instead of the mason.

And just to clarify my previous statement on the rapes -- intended, suggested, graphic involving various victims and perpetrators -- in PotE: as much as I hated them, I was willing to keep reading because I know what women had to deal with in the Middle Ages.

Not personally, mind you, but enough.

In spite of all this I still enjoyed Pillars of the Earth and I'm glad I read it. The efforts of all involved to build the cathedral inspired me and I strongly believe that if you want to see how a person should write a virtuous, believable character, the priest in PotE is a shining example. My favorite scenes are with that character.


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Jeraliey
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Edit: Apparently there is a spoiler in this post. Sorry about that, Spaceman.

The best treatment of the subject I have seen recently was in the Neanderthal Parallax by Robert J. Sawyer. One of his POV characters is raped early in the series, and a lot of the story is devoted to the aftermath, in many regards.

The rape scene was shown, but not too graphically. The character's reactions seemed real, as did her motivations later in the story when she made decisions based in part on her emotional struggle as a result of the attack.

In general, it was really well done.

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited May 26, 2006).]


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Spaceman
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Please post a spoiler warning. I have specifically avoided contact with Hominids to avoid influence on my own work.

[This message has been edited by Spaceman (edited May 25, 2006).]


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Elan
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It's been many years since I read it, but Jeraliey's description reminds me of Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear," where the MC is forced to submit against her will.
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Kickle
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I too was thinking of "Clan of the Cave Bear". Of all the books I have read over the years that scene is still vivid in my mind while endless others have faded. I guess it is important to consider how such a strong scene will overshadow a story and perhaps make other scenes feel less important.

[This message has been edited by Kickle (edited May 26, 2006).]


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Corin224
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quote:

Maybe it's a chick thing. I'd like to think a guy would at least wait two or three days after his wife's death before he started looking for someone else.


Hell no, it's not a chick thing. I'd have put the book down probably permanently when I read that. Not out of any sort of moral outrage, but just 'cause I don't believe it. I mean . . . people will do that as a reaction to grief, but there's usually some other motivation.

In any case . . . no . . . not a chick thing.

--Falken224 (posing as Corin)


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pooka
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Why would you want to avoid them influencing your work? Wouldn't it be better not to make the same mistakes as them? That said, I haven't been reading up on the mental patient genre. But since I'm not taking a "the crazy people are the ones in charge" tack... Well, actually I am but I'm going more for a cosmically in charge than an institutionally in charge thing.
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Spaceman
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Pooka, because when I was actively working on my novel, I started reading Hominids and caught myself unintentionally lifting Sawyer's words and inserting them as my own. It was frightening how easy it was. If you read anything about Kaavya Viswanathan, you understand it's just better to avoid similar works while you are involved with a project.


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pooka
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I just used to use the excuse that I didn't want my genius polluted as an excuse to not read anything, including school assignments. Though apparently OSC cancelled a contracted novel after reading a book on the same theme, Genesis. He mentions it in the afterward of Children of the Mind. But that's one instance in a lifetime of reading, it would seem, several books every month.

P.S. Man, I was tired when I wrote that.

[This message has been edited by pooka (edited May 27, 2006).]


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Survivor
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I will say that I've never suffered from the problem of unconsciously lifting phrases/ideas from other works. So I can't really speak to that other than to point out that ignorance of the previous publication is no excuse.

I tend to think that I can always do better. I'd never be content with something I'd lifted from another source, plagiarism simply doesn't appeal to me because I'm too arrogant. You need that kind of attitude anyway to be a writer, so why not cultivate it? OSC said something about "thinking that other people should pay to read his words" and being "unfit for human company", pooka mentioned something about "look at me, am I not the cat's pajamas?" whatever that's supposed to mean. I think that they were both trying to get round to the same point.

Which is that you need to think that your own creative genius is special and better than that of lesser writers. You only read their work to find out what everyone does, what any one of them does alone is flawed and inferior to what you will do.


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Spaceman
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Since I have no intention of using anybody's words but my own, I will deal with it in the way that works best for me. What works best for me is to avoid similar works.
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Survivor
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I suppose that displays a different style of the necessary confidence.
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pooka
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You still remember that? Must have been the forward to my first memoir. I've yet to discover what's so great about cat's pajamas. Though I did see a picture of a cat wearing a lab coat once.
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kings_falcon
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The nice thing about being all powerful and omnipotent while writing is that you can uncorner yourself.


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Spaceman
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You can also get yourself so free that you get lost.
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Survivor
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Um, I think that the more important problem is that this omnipotence only extends to the things that you write, not to the real world in which you write them. For instance, you cannot simply write "this is the greatest story ever" and expect that to compel people in the real world to agree with you. I think for Spaceman's concern that could be phrased "this is the most original story ever."

The cat's pajamas comment stuck with me because I wasn't a writer when I first read it


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hoptoad
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It kind of worked for Tenacious D, Tribute
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Spaceman
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No, Survivor, that isn't what I mean. Using omniscient well is difficult. It is easy to talk directly to the reader. It is easy to leave the characters behind. It is easy to create a story that nobody cares about.

My point is that writing in full-blown omniscient is not easy to do well. That's what I mean by getting lost.


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Survivor
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Oh, well I was more responding to what kf said about being omnipotent. I suppose that she was referring to the original topic of the thread one way or another, and didn't get that we'd digressed a little. I don't know what omniscience has to do with anything, no doubt because I don't write in omniscient often enough
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Spaceman
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Maybe I'm the one who lost the trail.
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Survivor
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No, you're the one who originally derailed the topic.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Okay, this topic is hereby pronounced lost AND derailed.
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