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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Protagonist, perv, or both

   
Author Topic: Protagonist, perv, or both
babooher
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I have a story set in a world roughly parallel to the American Old West. Is it okay if the 20-year-old, male protagonist has a love interest that is 4-5 years his junior? Historically, I don't think there would have been a problem, but would this offend modern readers with modern sensibilities? They're not going to consumate anything, but I don't want my protagonist to seem like a sexual predator either.
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Edward Douglas
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Write what works for you and don't be so concerned with what others think or believe. If you are looking for a real life wholesome sort of example, being that you're writing a western, consider that Loretta Lynn was 14 when she married her husband who was 22 at the time. No one has ever suggested he was a perv.

Also, keep in mind that folks grew up faster back then, they had too. The Wild West was full of Indians, wars, diseases, pestilence, etc...So that meant they often died young, too, but not before starting a family, keeping a farm or ranch, mining for gold, running cattle, and so forth.


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Matt.Simpson01
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Edward is on the right track. The old west was a different world from today. Life expectancy was a lot shorter, so families were generally started a lot earlier then. a 25 year old female who was not married in the old west was considered an old maid. Also, starting a family young meant you could have a larger number of children to eventually help out with the homestead.
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Bent Tree
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If I am not mistaken the average age of marriage for a girl was around 13 in colonial West, as in many other countries at that time. I don't think it was even that uncommon to marry at twelve, but this is not comming from any hard research.

Subjects like this can be touchy to some, but then again there are many subjects that many have strong objections to. I would recomend telling your story as best you can. There will always be nay-sayers

I am trying to recall the movie that was even more modern then settling days in which the MC was about twelve or thirteen and was in love with an older boy. In fact they loved each other for a while before he fell for the older sister, and was then killed in a tractor accident.


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Bent Tree
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"The Man in the Moon"

That is the movie with a young Reece Witherspoon. It had a familiar situation as the one you described and it was pretty well recieved. I would just keep any potential love scenes at the same rating as the age of the character as a general rule regarding this subject.


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MAP
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Bent Tree I think that movie was Man in the Moon with a very young Reece Witherspoon.

On topic, I wouldn't consider the guy a preditor for the reasons others have given, but if your worried that others might find it icky, you could never give their actual ages and leave it up to the reader to decide.


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InarticulateBabbler
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In Colonial America, 19 year old unmarried women were on the verge of spinster. Typically, 14 year old girls married 30 - 40 year old men, and were mothers by 17.
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Kitti
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I really hope not, because I have far worse age discrepancies in some of my WIPs....

I think it depends on the culture you're setting your story in, and who your characters are within that culture. Have a 21st century American schoolteacher get together with a kid that young and you have trouble. Have a medieval monarch make a dynastic union with a kid that young and you're probably just fine.

The example you cited seems okay to me.


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KayTi
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most fantasy books I've read of late (true, I've been on a bit of a princess story bent...) have featured 15-16 year old women who are in the process of finding their one true love.

Provided you're making the setting rich and accurate, there should be no issues with readers feeling this is out of place. unless you have the love interest girl doing very young girl things and not in a place in society that would make it make sense for her to have a love interest (for instance, if she's still playing with dolls and other kids.) I would expect a person in a fictional society who is of an age old enough to be considered a "love interest" to be contributing in some sizable way to society, through work at home or outside the home, contributions to conversations (as is appropriate for his/her social standing and station) and otherwise acting not like a giggling 14 year old of today who is worried about her hair style, texting on her phone, and still reliant upon her parents for transportation, money, food, etc.


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babooher
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Thank you all! You have, as always, been most useful.
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Betsy Hammer
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This was a very good question, and I agreed with all the answers. Even in 2010, I don't think that a 20 yr old guy with a 15 yr old girl is such a hard sell. The far-reaches of my social circle tend toward the WT/gutter tramp, and I don't see raised eyebrows till the guy is 15 yrs older or more.

If you're still worried about modern sensibilities, you could make sure to show other marriages according to the 'norm' that IB described (30-40 yr old man/14 yr old girl). Your main character would look virtuous in comparison. Heck, her parents might even object to him because he's so young, and for good reason. How will they live? etc.


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Edward Douglas
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quote:
Heck, her parents might even object to him because he's so young, and for good reason. How will they live?

What a profound observation. You hit the nail on the head here, good job!


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Robert Nowall
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You gotta be leery of some things like this; certain groups take exception to certain things no matter how they're presented.

When I hung out in an Internet Fan Fiction community, there was a burning debate over a story about a character being raped. Seemed to me (and this was my opinion on the debate, not on the story or the notion) that the critics largely confused writing about a rape with rape itself. This debate went on, and on, and on, and on...and I think it discouraged the guy from every doing another fanfic.

Probably if you have a character who's of age having a relationship with a character who's under age, certain groups will see you condoning such activity, even promoting it, no matter what circumstances or cultural factors are involved...


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rich
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Oh, I love controversy...

quote:
Probably if you have a character who's of age having a relationship with a character who's under age, certain groups will see you condoning such activity, even promoting it, no matter what circumstances or cultural factors are involved...

Robert has a point, but...you can't write for those other groups. It's a form of self-censorship. We wouldn't have Lolita if a certain writer was afraid of what others would say.

And it doesn't sound like this would be any kind of Lolita, based on the time and the surroundings.

Besides, if Twilight, which (IMO) is all kinds of twisted subtext can be embraced by the very gender it belittles (again, IMO; I don't want to start an argument--which, I guess, is really a passive-aggressive way of starting an argument...where was I?) then you can definitely write about "young love" in the wild west.

I just hope it stars a young Jim West, before he met up with Artemis.


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Robert Nowall
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Not that you should cater to these groups, or should limit yourself because of it---you should just be aware of what you're getting into before you dive in head first.

I could have cited other examples---Harry Potter seen as anti-Christian and pro-black-magic---the "Lolita" angle to, well, Lolita or, say, the Anne Rice vampire books---an argument about rape in a Poul Anderson book---the precise nature of the relationship between Batman and Robin. As Jesus said about the leper, "There's no pleasing some people!"


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Probably if you have a character who's of age having a relationship with a character who's under age, certain groups will see you condoning such activity, even promoting it, no matter what circumstances or cultural factors are involved...


Theres no way to get away from that though. Most of those people are going to read moral offenses into almost everything. Most people realize that things were different in the past...though of course, most still believe that things "improved" and people became more "civilized" when we decided that people don't get romantic or sexual impulses till they turn 18, despite how ridicules that is...but the ones who are still going to care, are going to find something to get bent out of shape about. But especially amongst people who'd read speculative fiction at all, I dont think those folks are a large enough segment to be too concerned with.


Harry Potter is a great example. Even though it isn't even written like fantasy and even though the magic is mostly window-dressing that we don't even get many details about the workings or origin of, because it involves children at a magic school some groups freak out and say its trying to turn kids into witches. Even though almost any other fantasy novel is actually going to have a lot more information and detail about the nature of magic (in that story) than Harry Potter does.


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