Is this too creepy?

1 month ago | AdamBolander (Member)

Hey guys! In the next Juryokine book, Toke is in love with his best friend (also bodyguard) but she doesn't return his feelings. Since they practically live together, this causes him to struggle with his feelings and impulses. I tried to write a realistic sounding internal monologue for this, but now I think it might come off as creepy and pervy. What do you think?

Toke had gotten dressed —Zashiel always slept in her clothes and jacket, to Toke's immense relief— and the two of them left their cabin together. His parents were waiting in the line trailing out of the galley for breakfast, and Evanya gave Zashiel a dirty look. Toke's cheeks turned red, but no words were exchanged as they passed each other. He knew his parents, his mother in particular, didn't approve of him sharing a room with a woman. She had even petitioned Treyn to move him and Boam in together, and let Wayli and Zashiel share a cabin, but Zashiel had made it clear she would do no such thing. Her job was to protect Toke, and she couldn't do that with a locked door separating them.

What does she think is going on? he wondered as they passed through the door and onto the Seventh Swordfish's deck. She has to know that we're not... doing that!

You love Zashiel, his more cynical side argued. You hide that about as well as a turtle hides its shell. And if she offered, you'd do it. You know you would.

Toke's cheeks flushed a little as distracting, unwelcome images flooded his mind, and he looked sharply away from the beautiful Sorakine girl. He didn't contradict himself, though. It was true. A complete and total fantasy, the likes of which even Boam would call too outlandish to be believed, but true nonetheless.

Once, he had considered simply asking if she would do it. She always talked about how she'd never be able to pay off her debt to him. If he asked the right way, perhaps her sense of duty would entice her to agree. They wouldn't be together, not the way he wanted, but Toke had heard tell of people who engaged in such things simply for their own enjoyment. Could that be a possibility for him and Zashiel? Would he even be happy with something like that?

Toke had rejected the idea. His brain felt dirty for even housing thoughts like that. What kind of person would seriously consider using someone like that? His logical side told him it was natural. He was a healthy young man, with everything that entailed. He should have been more concerned if thoughts like that didn't occasionally enter his mind. Fortunately, that same logical voice told him that suggesting such an idea to Zashiel would be a good way to get all his limbs chopped off.

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Responses

  1. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Seems pretty natural - I think it'd be jarring, if it didn't cross his mind at all. Guy and girl in close proximity with an ongoing relationship - sociologists would call it propinquity, if I remember right. You're more likely to develop an attachment to people you see more often. He sees her every day, he has human appetites.

    I might be sleep fatigued, but it's a little hard to grasp at first read just what it is he's dancing around (mostly because he doesn't even say the extent of his fantasies outright). It reads as pretty chaste, given that he seems pretty blushy & is unwilling to even fully articulate or fantasize about the possibilities in his own mind.

    What'd be creepy is if it went from being fantasy to reality- if he pushed for her to sleep in the same room as him and then pressured her using her sense of duty and past obligations.

    As is, it reads like 'hey, I really like her, is there any way we can be together? Well, there's that... but that wouldn't be right'.

  2. Archive (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    > You're more likely to develop an attachment to people you see more often.

    Also known as the proximity principle/proximity effect and yep, it's a real thing. Just being near to someone increases the chances that you'll get together, mostly because it's convenient. It also works for psychological closeness, not just physical closeness. I would probably roll my eyes when I read it because it's so cliche, but I wouldn't find it at all unbelievable. And I agree with Wildbow -- it'd be really sleazy if he manipulated her into sleeping with him out of some sense of duty.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Proximity_Principle

  3. Dary (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    When you said you were worried about it coming across as creepy, I was expecting to read about him having a wank whilst watching her sleep...

    So to answer your question: no. If anything, it comes across as rather tame.

    I would say there are better ways to show it, though. There's an awful lot of telling there. You could, for example, have the scene of her getting dressed while he tries to resist the temptation to look (only to end up using his imagination regardless, and chastising himself for it). Then follow it up with the parents, where you can either throw in some denial or go for some irony (his mother thinks her son is utterly devoid of such dirty thoughts but suspects his bodyguard of being a corruptive influence, when the reality is quite the opposite). Or maybe even mix in a bit of both!

    Same goes for the final paragraph. It feels like something that would work a lot better if we saw that conflict play out, rather than simply have him go over it in his head. Maybe she has a moment where she feels she isn't doing enough and asks, perhaps rhetorically, what else she could do, and his first thoughts are those mentioned. She notices an odd look on his face. He blurts out some kind of denial/distraction. Internally, he laments.

    A lot also depends on where you're taking it, story-wise.

