Content Note: discussion of fictional abusive behaviour
Just a quick thought while it’s on my mind.
In my second draft, I’m getting into the part of my novel where the wheels really fall off and really bad things start happening to my people. The slow build-up of potentials has given way.
This is also the part where, in the first draft, I was using two first person narrators to show what was happening. In the second draft, I’ve chosen a more-or-less partial 3rd person narrator. A few scenes are going to need to be told by other perspectives, but essentially I realised that the novel is about one person’s journey, and I should follow her point of view as far as possible. It’s a much tidier, and more vibrant, story as a result, but I’ve realised that a lot of the other character’s perspective gets lost at this point, and that this is going to cast their future actions into a different light.
In my story, which has a BDSM vs Abuse theme, this makes my BDSM Dom character more likely to seem abusive and irrationally violent in a scene that’s coming up some way down the line. I need my protagonist, his Sub partner, to read it that way but would prefer the reader to understand that there’s a reason why he’s angry, and why his understanding of the situation might bring a hot temper. (In the scene, he reins himself in but not before making a very threatening gesture.) At this point in the story he has already been struggling with his partner’s shifting awareness of her sexuality and how that affects his relationship with her (they aren’t well-suited to poly, alas). Then a far bigger crisis hits and, from his point of view, it seems as though it’s a vindictive act by his partner.
By placing the story firmly with her point of view, I lose the text that explains why he would see it that way. In the redraft, I’ve just deleted those passages. When he expresses his anger, the reader won’t have his feelings, based on incomplete information. I hope there’s enough context from earlier that people will understand he is not “an abuser”, even if in this moment he acts in a way that seems abusive (on the other hand, he gets it wrong earlier as well).
Part of this is that the story changed in the 8 years since I started writing it: the theme started as “BDSM is not abuse”, and drifted as I learned more about concerns within the BDSM community about consent violations. My Dom character is intended as a good guy, but he also shows how abusers can fit into the community and have their actions excused. And in that way, I feel like letting his actions stand without his reasons may be the right thing after all.