Wednesday, 2 March 2022

IWSG March 2022

In a fractured and volatile world, one thing we can rely on is the first Wednesday of the month being the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Hosted, as ever, by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the aim of the group is to offer a place to share fears and insecurities about writing without being judged. Join us if you haven't already. Today's excellent co-hosts are Janet AlcornPat GarciaNatalie Aguirre and Shannon Lawrence!


Today's optional IWSG question is: Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

This is a pretty interesting question because I'm not afraid to take on difficult topics if it's what the story demands. I always think that whatever goes in has to serve the story rather than just being there for the sake of it, but that doesn't mean I don't worry about the possible reaction. Taking my recent WIP as an example, I had written a scene featuring an attempted sexual assault on my protagonist. Note "attempted"; the incident doesn't actually take place because my character deflects it by going inside the attacker's mind, which serves as character development because it's an aspect of her power she hasn't realised yet. However, when I sent the book to critique partners, I left out that part with a note that it was to be rewritten. This raised questions based on later references to the incident, and after a few discussions I ran the scene past them. They suggested that, with a few tweaks, it could be incorporated as an important part of the story. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

My reticence stemmed from a previous response from a CP for my dystopian series, who stopped reading after a rape scene. In hindsight, that was unnecessarily graphic, and I rewrote so this was only alluded to off the page, but in that case, it was also a necessary part of the story because it showed the controlling actions taken by a corrupt antagonist - but it was only one part of those actions. 

I have also written death and murder scenes, and these books are YA, but I believe it's important not to sugarcoat things for a younger audience or pretend that certain things don't exist. If it's handled sensitively, it can be a key part of fortifying, moulding and making a character.

If you're interested to hear others' answers to this question - I know I am! - you can find many more entrants to the IWSG here.

23 comments:

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
I'm glad your critique partners were helpful. It's good that you sent it out.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't think you need to sugarcoat things in a YA novel either. It's good you're tackling hard issues that fits with your story's plot and figuring out how graphic too be in those scenes.

Liza said...

It's good to have critique partners who can see things objectively. My writing group always challenges me, and my story becomes better for it...even though I wish for once they would say...this is perfect as is! (LOL!)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - it's good to see you're still writing and I imagine writing something that's not easy will make your work stronger - all the best - Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes a scene is necessary but it can always be toned to the right level.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Sometimes some scenes are extremely crucial to a story. Though like Alex said, we can always tone it down.

Helen said...

Good question..."Is the scene necessary?" Reading your answer to this month's question made me think of the ancient Greek theatre which always had the 'gory' stuff 'off stage'. It was necessary for the story, but didn't have to be directly viewed by the audience. I think I'll try to keep that in mind for future writing. :)

Patricia Josephine aka Patricia Lynne said...

It's rough when a necessary scene is also a heavy or horrible event. Things like that mean you might want to include a trigger warning or something.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Rape scenes are a trigger for some people, so off-screen is best if nothing else in the story is strong R-rated.

Leigh Caron said...

Sounds like you found the right way to handle that rape scene. AndI agree...as long as a scene is necessary, I think it can be used. I respect your sensitivities.

cleemckenzie said...

Where would we be without our trusted critique partners?

Kim Elliott said...

Sometimes It can be a mistake to omit a crucial plot point just because it is shocking. I’m glad you found a way to keep it by having it happen off page. That sounds like a good solution. In some cases, sugarcoating can be more harmful than facing harsh truths.

Diane Burton said...

Always listen to the advice of other readers. Listen, not always follow. Make up your own mind.

Liz A. said...

This is what content warnings or trigger warnings are for. I know I wouldn't want to be blindsided by scenes like that, but sometimes they are necessary to tell the story. It's good to have CPs that can help.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

While it's good to tackle difficult issues, it's also good to tackle them with sensitivity. That's why critique partners are soooooo important.

E. Arroyo said...

Harm to a minor is always a sensitive issue. Rape, incest, abuse. I've seen a lot of agents put disclaimers that they won't look at certain scenes. I agree with the others that it can be toned down and still make an impact in the story. All depends on the message you're trying to get out there and where you'd want your book to fall on the bookshelf. And critique partners are the best.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I don't believe any topic should be off the table if it's handled sensitively and is important to the plot.

The scene I battled with for a very long time was whether my protagonist (a serial killer) should kill again. I wanted them to find happiness with this other character, and tried so hard to prevent them doing it. But in the end...😔

Melissa said...

My debut western has an attempted rape, and my second one has and attempted rape and a past rape relived in a dream. I don't shy away from graphic content if the story calls for it, but I do put a content warning after the story description on the retail page.

J Lenni Dorner said...

I have a "nearly" non-consent scene in Fraction of Existence. It doesn't happen because the guy gets killed (super killed, and all his friends too) before he manages to do things.

There's an opening scene where there's nudity in Proof of Existence and I was struggling with it, but I finally figured out how to resolve the complications. That's what's great about fiction, we can find a creative fix to most block-problems.

Hope you're having a great day! My latest blog post has my theme for the April #AtoZChallenge (I'm writing speculative fiction and looking for prompts).
At Operation Awesome we have the #PassOrPages query contest going on (friends or enemies to lovers Romance).
Looks like I'll be very busy the next few weeks!
March quote: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." - Mark Twain

Mark said...

There definitely has to be a balance between realism and romanticism, but also there are some topics readers just don't enjoy reading, so it all depends on the story being told.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Nick! It's not always easy finding a balance but you have to go where your story takes you. A graphic rape scene might just be too graphic for some to read. Being guided by CPs has gotten me into trouble. Now I'm learning how to trust my instincts to save me rewrites!

H.R. Sinclair said...

Things happen, life happens, there's no way around that, but yeah, in stories telling it the right way can make a difference.

Heather Musk said...

I found your post really interesting, thank you. It's helped me to see that not all topics need to be off limits, but they do need to be considered carefully and how they contribute to the overarching story. Having them happen 'off-scene' is a good option to tone them down if necessary.