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Old 05-04-2012, 04:14 PM   #26
Barbara R.
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I'm afraid I'm with the camp that says you've sort of painted yourself into a corner with this rapist protagonist whose victim loves him anyway. I'm not going to repeat all their points, I'll just say I agree with those who say it's not the act itself that is (fictionally speaking) unforgivable (Kevin Bacon once played a child molester who ended up a very sympathetic figure!), but the authorial decision to "reward" the rapist with the victim's love.

But there's another problem as well, I think, and that's your decision to soft-peddle the rape by not showing it. If a story is about a man who does a horrendous deed and has to deal with it, I really think you have to show the deed in all its repugnant detail. That's what he did; that's what he has to deal with.

Good luck with this challenging project!

Last edited by Barbara R.; 05-04-2012 at 04:16 PM. Reason: Spelling errors due to caffeine deficiency
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:15 PM   #27
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I knew when I wrote "Now, I know," I knew, I knew, I knew that that generalization was gonna turn around and bite me in the ass.
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:23 PM   #28
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I'll just throw in something...

The issue to me, in all honesty--and I say this not trying to insult or telling you not to write it, just saying this to be forthcoming and explain why you may have gotten the reactions you've gotten--is that the story just sounds like it would make me feel dirty and tainted and bad and gross and horrible and I would thoroughly dislike reading it. Not for any literary, artistic, or rational reason. It just wouldn't sit well on a visceral level.

That is only an issue you should worry about if you intend the book to be a pleasurable experience that makes people feel good. It'll sell better, probably, if it's of that type. But if that's not what you intend, none of that matters. You write what you want to write--knowing that a lot of people will simply not read it or hate it as a matter of course, and a lot of people will have problems with it. Only you know what you have in mind and what you mean to convey. If it fits the story, then it does.

In short, this:

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kkbe, If this story is really important to you, you can shrug off the feedback that isn't of any use to you, and carry on making it the best it can be.

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Old 05-04-2012, 06:11 PM   #29
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My PC died this morning so I'm doing this on Kindle. Sorry for any wierdness.

THe thing which gets me is Cherry's reaction. IS Cherry in love or is it just the beleif he is? What is missing is his emotional reaction and that's from your language, not in what you are saying.

JUlie Bindal (I think) has written abou prostitutes and rape. Have you looked at anything like that?

I can understand why Cherry would love and/or go back to Dave, but he sems very 2d at times. zFrom everything you've said about thi book here and elsewhere, Cherry sounds simplified to the point of unbelievaility. How does he rationalise things? Has he been raped or mock raped before? He's a rent boy. It's not passing the lube and grabbing your ankles. finding clients is just one of his nightly problems. The streets are controlled by pimps.

I also think you need different betas. Ones who don't have a need to like the mc. As long as you do it well and acurately, you can put what you like in a novel.
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Old 05-04-2012, 06:53 PM   #30
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I know I've already said it, and usually in these kinds of threads people give so many "maybe you should read this" ideas that if you followed them all you'd have spent Ł200 and have your next few months booked up on research.

However, maybe you should see if you can source a copy of Disgrace so you can look at how the subject is handled there. I say that because at one point it's described from the MC's position so well that it doesn't even seem like it was rape, but then there's the reaction from the victim's friends, and rumours in his classes, and finally protests on campus followed by a tribunal...piece by piece the reader understands what he's done, but it's filtered through the stubborn mindset of our MC so well that for a while you can actually follow his reasoning and think the girl is over-reacting. It isn't until someone dear to him suffers a similar fate that he makes these connections, and even then his resolution is based more on his own worthlessness and place in a post-apartheid world. I expect your MC may be in a similar mindset at the time of his attack, and the true nature of what he's become only becomes apparent later.

