October 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm #51093
So… I have a question. I am writing a novel set in a futuristic fantasy world, and my main character, a 17yro genius by the name of Oreki has quite the past. In fact, he was abused.
Now, I honestly am not going to say I know everything about abuse, as I’ve never experienced anything outside of peer pressure and anxiety before, but I can say I’ve studied it, and it’s a dark topic. There’s a lot of conflict as to what type, how much, etc, etc should be in Christian writing.
Now, I’m not planning on anything graphic. This is mainly emotional and verbal abuse, along with some physical. Nothing else. The character is shy, withdrawn, and often narcissistic towards others because of this, and I want to make this realistic. Also, this story is aimed for 15+ ages, so it’s not something I’m going to be marketing towards younger kids just for elements and violence.
But, I wanted your guys opinions on this. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the topic, and I want to portray it realistically and not “gloss over” the events like a lot of Christian authors do, but I don’t want there to be to much. This is a story of finding hope, forgiveness, and redemption through the grace of God.
So pretty much, my question is: how much abuse do you think is moral and right to show in a Christian(or any story, for that matter) story, and also, what are your opinions on putting abuse in stories in general?
Also, know that the story really won’t make sense without the abuse, so it’s not something I can just “cut out”. I’ve seen other Christian authors pull this topic off well before, but I want more opinions.
*vader vibes*October 5, 2018 at 5:34 pm #51102Grace@h-jones
Oh wow, this is a good topic. I think I have a few things to say, but I need a bit to gather my thoughts together. I’ll stalk in the meantime.
Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.October 5, 2018 at 6:21 pm #51107E. Grace@emgc
Wow. Great topic.
I read this book one time, an autobiography, called Face to Face With Jesus by Samaa Habib. It’s about a Muslim girl who becomes a Christian and is abused by everyone around her, including family, for her faith. It was really pretty heavy on the abuse, and didn’t skim too much on the details either. Those parts were definitely pretty hard to read, but I felt like it made the message of the story much stronger.
She went through so much… and yet, it was those struggles that strengthened her faith in God.
And that’s one of the main reasons I’d say that you certainly don’t want to skimp too too much on the details, or the power of the story could really be weakened.
Now, I’m not saying you should have it stuffed with it, because too much would also take away from the story. We want to dwell on God’s goodness in our lives, and not dwell on our sufferings. But God’s goodness includes what He’s brought us through. He is faithful. Even in those darkest times, He’s working in our lives, and He will not fail us.
So, to my main point: I think it’s fine to put abuse in Christian books. Actually, especially Christian books, because if it wasn’t Christian, then it wouldn’t have that powerful message. It’s actually super encouraging to me when I read hard things that people have been through, because of how amazing it is to see how God used even those hard things for the good of those who love Him.
I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope that wasn’t too confusing for you. Sometimes, when I’m trying to express my feelings, I just can’t get the words out right.
Hopefully someone else on here has some even deeper insights into this matter.
I know @wordsmith likes to discuss deep theological matters and he might have a better, more clear answer than me. Any thoughts on this, @wordsmith? (Sorry, you were the only person I could think of to ask at the moment. 🙂)
And if you don’t mind, I’d like to tag along on this topic and see what everyone else says.
"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." - C. S. LewisOctober 5, 2018 at 8:15 pm #51134Daeus Lamb@daeus-lamb
What @emgc said. 😛 We’ve actually got an article series coming out in about a month that will address this in a way.
Bottom line: this is especially needed in Christian stories. Because we hold the answer and this is such an important topic.
How much is too much? The more novels I read and the more I’ve become convinced it’s not about what you include but how you depict it. A few considerations.
There’s a big difference between going into a lot of detail on, say, sacrificing and human and being a human that is sacrificed. The latter, while few of us will ever experience it, could help us come to grips with persecution, death, tragedy, and what we believe. The former is something nobody should ever experience. Going into detail on that would in all likelihood convey a message of bloodlust.
At the same time, I do stand for being relatively graphic in most situations like what you’re describing. The reason is, the details are what make it what it is. Abuse without any details is something that sounds sad. Psychological distress is the whole point here because then you bring the reader to grips with the issue in the safe environment of your book where they can work through the issue (with your guidance.)
👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢October 5, 2018 at 9:55 pm #51159K.M. Small@morreafirebird
@sarah-inkdragon wow, big question.
I echo what everyone else said here as well. I think it’s something that SHOULD be tackled, but should be done so delicately. You don’t need to hash out every single detail of what happened. Focusing in on one memory that really triggered everything would likely be enough (like that saying that when describing a disaster scene, don’t talk about what everything looked like but focus in on the burnt teddy bear). The idea is just to have the readers understand what happened and realize what the character went through, not to take them through every single day and event step by step.
For me personally, I’m not overly bothered (I mean, I DO care, but I don’t shy from reading it) by mentions of physical or verbal abuse. If you’re aiming at an older audience, then I don’t see a huge problem in it, though some readers may not appreciate it. In the end, it’s up to you how deep you go into it, but I’d think you’d just need to go far enough so your theme is strong, and not beyond.
One thing that could help those potentially sensative readers is to hint at the topic you’re going to be exploring in the story in the blurb. Not that you want to say “this story has abuse in it” in the blurb, but hinting at it could make sure that your book is being read by people who can take the subject matter and appreciate the character’s journey.
Hope that helps 😉
"Beauty will save the world." - DostoevskyOctober 6, 2018 at 11:29 am #51211NCStokes@ncstokes
@sarah-inkdragon Ditto to what everyone else said. 😀 Just wanted to add, when you’re writing, make sure it isn’t hurting you. I know from experience that whatever I’m writing tends to “rub off” on me, and dark storylines can make my brain dwell on… not great things. I’d suggest praying, finding someone to talk to if you feel down, and, ya know, *vague hand motions* whatever cheers dragons up.
*disappears in a puff of smoke*
*shameless self promotion* https://weridasusual.home.blog/October 6, 2018 at 3:59 pm #51260Katherine Baker@kb-writer
Great question! I certainly am not an expert, but I (from my super sensitive point of view) will throw my two cents in.
I certainly agree with what was said here about not shying away from the topic. I believe as Christians, we are uniquely positioned to talk about abuse and evil because we see the hope and goodness that can come out of it. I think we more than anyone should be addressing these issues in a loving and respectful manner.
That being said, I agree with @ncstokes that you need to be careful to guard your heart as you write about it. I know there are evils in the world and on the news that I have to stop looking for because it’s too dark and painful for me, and takes me into dark places and away from what God says to fill our minds with (Philippians 4:8).
A few thoughts on it (suggestions, not rules. I won’t be offended if you disregard any of them. Remember, I’m a more sensitive reader).
Make sure you frequently come back to brighter things. I wouldn’t leave your story dark all the way through, but pepper it with truly happy, and even funny, moments. It also adds to the depth of the sad parts (a great example of this is The Bookthief. That story made me laugh at parts and sob at others, and helped me appreciate the horrors by reminding me of the good things).
I would also try to focus on the effects of the abuse more than the actual acts themselves. That would allow you to explore the darkness without ever being too graphic. Though that’s from sensitive me, so it may be wise to disregard the suggestion.
I hope this helped in any way. I’m so glad you’re trying to tackle these hard issues in ways that are God-glorifying.
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm #53046
@h-jones Can’t wait to hear it! 😉
@emgc Yes, I get what you mean. I want to be graphic enough that you can grasp an understanding of what the character went through, but no more graphic than that really. I have given my character some PTSD, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt issues to deal with also on the side so we’re not just caught up in flashbacks the entire book. (I just love torturing my characters with mental issues. XD)
*vader vibes*October 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm #53256E. Grace@emgc
Glad to hear it. I was worried I wasn’t making sense. 😛
Wow. You really do love torturing your characters XD. Really though, it’s awesome that you brought this up. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what should and shouldn’t be included myself…
Have you read Josiah’s latest post, “Dear Christian Storytellers: Cleanness Is Not Next to Godliness”? I’m sure you’d find some very useful info there. It helped me sort through my thoughts better. 🙂
"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." - C. S. LewisOctober 31, 2018 at 10:58 am #56997
I just realized I never actually replied to all of you–well, here we go!
