Is this too creepy?

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?



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.


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'.


> 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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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!


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?


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.


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?


For a character to be rounded out & feel real, their growth throughout the story shouldn't be codependent with their being attached to the protagonist. If you do that & then remove the main character from the picture, then you've only got half (or less!) of a character. They don't hold up except as a prop or support or moon that orbits the protagonist, and very often that's part of an ongoing (in a single work, or across multiple works by an author, if not across media as a whole), often unintentional suggestion that minority characters (women in this case) aren't whole or real people. It happens a lot with woman characters because they're often romantic foils and so much of that part of them often plays off of the protagonist. I feel it's happening here, based on what you describe.


As a secondary character within the story, they could have major turning points be ones the protagonist helps with or provides focus for. That's natural. But they should have conversations that have nothing to do with the main character and/or potential love interest, they should have wants, needs, interactions and desires that don't even touch on or get entangled with him & his doings, and above all else, there should be a sense that if the main character was out of the picture, that they'd go somewhere & do stuff & have their character arc regardless.


The way you've described this character, she exists in subservient service to the main character (as bodyguard), she risks getting killed for him (implying her life is worth less than his), you imply she'd kill a cherished family member for him, and through contrivance, she loses a part of her identity so she can be in sexual, subservient service to him & to the plot. At the end, following the arc you've sorta outlined for her, she might well decide to look past the fact he raped her (at least partially intentionally, through willful ignorance) and agrees to be with him. That's not natural or respectful and it doesn't seem like a lot of her development, growth, challenges, or whatever else would occur at all if Toke was taken out of the picture. If anything, it feels like everything about her starts with Toke, involves Toke, and ends with Toke. It diminishes her and makes her look very incomplete. Again, as a prop to serve your main character & his story.


I'm sorry, but if you're going to pin this on sexism, then I don't think we have anything more to discuss.


1. In the first book, Toke saves literally her entire race from an attack that would have killed the majority, if not all of them. Zashiel is from a race of warriors who place a crap ton of importance on honor and paying off your debts. Since everyone thinks Toke is the one who launched the attack, they've condemned him as a criminal. Zashiel, being a product of her upbringing, decides that since nobody else will repay their debt to him, it all falls to her. That's not subservience in a "Yes, master!" kind of way, like you think it is. It's a matter of pride to her. That even extends to her killing her sister if she's forced to, yes, but again that's a last resort. She isn't just gonna murder her family right off the bat.


2. If Toke is, at first, unaware of what's happened to her and is convinced that she's acting of her own volition, then how does that make him a rapist? It's natural for Zashiel to feel pissed off once she's back to normal, but to straight up call Toke a rapist for going along when he thinks Zashiel is legit in love with him is just... ignorant. And the fact that he personally makes the antidote to fix her once he figures out what's going on means he isn't doing it out of greed or malice.


Going to agree with WildBow here. I'd also add, I really dislike stories where a major character does something awful but it's not his/her responsibility due to some sort of plot contrivance. Ender's Game is probably the worst offender here, but there's plenty of other examples.


Besides, there are so few stories (and particularly few adventure stories) centred around solid, cooperative, platonic friendships between male and female characters. If you've set up such a friendship, it seems a real shame to lose that.


Well, apparently we have more to discuss because you gave me some points to address after you said that.


So, here's the thing, it's rape because... (quoting you here)


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


He (first) realizes she isn't in love with him and that she's 'incorrigibly horny'.


Over a period of time he ignores the suggestion that she's under the influence and carries on. He chooses his own wants and desires over hers.


He takes time to come to a decision and continues to take advantage until finally his conscience gives way.


He ~eventually~ (your word) seeks out and finds a fix.


That's... pretty darn alarming, Adam. It's taking advantage of someone who can't say no and doing it over what you suggest is a long period of time. It makes him out to be a selfish scumbag, who prioritizes sex & the relationship over what she wanted. The fact that he guilty while doing this doesn't negate that he ignores what's going on & takes advantage of someone close to him for his own desires. It absolutely makes him a rapist.


That you've created an in-story, cultural reason for your character to be subservient and indebted to the character and that it's a matter of pride doesn't mean she's not in a servile or subservient role. She prioritizes his life over her own & her cherished family member's (even as a last resort). It very much paints her as lesser and purely a character that orbits him, instead of her being a well developed character.


All right, I'll spell out the situation point by point.


You like a girl.

Girl doesn't like you back.

Girl gets hit on the head.

Girl wakes up, says she likes you now.

You are happy.

You and her start to date.

She starts to act strange.

You take her to the doctor.

The doctor tells you she has brain damage and her feelings are likely (somehow) coming from that.

You are sad.

Not dating anymore would make you even sadder.

You give her whatever treatment she needs (assuming somehow you're the only one who can give it to her- work with me here)

She doesn't like you anymore.

Now you are very very sad.


Tell me which part of that makes you a bad person?