Writer’s tip: Before including a rape scene in your novel, a…

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+487 – * Why do you think the rape is necessary for your plot to advance?
* Can you substitute the rape with something else, and achieve a similar effect?
* If you remove the rape scene entirely, will your plot remain unaffected?
* Will this story focus more on the rapist than the victim? Will the victim be essentially forgotten?
* Will people accept this rape scene, or will they condemn you for it?

If you do decide that rape is necessary for your plot, then heed these tips wisely:

* Don’t downplay the trauma the victim suffers. Rape isn’t something that one can just get over.
* Don’t try to sexualize it. The reader is meant to feel disgusted at the scene unless you intend on making it erotic.

2022-06-23 23:44:21

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  1. I have written several rape scenes in my work. I have been raped. I find it cathartic. Now some may say a novel or short story is not a place to create catharsis for yourself, but I would disagree for the following reasons:

    If it is cathartic for me, it might be cathartic for others (I would hazard to say it probably is).

    And I try to write about real life.

    If a warning is needed for individuals to avoid getting triggered, by all means, warn people.

  2. I did a lot of reading on rape in fiction and the various associated tropes, and ended up agreeing with many of the conclusions that it’s largely unnecessary in fiction and generally serves as a crutch for lazy writers.

  3. Unnecessary rape scenes will absolutely ensure I will never reread or recommend a book to anyone! There’s one that’s particularly egregious but it’s a spoiler and I’m on mobile, so I don’t know how to block it out (although tbf it’s a good warning about the book).

    Anyway, I didn’t have a huge problem with the rape itself, despite it being utterly unnecessary to the plot. But the main character—who was a child—is basically fine afterward and it’s never really spoken of again. I understand what the author was going for—showing that sense of danger and that loss of innocence, but there are so many other ways to do it besides child rape. And if child rape is really the best choice, then you’d better devote a lot to the aftermath and the trauma rather than just gloss over it and pretend it never happened.

  4. I’m not trying to be a contrarian or any, Serious question:

    where are all these books that include rape scenes that make it such a hot topic? I’ll admit I lean heavily towards SF/Fantasy but I’ve read around 60 books in the last two years and I can’t think of one that contains the kind of sexual assault I see talked about.

    Am I just choosing different novels to read than other people or what?

  5. Or, can you include the scene as subtext of something that happened between scenes or before the story, instead of explicitly shown in a scene.

  6. But how am I supposed to show my main female character becoming stronger if I can’t make someone rape her? How do you expect me to establish my female assassin’s skillz if she wasn’t brutally tortured and raped as a teen while trained at the assassin academy for young orphans? Think, OP, *think*!!

  7. The best example of a rape scene I’ve ever seen is in Berserk. Well, there’s two, but both absolutely are what you covered. They’re handled with total respect and treated with the utmost care and drastically effect the characters and plot of the story.

  8. * Will this story focus more on the rapist than the victim? Will the victim be essentially forgotten?

    I’d also add here to make sure the focus isn’t on a third character either (e.g. the victim’s husband).

  9. I put in a scene where a would-be rapist was stopped prior and killed. It’s there because that’s the first time the protagonist kills anyone after being strictly nonlethal before, and it was the best justification I could think of.


  10. I recently read a book where the protagonist wants to rape a woman because she threw him out after he lied about being a messenger from the gods. He later gets mad when she consents because he wanted to “take her”.

    1920s fantasy is something else.

  11. Counterpoint: Lolita is one of the greatest novels ever written.

    It’s told from the rapist’s POV, and he spends the whole novel romanticizing his abuse. You only get bits and pieces of the victim’s story, and even those are filtered through the narrator’s lens. Her erasure is one of the major themes of the novel.

  12. Personally, I’d never write a rape scene. If anything, it would be something that was discussed or alluded to, but certainly not dramatized.

  13. Is it ever necessary? I cannot substitute it with something else, removing it affects the plot, but I still wonder if I should just rip it out and patch all the holes it’s absence leaves.

  14. Kiterunner was an absolutely traumatizing book, for multiple reasons and levels, that I had to read in high school. There was plenty of hardship and I felt that the child rape scene was wholly unnecessary.

  15. If anyone is really trying to understand what rape and sexual assault victims suffer through, there are a few subs on Reddit that cover these topics in-depth. However, given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, I would confine myself to r/TwoXChromosomes. It’s a sub mainly for women, but anyone is allowed to join/participate.

    I’ve learned so much simply reading about the things women experience on a daily basis in that sub. It’ll really make many of you see women, in general, in a different light. There are fairly regular posts about the topic at hand, and they’re from women all around the globe. I wouldn’t necessarily use it as a Q-and-A opportunity, but it’s definitely a sub worthy of reading through, if you’re attempting to understand a woman’s perspective on sensitive topics.