I don't know if it's the kind of book you want to write, because like I said it isn't a warm feeling book at all. Not even slightly. It is, however, very realistic in my opinion, and exceptionally well written. I actually found myself reading the book frantically fast because I was desperate for some let up from events and for things to get better. I didn't feel I could go to sleep until something nice happened, but it never did. I understand you have a different ending, but the effect Coetzee achieves is remarkable for a piece of fiction and could serve you well prior to your MC's efforts to make amends.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:03 PM   #31
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FWIW, everything I've read by J.M. Coetzee made me feel dirty and tainted and bad and gross and horrible. But that's probably his intention.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:29 PM   #32
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I'm afraid I'm with the camp that says you've sort of painted yourself into a corner with this rapist protagonist whose victim loves him anyway. I'm not going to repeat all their points, I'll just say I agree with those who say it's not the act itself that is (fictionally speaking) unforgivable (Kevin Bacon once played a child molester who ended up a very sympathetic figure!), but the authorial decision to "reward" the rapist with the victim's love.

But there's another problem as well, I think, and that's your decision to soft-peddle the rape by not showing it. If a story is about a man who does a horrendous deed and has to deal with it, I really think you have to show the deed in all its repugnant detail. That's what he did; that's what he has to deal with.

Good luck with this challenging project!
I agree with this.

I'll add that it feels manipulative to gloss over the rape scene. As if you're intentionally holding back because you feel you'll never get the reader to buy into the rape/love story.

This is a HUGE assumption on my part. I realize that and am only sharing in hopes that it will help you.

Have you ever seen General Hospital? There is a couple -- Luke and Laura -- whose relationship was born out of rape. I've never seen the soap opera and don't know how the writers dealt with the issue, but supposedly that was the greatest relationship in soap opera history. I don't know if researching Luke and Laura's relationship will help you, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:02 PM   #33
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More comments, I see.

The relationship between David and Cherry is complex. Neither is all "good" or all "bad." It's not black and white, but without actually reading the thing. . .

What the heck: I went ahead and posted excerpts here:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/show...34#post7173134 Post #6.

Comments are welcome.
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:35 AM   #34
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What bothers me about you trying to transform a rape into a consensual relationship is that rape is about power not sex. Men/Women rape to gain control over their victims, not because they need to have sex. Rape victims can fall in "love" and sympathize with their attacker; this is called Stockholm Syndrome. It is plausible for your MC and the kid to "believe" that they have overcame the rape and are in a meaningful relationship, but it is not love and forgiveness and I doubt it could develop into a normal relationship. Victims of domestic violence believe that their abuser will stop and will change. But what's the percentage that do? VERY LITTLE and usually it is because the trigger for the abuse (ex: alcohol) is removed.

I don't know if you have the actual rape scene in your novel, but you may want to consider it, since it feels like your MC downplays the incident and yet obsesses about the kid. Show the obsession. He also seems more concerned with the gay label than the rapist label. Like I said, rape is about power. He should want this boy under his control. From the context, the MC sounds like more of an abusive spouse than anything else.

For example...

Quote:
Apparently, the kid had cried for hours. He’d been, literally, inconsolable. Physically, I’d caused no lasting damage, although he’d had to use laxatives and lubricants for a week.
If he LOVES this boy, he'd be thinking about how he wish he was there, rubbing the lubricant over his glory hole to ease the pain, kissing the marks caused by his aggression, etc. No, instead your MC is like "Oh, I gave my wife a black eye." Your MC is not reacting appropriately for the situation. If he CARES, then make him CARE. If he doesn't care, then the reader will have a huge issue connecting with him and understanding why the kid continued to have a relationship after the rape.

That said, I enjoy reading dark fiction. I would absolutely read a novel about a rapist as long as it is believable. I'm not sure that this relationship is believable. My all time favorite fiction couple is Hannibal Lector and Clarise Starling. Their relationship is about control. Hannibal enjoys pulling the strings, yet he also enjoys her rebellious nature. It is not a normal relationship but it is plausible.
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:25 PM   #35
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Meowsbark: I don't know if you have the actual rape scene in your novel, but you may want to consider it, since it feels like your MC downplays the incident and yet obsesses about the kid.
Nope, not the rape scene. Before, yes. I've posted part of that in Posting #6 (see above). It was enough, IMO, meaning, anything more would have been extraneous, violence on top of violence. Not my intent at all.