@daeus-lamb I also stand for being pretty graphic when it comes to violence/emotional/psychological abuse, but I just don’t want to make it seem like the whole story is just someone constantly having flashbacks, if you know what I mean.(It’s annoying, for one thing.) I also don’t want to go over the top for it, as this a YA book and shouldn’t be treated like Adult fiction…. most of the emotional abuse is bullying and such–but there’s a lot of stuff dealing with suicide and self harm and other things. In other words, it’s a pretty gritty sometimes. I guess I just want to present the topics on the right way, and the series on here about how we should treat darkness/violence/etc has really helped me on it so far.
@ncstokes I will! Thank you. 😉
@kb-writer Thank you! Your advice was actually very helpful. 😉 I like how you said we’re in a unique position to talk about abuse/evil because as Christians, we’re really the only ones who can offer a “good” ending for our characters, if you know what I mean. 🙂 I’m trying to make sure there’s plenty of lighter moments to help keep the book from being completely depressing, because a book like that is no fun to read. I’m also going to be focusing more on the effects, like you said, since the abuse actually happened in the recent past, and isn’t really happening anymore… so most of it is things like inferiority complexes, and self-isolation, etc, things like that, and some PTSD in regards to other things. So actually, most of it is really just the effects of the abuse and how MC needs to change to be able to let go of some things that are hurting him. Again, thanks for your advice! I’m glad you dropped by. 😉
@emgc Ooh, I just read that article the other day and it was amazing. 😉
*vader vibes*October 31, 2018 at 12:15 pm #57030Michelle@mlbolangerauthor
I agree with what everyone here has already said, and I’m not sure I can add much except to share my experience writing about the topic of abuse.
I don’t shy away from reading graphic scenes, and I fully believe they have a place in certain stories and genres. However, the stories that always impacted me the most were the ones that weren’t detailed in describing the horror itself, but the feelings the evoked in me.
I wrote and published a book about a young man who is kidnapped and sold into human trafficking. The research was difficult and there were many times I asked God why on earth He had laid such a thing on my heart to write about. I relied heavily on my husband and my writing team to keep me grounded, but I cried. A LOT.
When it came time to write the story, I did not want to give graphic details, rather, I selected one or two physical things in each scene and had the character react to them emotionally. Things like the feel of a leather cuff on his ankle, the sound of a door lock, the smell of sweat. All by themselves those evoke emotion. Once the character was rescued, the physical scars on his body and those details I used early in the story took the reader back into the emotion of the moment without ever painting a detailed description of what happened to him.
The goal of my story wasn’t to explain what human trafficking looks like, but rather how it feels to be a victim, especially when no one thinks you CAN be a victim of such things. By keeping the ultimate goal of the story in mind – which was to raise awareness of male sexual abuse and trafficking as a reality in our world – I was able to discern how much detail was necessary to get the point across without being either gratuitous or overly soft.
I certainly don’t think the story is perfect, by ANY means, but I learned some valuable story telling lessons in it.
Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.October 31, 2018 at 12:33 pm #57042
I have a pretty similar outlook–while I don’t shy away from violence in any means really, I also usually focus more on the effects of the abuse rather than it. Like say, instead of describing a long scene in which character is beat up, I give said character an aversion to being surprised, or people sneaking up on him, or being touched casually, because it’s unexpected and he doesn’t like the unexpected because being beaten was often unexpected.
Emotional abuse, like bullying, for example, I do show pretty freely. There’s a lot of talk about suicide in this book, and suicidal tendencies, self harm, etc. It’s a pretty gritty book sometimes in that area. But like you, I don’t necessarily like reading graphic scenes of abuse or violence–I want the feelings. I want to know how bad a character felt after having to kill someone for the first time in a war. I want to know about that one person who always tries to please people so they won’t ignore him. I want to know about the kid who doesn’t ask talk much because just having friends is so amazing to him.
That’s what I like, if you get what I mean. I love reading and writing about feelings. 😉
Also, I’d love to read that book of yours someday. It sounds very interesting. I have a soft spot for drama/emotional hurt and “healing” stories I guess you could say. 😉
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