  4. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Yeah I'm kinda playing this by ear. The main villain in this book is a guy who uses chemicals to make people do what he wants. I'm trying to build up this one sided relationship between Toke and Zashiel, with Toke trying to force himself to accept it, and then Zashiel ends up getting injected with one of the bad guy's chemicals. When she wakes up, she's completely infatuated with Toke. TO BE CONTINUED. Book three would be Toke struggling with that. He knows something's wrong, but it's what he wants, but it's wrong, BUT HE WANTS IT!

  5. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    As of book three, then, it would veer into the creepy. That's a damn hard story to write: if your character doesn't follow through on his desires, then you really have to sell it to the reader that it's that intense a desire on his part, without going overboard and beating the reader over the head with it or boring your audience, and you have to avoid reducing Zashiel to a sex object. Hopefully having two prior books of established relationship would help make that desire clear, but keeping her from becoming a two note 'I love main character' character is hard.

    If he does follow through with his desires against someone who can't say no, even to a minor degree (something as minor as a kiss), then book three runs the risk of becoming a creepy rape-fantasy story.

    In one of my works, something similar happens. In a moment of weakness, reeling from years of being worn down, the destruction of her town, and a home visit by one of the scariest psychopaths in the world, a character uses a power to make someone fall in love with her. It's important to stress that from that point on, there is less than zero possibility of even a friendly relationship between the two. The act and the scattered encounters that follow just depict a complete and utter destruction of both individuals. It's a horrendous violation of identity and acting on that violation or in the wake of it just isn't forgivable. It's a road that leads to tragedy, not romance, because the relationship is what has been irrevocably tainted.

  6. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Here's how I'm planning book 3 to go: in the beginning he doesn't know Zashiel's been drugged. He knows Shen (the villain) did SOMETHING to her, but doesn't immediately connect her behavior to that. Even Zashiel is confused, and comes to think that their latest battle just awoke her feelings somehow (I'll work on the exact wording later). So they get together and Toke is happy. But as time goes on, Toke starts to get suspicious. He realizes that Zashiel isn't acting like she's in love so much as... incorrigibly horny. She's suddenly clingy when she's never acted that way before, even going so far as to threaten people she thinks are getting too close to Toke. At first Toke tries to ignore this, because he's finally getting what he wants and he doesn't want to ruin it for himself. But he really does care about her, and it wears on his conscious more and more that this isn't right, and he feels guilty for it. Eventually he ends up making an antidote (while Zashiel begs him not to). When she recovers, she resents Toke for taking advantage of her. They part ways for a while because Zashiel says she needs time to think.

  7. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Yeah. That would be the point where it's creepy and concerning, in my opinion.

  8. Dary (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Is this the same hero you were posting about a couple of months back, who you said had no flaws? Because, well...

    I dunno. To be honest, the whole thing sounds wrong. I mean, it's not that you can't write a story like this, it's just that you need to handle it right. Your hero isn't going to come across as sympathetic at any point in that third book. The fact it seemingly takes him a while to realise that somebody he spends a huge amount of time with (someone who he "really cares about") is acting under the influence of drugs doesn't speak well of him at all. Now, sure, if that's what you're going for, if you want to deal with concepts of male entitlement, sexual objectification of women, and you mean for the protagonist to be a sociopath without the slightest shred of empathy, then go for it - but I get the impression that's not what you want to write. And if it is, that summary isn't the way to go about it. It reads like you're trying to make the male lead both hero and victim (he sacrifices his own happiness!) in all this. Hint: he's neither.

    Also, how the hell does a drug that leaves people susceptible to suggestion lead to a woman waking up "incorrigibly horny" and infatuated with the main character? And seemingly for an extended period of time? Either the drug is so strong it would have some severe side-effects, or she becomes addicted to it (which opens up a whole other can of worms).

  9. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    To elaborate on my prior post, a problem a lot of writers run into when writing female characters is that the female character becomes a token character who exists largely as an entity that revolves around the main (male) character. They're there only to be a romantic foil or target. The female character's sexuality is often conflated to be the path, the obstacle, the climax or the goal of the main character. Identity gets downplayed (if it exists at all) and sex becomes the focus.

    When it's the path, it's often the manic pixie dream girl or the like. Character meets girl (who is often offbeat, imaginative, creative, colorful hair) and the relationship with this girl is his road to self improvement or confronting the other issues in his life (Guy is boring/depressed/has no direction). Her identity is subsumed or lost in the course of reaffirming the guy's. Elizabethtown, Garden State, 500 Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World...

    When it's the obstacle, the girl's desire for sex, the people she's with, her infidelity or the standards she upholds are things that keep the main character from getting what he wants. Sex and working around the innate prerequisites and restrictions and complications/embarrassment becomes the primary challenge and source of drama. A lot of the time the female characters just become defined in large part by their sluttiness, prudishness, who they're sleeping with, or the sexual dynamic that they pose, and they aren't rounded out or given a full identity. Think, uh, of American Pie, or 40 days and 40 nights. Your character would be this, if not the 'path' (in which case her being drugged = he gets the girl at the end) or both; her being sexual (against her will) is a problem for him to resolve.