Quote:
What bothers me about you trying to transform a rape into a consensual relationship is that rape is about power not sex.
Rape is rape. In CHERRY, the rape is a pivotal point in the relationship between the mc and the kid. I've addressed that already, not going to rehash. As for rape being about power, not sex, no debate there.

Quote:
If he LOVES this boy, he'd be thinking about how he wish he was there, rubbing the lubricant over his glory hole to ease the pain, kissing the marks caused by his aggression, etc. No, instead your MC is like "Oh, I gave my wife a black eye." Your MC is not reacting appropriately for the situation. If he CARES, then make him CARE.
It's not that type of relationship, not then.

Quote:
I'm not sure that this relationship is believable.
Understood. Two options: Dismiss the thing now as unbelievable or, Read it for yourself, then decide.
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:33 PM   #36
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The quote below is illustrative of kind of a general perception I've gathered in your responses:

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Originally Posted by kkbe View Post
Understood. Two options: Dismiss the thing now as unbelievable or, Read it for yourself, then decide.
You're placing an onus upon people you're asking for advice, and who've taken time to give it. I don't believe that this is your intent, but it's certainly the message I'm getting.

You've decided to tackle a tinderbox subject as a plot element in your story. One set of beta readers has responded negatively. By and large, this set of respondents has responded negatively.

Your response has been to post portions of the story and direct these people there. I haven't looked at that, nor the responses there. But I can tell you that from where I sit, it's time to start considering where the real problem lies.

When one person disagrees, that's just a difference. When two disagree, that's just odd man out. Once you get to three and beyond...

See where I'm headed?

I think you need to reexamine how your characters are responding to this. So far, those you've had read it haven't had the response you expected. How many until you realize that "right" or "wrong" isn't going to sell a story no one wants to buy?
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:07 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FalconMage View Post
The quote below is illustrative of kind of a general perception I've gathered in your responses:

You're placing an onus upon people you're asking for advice, and who've taken time to give it. I don't believe that this is your intent, but it's certainly the message I'm getting.

You've decided to tackle a tinderbox subject as a plot element in your story. One set of beta readers has responded negatively. By and large, this set of respondents has responded negatively.

Your response has been to post portions of the story and direct these people there. I haven't looked at that, nor the responses there. But I can tell you that from where I sit, it's time to start considering where the real problem lies.

When one person disagrees, that's just a difference. When two disagree, that's just odd man out. Once you get to three and beyond...

See where I'm headed?

I think you need to reexamine how your characters are responding to this. So far, those you've had read it haven't had the response you expected. How many until you realize that "right" or "wrong" isn't going to sell a story no one wants to buy?

She's actually received a variety of responses, and yours isn't particularly nuanced. You aren't voicing a general consensus here.

What I think a lot of people are trying to say, not in so many words, is "NO NO RAPE IS BAD HOW DARE YOU?" Which is fair enough if that's your reaction to the story, but there's a line between "This is definitely not something I'd want to read" (a category that includes me) and "There is something bad and wrong about you if you write this and let me explain to you why rape is bad" that a few people are crossing.

I am not sure what the OP was looking for - reassurance of some sort, I guess. And she now knows without a doubt that there is no way to "sell" this premise to some readers. From a purely commercial standpoint, though, the fact that a story really squicks out some people does not mean it's unsellable. I can think of a lot of novels that handle rapist protagonists and even the rape-victim-falls-in-love-with-her-rapist themes with even less reflection than the OP seems to be trying to engage in, and yet they are quite popular. Whether that should be the case is another matter, but let's face it, the entire literary ouvre of many writers is full of squicky rapey writing, and I don't just mean in BDSM erotica, or even John Normanish sci-fi for that matter.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:10 PM   #38
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Quote:
Falconmage: The quote below is illustrative of kind of a general perception I've gathered in your responses:
Quote:
Originally Posted by kkbe
Understood. Two options: Dismiss the thing now as unbelievable or, Read it for yourself, then decide.