  16. Would I ask myself these same questions about a murder scene?

    Probably not.

    So I won’t worry too much about the rape scenes, either. Obviously violence for violence’s sake is bad, but I’m not going to bend and twist myself trying to avoid rape scenes.

    If rape makes sense for the situation, I’ll include it. If my female MC is a woman in a village captured by enemy soldiers, and these soldiers are known for raping and pillaging…I’m not gonna spare my MC to make the readers feel better. And I’m also not gonna use euphemisms and tip-toe around it or imply it. That feels cheap.

    I was molested as a kid. I’d never tell an author they can’t include those scenes in their stories or set rules about what boxes they have to check for it to be acceptable beyond just being realistic.

    Is it realistic in that scenario? Is the character’s reaction realistic given the setting they’re in, their personality, their culture?

    That’s what matters to me.

  17. Deed of Paksenarion does this really well. We don’t know what really happened until she remembers it.

  18. I love how you mentioned dont try and sexualize it! Ive seen many authors do this and it makes me so mad! Words cannot express how depressed I feel when authors make it seem like rape isnt a big deal. There are women with eating and mental health disorders from being raped, women who need to go to therapy for years on end and women who cant take showers without putting a bathing suit on. There are women who cant be touched because of how traumitizing rape is! Some even commit suicide! And to downplay it makes it seem like its some kind of cruel joke and shows whats wrong with rape culture!

  19. Thank you for this.

    This is why I also don’t write about murder. Or torture. Or war. Or humiliation and trauma in general. Art isn’t there as a mirror unobscured from propriety, it’s there to make people feel comfy. That’s why I only write about my pastry shop excursions. As you’ll find out in my upcoming book, a pain au chocolat is just a direct line to God’s heart.

  20. Why are you asking people to pre-edit or telling them how to write a scene? When writers write a story, the story needs to get out, warts and all. In subsequent revisions this can be considered and possibly addressed, but that’s not what you’ve said here. It almost sounds to me like you have an opinion about rape scenes being handled a certain way and if it’s not handled that way, it’s wrong. That may be important for you, but it’s not necessarily important to everyone for a variety of reasons. It’s important for us not to dictate how other people are writing unless we’re asked.

  21. I get that rape has awful consequences…but quit telling people how to write. Rape happens and it doesn’t make itself more pleasant because someone says it should be.

  22. America is the only country where they are fine with children getting slaughtered in stories, movies and schools but can’t stomach reading a description of implied rape.

  23. Because writing is an expression of an individuals mind and when you start editing it, it loses all of its credibility because we are now screening our thoughts to not trigger others with the realities of thought and life.

  24. too many people here are missing the point of the post. OP isn’t telling you how to write, just considerations when writing something as emotionally charged and off putting for a significant number of readers. theres nothing wrong with being mindful of how your writing will be perceived.

    this is a hot topic for a lot of writers, as many use rape as a poor plot device, which cheapens an experience that can feel immensely disrespectful and disgusting to a lot of readers. the point is to be mindful of it. you can almost honestly replace the “rape” in this post with anything and the general point of being mindful of your plot devices still stands.

  25. And that’s because you shouldn’t be telling people how to write, because that also trivializes the entire point of writing and all information sharing. I highly doubt that you are the definitive writer so maybe get off that horse and experience the minds of others without thinking they should be like you. Quite Trumpy.

  26. I have intension to write an R scene but with the criminal doing it to themselves in a supernatural justice kind of way, does that still fell icky because to me I don’t fell like writing R where the criminal was actually committing the crime to others so I want to describe it in a scene where they’re going through it. I need second opinion.

  27. Semi Serious: but does this apply to Alien Rape in books? Like is the Xenomorph related media gonna have to put a content warning down because of how the main alien breeds?

    And if I make a character that has been abused in every-way imaginable including raped, and then give them a new personality and abilities or skills that make them pure nightmare fuel for their abusers, should I just exclude the rape altogether even if it is heavily implied some dark shit was inflicted upon them?

  28. >Don’t downplay the trauma the victim suffers. Rape isn’t something that one can just get over.

    It depends on the victim, the assailant, how one was assaulted, where one was… etc.

    Mine was so minor of an incident that I hesitate to even call it a rape, even though technically that’s what it was. I couldn’t give a rats ass about the incident and I’m not upset over it or upset at the person who did it in the slightest. I’m already someone who views new experiences as interesting learning experiences
    — positive and negative ones — and this was just another “Huh, well that happened” thing to me.

