When agenda writes your novel

someonecoverI firmly believe that writing is a vital part of healing from trauma, but not all writing that heals is meant to be published. At least not right away.

Despite being accepted by Booktrope for re-publication, I’ve decided that my first novel, Someone You Already Know, is no longer a story I feel passionate about. Told from the perspective of two teenage girls who experienced different forms of rape – one from a boyfriend, the other from a stranger – the girls struggle to understand what the other went through, albeit through biased lenses. While there is no such thing as a universal True Victim, I have met rape survivors who think if it didn’t happen to someone else exactly as it happened to them, it wasn’t really rape.

And then there’s the problem of not being taken seriously by the police, by family and friends, by the public at large. The book was written to address misconceptions and outright lies that even intelligent and otherwise “good” people believe about rape and assault.

It may sound compelling, and sure enough, the majority of reviews on Amazon seem to agree. The problem is what I see when I read it – to me, it’s driven more by agenda than plot. The majority of the book takes place in the girls’ heads, or in their interactions with each other, but not with many of their peers. The character John, the abusive boyfriend, is rather one-dimensional. His motives remain unclear throughout, which is not how the best “villain” characters are written.

The best villains, I think, are the ones with pasts and fleshed-out personalities. They are not evil for evil’s sake. At times, you might even empathize with them, and then find yourself wondering what the hell is wrong with you. Such was the case when I read Gone Girl and watched Breaking Bad. Those had villains that made me think.

Education and empathy with survivors were goals in writing this book, but if I’m completely honest, I also wanted the chance to vilify the real John – the one who will never, ever be arrested for what he did. The one who will never see a day in court, never be forced to come to terms with what he did by law enforcement.

I wanted to tell the world what he did without actually telling the world what he did, and fiction seemed like the perfect way to do it. The book is scattered with details that wouldn’t crucify his public image, but would be familiar to him if he ever read it (which I know he never would; that would require actually caring, which he no longer does): the gift he brought back for me from a vacation to Europe. His major in college. His black dog. None of which really served any purpose to the story as a whole.

Many chapters read like that of a recently traumatized, beyond furious, deeply depressed woman, and that’s not the reputation I want as an author. That is not how stories should be written. Good stories have depth, and this one, after re-reading it this week, just doesn’t. I can’t look at the Amazon reviews and believe otherwise, because as the author, this book has to something that I am proud of.

It was a good first attempt, but as far as rape stories go, I am far prouder of my next novel from Booktrope. A Stunning Accusation is, in my opinion, more maturely written, and says more about who I am as a writer and what I can do with words. There is mystery, suspense, and the accused villain has a backstory and appealing qualities that should make the reader feel drawn to him and ask questions the whole way through, as his girlfriend Adelaide does. It’s a book that raises points without beating the reader over the head with them. It’s a book I am proud to call mine.

Someone You Already Know has been removed from Createspace, but there are still third-party copies sold on Amazon if anyone is still curious to check it out. And I am so thrilled to announce that the rest of my book babies got interior makeovers from JT Formatting and are so beautiful. I hope you take the time to check them out.


3 thoughts on “When agenda writes your novel

  1. Pingback: This is my Fight Book | Sarahbeth Caplin | Author, Blogger, and Editor

  2. I think it takes a lot of maturity to be able to look at your work and recognize it isn’t your best. Good for you!

    It can be so difficult to explain the motivation behind things like abuse and rape, etc. because so often it seems like there is no reason. I was in an abusive relationship when I was younger, and I gave up on trying to figure out why he treated me the way he did. His motivation was certainly control, but why he had the pathological need to control me, or why it manifested the way it did, I could only guess.

    Good luck with writing this new antagonist! Sounds like you’ve got a good perspective on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that making the decision that is right for you is the best way to go, even towards your readers. Being able to build the reputation and corpus of works we feel good and are passionate about is very important. I thought about similar things recently when going through papers I could have decided to self publish or resubmit when finding academic call for papers, as well as ideas for future things I had noted. I sorted things out and realized that a few of them didn’t match how I have grown as an author and discarded them. I prefer focusing on what will make me evolve as a writer and a human being, what I am happy to present to readers, regardless of how many sales the titles may have.

    Liked by 1 person

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