You're placing an onus upon people you're asking for advice, and who've taken time to give it. I don't believe that this is your intent, but it's certainly the message I'm getting.
Not my intent. Reiterating mccardey, who said:
Quote:
We'd need to read the book to be able to form an opinion.
FalconMage, you said
Quote:
You've decided to tackle a tinderbox subject as a plot element in your story. One set of beta readers has responded negatively. By and large, this set of respondents has responded negatively.
I'm not seeing it. I just reread the postings. I'm seeing four "positives," nine "maybes," four "no's," and eight responses wanting clarification, wondering, or simply commenting. The responses I rcvd. from beta readers is what prompted me to post my question here: if a person rapes somebody, but doesn't die or get the shit kicked of him, is that something readers won't be able to get past?

You haven't looked at the excerpts I posted. Your prerogative, of course. I suspect that even reading those excerpts, your mind is made up. I base that on your final statements:

Quote:
I think you need to reexamine how your characters are responding to this. So far, those you've had read it haven't had the response you expected. How many until you realize that "right" or "wrong" isn't going to sell a story no one wants to buy?
Having said that, I do appreciate your comments. I can't help but feel under the gun though, as this thread has morphed into something beyond the scope of what I intended. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:20 PM   #39
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Can I ask a question? How long has the 18-year-old been on the streets?

Because I think an issue that you'll really need to address, if you haven't already, is the fact that regardless of how remorseful or in love or basically decent your MC believes himself to be, he's just raped someone. And someone for whom (and he must know this, or at least suspect it, or he's going to come off as terribly selfish) rape, and the power imbalances rape encodes, have reached back at least to young adolescence - that's if he's 18 now and he's been on the streets long enough to toughen up, long enough to survive.

I wonder how you would make someone who would take advantage of such a wounded child seem anything but cruel and selfish - regardless of what he tells himself later, and regardless too, of course, of what Cherry says about loving him. (And that's another thing - a kid who's already a prostitute at 18, and who then professes love for the man who raped him, really should ring some bells for your MC. Would the MC believe it, if Cherry said that about someone else who had raped him? I mean you can have an MC who is entitled enough and emotionally cruel enough to convince himself of it, certainly - but if your question is would he be sympathetic?, my answer would have to be no. People aren't sympathetic without some emotional honestly and he'd have to lack that.

Because - he rapes "the kid". It's not a gentle act, and not a consensual one. He rapes him.

It would be a very tricky thing to bring your character back from, I would imagine.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:47 PM   #40
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lord, have mercy.

The kid was 14. Prior to that, foster care. The mc is imperfect, lots not to like about him but he's not "all bad." I'm not making light of the fact that he raped Cherry. Not one bit. What I'm saying is, he committed that heinous act. He regrets it. He cares about the kid. Is that a paradox? Nope. I've created this fictional character who is telling this story. As he does, it becomes apparent that he's not the nicest guy. He admits as much every now and again.

The rape is a pivotal moment in the story, but again,it isn't the story. Everything we know about Cherry is told to us by David Brandt. Everything. So. . .what inferences can you make from that?

Without reading my novel, everything is assumption and speculation. Perhaps I've fueled that by trying to defend my characters and their actions, instead of letting David Brandt speak for himself. You can like him or not like him, believe him or not, trust him or not, believe Cherry could love him after being raped or not, like my novel or not. . .

It's entirely up to you. I can see I'm not changing anybody's mind.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:53 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by kkbe View Post
lord, have mercy.

The kid was 14. Prior to that, foster care. The mc is imperfect, lots not to like about him but he's not "all bad." I'm not making light of the fact that he raped Cherry. Not one bit. What I'm saying is, he committed that heinous act. He regrets it. He cares about the kid. Is that a paradox? Nope. I've created this fictional character who is telling this story. As he does, it becomes apparent that he's not the nicest guy. He admits as much every now and again.

The rape is a pivotal moment in the story, but again,it isn't the story. Everything we know about Cherry is told to us by David Brandt. Everything. So. . .what inferences can you make from that?