    If they're the climax or the goal, then the sex becomes nothing more than the expected and inevitable way to heighten a moment or conclude the story. Kingsman, Bond Girls, etc. Bond Girls are so formulaic that their lack of identity is a given- there's a convention to how they're named.

    A lot of problematic writing of female characters stems from this. At one point or another, if not at every point, the sex takes a higher priority than anything else about her. She becomes a tool for the storyteller.

    Where your premise is concerning & creepy is that you're basically taking the issue of sex trumps identity of female character and taking a very direct route to just demolishing said identity with a metaphorical sledgehammer with 'sex' written on it. Your main character veers sharply into being a rapist by ignoring the reality, your female character ceases being herself and becomes the sex object and the plot element.

    If 'They part ways for a while because Zashiel says she needs time to think' ends with her deciding to be with the main character, you're definitely doing it wrong. If they part ways and stay parted, it's still kind of screwed up, but maybe there's a point to be made.

  10. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    I'm still working out the details in my head, but Shen was a very shady salesman before becoming the villain he is now. He would discretely drug people (in their food, drink, sometimes even in the air) to make them more susceptible to his salesmanship. In book 2 he's started a cult by doing that very same thing. He feeds his followers food that's been laced with drugs that make them listen and believe whatever he says. He comes after Toke because Toke is the deity in his cult, and he has a theory. (This is where things get a little complicated) When Toke swallowed one of Zashiel's feathers, that gave him the same ability to control gravity that Zashiel has. He doesn't have wings or superhuman strength like a Sorakine, but he can make any solid object his gravitational anchor like she does, as well as change how much he weighs by altering how hard gravity pulls on him. Shen's theory is that the chemicals those feathers don't just give people Sorakine powers, they actually start turning people into Sorakines. Since Toke only got a very small amount, all he inherited was the gravity powers. But if he took more, he would start turning more and more into a Sorakine. So Shen starts turning up unexpectedly, forcing more and more of that chemical on Toke, and sure enough he starts to physically transform into a Sorakine. Shen then gives him another chemical that makes Toke forget he ever saw him, so he has no idea why this is all happening to him.

    In the book's final showdown, Zashiel crashes in while Shen is trying to force one last dose on Toke. They fight, and Zashiel ends up getting a (poisoned?) knife to her throat. Toke takes the chemical to keep Shen from killing her, and then Zashiel breaks free. They fight again, and Shen sprays her in the face with a gas that knocks her out cold. Toke and Zashiel don't know it, but it also contains hormones that make Zashiel feel incredibly drawn to Toke. Like I said, she just chalks this up to them nearly dying and feelings she never knew she had surfaced. She isn't acting strangely yet, so Toke doesn't question it.

    As for her acting strangely... well, Toke has never seen her be in love with him. So when she threatens people he just goes, "Wow, I never took her for the jealous type." And maybe "incorrigibly horny" wasn't the best way to put it. I want it to be so that Toke doesn't look stupid for actually thinking she loves him, but also leaving a weird nagging doubt in your head at the same time. Maybe I'll be able to pull that off, maybe I won't. If I can't, I'll just make her actually be in love with him, and then Toke freaks out when he finds out those aren't her natural feelings.

  11. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Also, I'm definitely not making sex her only character trait. She's got her own character arc in the story. When they went into self-imposed exile at the end of the first book, Toke brought his family with him. Zashiel had to leave everyone and everything she knew behind. Then one of the antagonists from the first book sends Zashiel's sister to capture/kill them. Zashiel's struggle isn't so much whether she wants to be with Toke, it's how she can protect Toke without also killing her sister. She owes Toke a debt she'll never repay (she basically accepted her whole race's debt after he saved them from extinction), so if she HAS to kill her sister, she will, but she doesn't want to, and so on and so forth. That's going to keep going in the third book, despite her being under the hormones' influence. Heck, maybe it's her sister who finally points out to Toke how out of character she's acting!

  12. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    I find it very interesting that you say she has 'her own' character arc in the story, but Toke features in virtually every sentence, sometimes multiple times.

    Can you see what I'm driving at, in terms of her being just something that's sorta revolving around the main character?

  13. Dary (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    You can throw around as much magitechnobabble as you like: your protagonist is still a completely unsympathetic sociopath :p

    And, as Wildbow said, if it turns out the drug was bringing out some latent attraction and they become an item in future, yeah, that's fucked up.

  14. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 1 month ago

    Well, Toke *IS* the main character. The story is, first and foremost, about him. Zashiel is a very prominent side character, but not the main character. She gets a character arc, but since everything is told from Toke's POV it doesn't feature her nearly as much as it does him. I'm not sure why this is a bad thing?

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