    Please for the love of all that is art, have your character respond to a traumatic — or potentially traumatic — experience in a way that is true to that character. If the Terminator got face hugged by one of the Aliens I wouldn’t expect him to start bawling and have a giant episode over it, I’d expect him to tear it off his face and get back to shooting.

    Edit: Yes yes I know my personal experience with being raped isn’t politically correct so feel free to downvote me.

  29. I also think its so important to not make rape the only thing that drives your character/victim’s development, as well as making it happen to all your female characters.

    Game of Thrones is an example of this where almost every female character is horribly violated both on screen and off and it seems to be the crux of all their character development.

    Rape victims are not just victims, but people with lives and dreams before (and after) being violated and do not have to “make the most of” or find purpose from their victimization.

  30. While coming to terms with my own abuse and assaults, (age 15ish when i was writing it??) I wrote a character who was raped. The scene was never shown and you hear her talk about it to people when revealing her trauma to found family members and why she fled her old hometown. Never wanted to make the SCENE where it HAPPENS.

  31. I feel like some people here have misinterpreted my post. This isn’t meant to dictate how people write, but rather, considerations about a scene that’s as emotionally charged or offputting to a large range of people. If you want to include rape in your novel, then, by all means, do it, I’m not able to stop you from doing it, but it helps to be mindful of how other people are going to perceive your novel.

  32. Another thing to consider when writing Rape is How and specially WHEN you put that part.

    I’ve seen a lot of wannabe dark fantasy stories where they try to shove rape as soon as possible or really close to the start, normally before we even get attached to any of the characters,or even worse,when whoever gets raped is the equivalent to an red shirt character,it comes out as edgy and try hard…or when it’s the first thing a villain does because “you have to set up that they’re really evil somehow”, however it again comes off as immature (unless the whole point of the story is the rape and the villain is the one that does it in which case is more passable.) One of the best ways to make your villain a rapist and it not feel unnecessary or try hard is when they already did WAY,WAY worse things by that point,see Griffith and Wyald from Berserk as examples.

    There’s also the Rape backstory,one in which occurs before the events of the story and is normally either shown in a flashback to the past,subtle hints in the story or talked about after the character almost has a mental collapse…well that’s if they’re well written, but there’s a reason most people complain about rape backstories,most of them are literally the only justification to how a character behaves, either: “She is shy and distant because she was raped” or “She’s strong and tough because she was raped (and now seeks revenge or some variation of it)”
    It doesn’t help when these characters are also 2 dimensional at best in these cases,and it feels like a mistake to put something that has so much dimensions and depth and requires an incredible amount of knowledge and care to use in a character that has less depth than a piece of cardboard…and it doesn’t help that the only characters that get raped in these super wannabe grimdark stories are woman, like men wouldn’t ALSO be raped in a world like that.

    I’ve even heard that a common rule of writing Rape is asking yourself: “if you changed the character who got raped to be a 9 year old boy,does your story still works? If yes,then the story definitively needs to keep it.”…well, I don’t totally agree with using that as your only basis to measure if rape is well used in a story because it isn’t a surefire way to prove you aren’t going to fuck up somewhere but,hey, it’s A BASIS,better than go in blind I guess?

    Also, important note,readers get desensitized or fed up really quickly if all your story is just violence, violence, violence,that also goes for sexual violence, if this happens, it’s definitely a good sign you’re doing something terribly wrong.

  33. I wish the screen writers for Red Sparrow had consulted a list like this before their travesty of a film was made. They changed a consensual sex scene in the book to a rape scene for the movie. Why? No goddamn clue. It didn’t change/impact the story at all. I’m guessing it was done because a woman being raped is a lot more sympathetic to your audience than a woman enjoying casual sex.

    Just lazy, shitty storytelling. Just another female character being depowered and brutalized in a way that’s never applied to male main characters.

  34. My readers want them. Im good at writing them with sensitivity in mind and realistic healing/recovery. But I legit have readers who get mad about my no non-con stuff. 🤔. So I try to do some and some without lol

  35. I’ve seen house at the end of the street. I feel like without the rape scene the movie wouldn’t be as good. Feels sick to write that… but if you’ve seen it you’d know. I’m not a writer but I can’t imagine there are many “good” opportunities to write about rape and maybe thats a good thing.

  36. I would honestly hare to read a graphic scene of that, it just sounds so terrible. But I guess it is a good way to show the reader what people have been through. I’d prefer if the writer was an actual victim though, it seems a bit insensitive otherwise

  37. Doesn’t it all boil down to what the writing is like? Basically, is it well written? What is the author trying to say? Etc.

    Not trying to be antagonistic here, but who are you to tell anyone how or what to write?