Without reading my novel, everything is assumption and speculation. Perhaps I've fueled that by trying to defend my characters and their actions, instead of letting David Brandt speak for himself. You can like him or not like him, believe him or not, trust him or not, believe Cherry could love him after being raped or not, like my novel or not. . .

It's entirely up to you. I can see I'm not changing anybody's mind. Nor should I. Anyway, why would I want to?
Ok -first, I didn't mean to set you off, I was answering the question that you had posted. Secondly - yes, we have to speculate. We haven't read your novel. We don't know what you've done with it. Thirdly, I wasn't asking you to change my mind about anything, or to defend anything. I was taking some time to give you some input you'd asked for.

Final thing - I don't know you. If I knew your work and absolutely trusted you as an author, I'd read this. But the question I asked is the sort of thing I'd expect an author I trusted to have dealt with.

Good luck with it. I'll duck off now.
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Old 05-05-2012, 08:57 PM   #42
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Understood. Fair enough.
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:13 PM   #43
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Push the boundaries, I say. There's nothing wrong with a despicable character to whom you cannot connect or with whom you cannot identify in my opinion. DeSade did it, A.M. Homes does it, Easton Ellis does it, and so on. I don't enjoy their work, but so what? Others do. Just make the story entertaining. Your nasty, unlikeable protagonist might make it hard to sell your book, but que sera, sera.
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:06 AM   #44
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Oh, boy. You made me laugh, richcapo. It felt good. Tell you what I think: I think CHERRY's pretty good and getting better every day. I'm doing some revising and editing, due in large part to the wonderful feedback I've received from my betas and from AW's SYW posters.

I love my characters, I do. Warts and all, I love 'em. I think I've written a good story. It's interesting and what the hell, I may as well say it, pretty darn well-written. There's a rape in my story, and I know I handled it with restraint. I know I did.

So, am I an arrogant asshole now, or am I a writer who's writing better and whose skin is growing thicker by the minute, thanks to every single wonderful person who took the time to read my posting, talk about it, question it, and put in his or her own two cents?
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Last edited by kkbe; 05-06-2012 at 03:23 AM. Reason: "every single" = "his or her" not "their"
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:55 AM   #45
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I meant what I said with zero irony, so I hope you laughed in good way. And no, I don't think you're being arrogant. Good luck with the story.
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It was that bastard man’s voice that woke my father. Papu found himself back in his cell, lying atop a lush bed crafted of various male and female organs and his enemy's passions. Strong with that bastard man’s magic, the organs restrained Papu and sensually rubbed against him. Some xxxxxxx him and some xxxxxx with his xxxxxxx.

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Old 05-06-2012, 10:32 AM   #46
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I should have stated earlier that I used to work with prison sex offenders and I did read all the excerpts you posted.

So, when I said that the relationship didn't appear believable I was basing it on my experiences with actual sex offenders, whose crimes ranged from sleeping with under-aged girls to molesting children to raping. The motives for committing the crimes were generally consistent based on the crime. And though one or two of the rapist said they were reformed by Jesus, I wasn't convinced of their redemption - particularly when they were repeated offenders. Most of them raped multiple individuals. They enjoyed the rape. One rapist told me point blank that he should of killed the woman after he raped her because he would have received a lesser sentence. That was the part he regretted. Not killing her.

I commend you for writing about the topic from the rapist point of view. I think you can find an audience for it, but I can't imagine being satisfied as a reader with an ending where the victim and offender end up happy together. I'd throw the book. Burn the book. And probably never read another book by the author.

As a reader, I want some sort of justice. The rapist doesn't have to end up in jail, but I want karma to kick him in the ass. I think that's what your beta readers were complaining about. The lack of justice. Have you read The Lovely Bones? Although the child molester escapes police, he is punished in the end.

But regardless of my opinions, good luck with your book and your unorthodox approach. You do show talent in your writing.

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Old 05-06-2012, 12:05 PM   #47
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I can handle the novel including rape and the MC being a rapist. It's ok with me that the MC is not ultimately brought to justice.

There are two problems for me. The first is that the relationship between the MC and his victim turns out happy. I can't see a way in which this would make sense, and I can't get on board with it. Many others in this thread seem to have the same problem.

The second is that, based on your summaries and exerpts, I get the impression that you've done no research and don't know what you're talking about. You need to know what you're talking about.

Also, you asked for opinions but you don't want to accept them. You're trying to change people's minds. You are insisting that your novel is good and we'd know that if we read it. This is generally a bad attitude to have.
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:04 PM   #48
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Quote:
meowzbark: I can't imagine being satisfied as a reader with an ending where the victim and offender end up happy together. I'd throw the book. Burn the book. And probably never read another book by the author. . .As a reader, I want some sort of justice. The rapist doesn't have to end up in jail, but I want karma to kick him in the ass.
Never said they end up happy. Novel ends when Cherry disappears, so. . .

Quote:
SaronaNalia: There are two problems for me. The first is that the relationship between the MC and his victim turns out happy.

The second is that, based on your summaries and exerpts, I get the impression that you've done no research and don't know what you're talking about. You need to know what you're talking about.
Oh, boy. Again, I never said David Brandt and Cherry live happily ever after. As for not knowing what I'm talking about. . .I've already addressed that issue in this thread.

Quote:
SaronaNalia: Also, you asked for opinions but you don't want to accept them. You're trying to change people's minds. You are insisting that your novel is good and we'd know that if we read it. This is generally a bad attitude to have.
I asked for opinions. I received a host of opinions. I consider every opinion.

As jclarkdawe wrote to me: You put my thoughts up on a wall, you put other people's thoughts up on the same wall, you put your thoughts up on the same wall, then you sit down and write the query that you think is the absolute best one you can.

He's talking about QLs, but the point is the same.

I am not trying to change peoples' minds. I have stated that already.

As for your last comment:

You are insisting that your novel is good and we'd know that if we read it. This is generally a bad attitude to have.

This is what I wrote:
Quote:
I think I've written a good story. It's interesting and what the hell, I may as well say it, pretty darn well-written.
I don't think that's a "bad attitude." I can only surmise that, in your mind, I am indeed an "arrogant asshole."

So.
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“Leave me the fuck alone. I mean it, Eric.”
He smiled.
“You got a fucking death wish or something?”
“Something,” he said.
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:46 PM   #49
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I thought a little about An Instance of the Fingerpost when I read your posts. Not at all the same premise but I think Ian Pears used an instance of rape in that book as the ultimate sign of persecution and degradation in order to establish the victim as a Messianic character. I sort of get the same vibe from your story. A character who responds to even the darkest and most horrible act of betrayal with love and whose ability to (if the shoe fits) turn the other cheek has the power to transform those around him and who disappears at the end... Definitely feels a bit Messianic to me.

I dunno... I don't feel neither moral outrage or that it's necessarily unbelievable.

Personally, I don't expect stories to be moral or to send a message of morality. I don't feel that stories must somehow reflect a world that's better than this one (where everybody gets their just desserts and live HEA) or that an author is somehow sanctioning the characters' behaviour. Saying they do something, isn't the author saying the ought to do it.

As for believability... People are majorly effed up and do things and react in ways that may not fit our idea of what they ought to, reasonably, do or feel. It doesn't even matter what they statistically ought to do or feel. That's part of why the world is heart-wrenching and painful and unpredictable sometimes.

Would I read it? Maybe. I wouldn't shy away from it because of the topic, anyway. But then, I'm clearly in the minority.
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Old 05-06-2012, 03:38 PM   #50
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There's been at least one poster in this thread who wrote about her experience of having been raped, and she said that even after the event she would have formed a relationship with her rapist. Whether that's right or wrong, who am I to judge?

Any way, Chekhov tells us it isn't an author's job to solve problems, but to frame them truthfully. I don't think the scenario you've drawn up is untruthful, which is the most important thing. I also don't think you should feel the need to have this guy fall into a meat grinder or get hit by a truck at the end of your book. All you need is to tell a story, and show your man honestly - if reader's like or dislike him at the end is the reader's decision.

You've probably also got your answer as well. Opinion is divided almost 50:50, so there is your potential readership.
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