Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rebuttal to use of Rape in Storytelling

Author John Scalzi recounts a lesson he learned about the incorporation of a rape scene in storytelling, as seen here.  In summary, when he first began honing his craft, Scalzi had a story where an investigator matched wits with a serial killer.  He added a scene where the serial killer tortured and raped the investigator's wife.  His writing mentor was a female, Pamela Wallace, who left disgusted after reading that scene.  Scalzi said that was the last time he ever thought of using rape in a novel.

What did he learn from Wallace's reaction?  That rape was bad?  Of course rape is bad, but why was it bad in this story?  She didn't say nor did he say what else she may have said.  The good advice Scalzi added at the end was from Robert Jackson Bennett, who stated that before a scene gets added in ask yourself what purpose does it serve.

I still believe Scalzi could have used that rape scene if he explained why he wanted to use it in the first place.  It also was not the main plot device that makes a story one dimensional.  There are plenty of movies were murder leads to revenge and that's basically all the movie is about.  There are plenty of movies that have cheesy sex scenes with no purpose.  That is lazy writing.

In Stephen King's Rose Madder, the titular character, Rose, was an abused wife who endured it for nine some years.  Was it wrong to show that she was abused? No!  It would have been extreme, however, to have several chapters about her abuse.  The abuse was the driving point for Rose to develop a spine and escape her abusive husband.  The abuse served a purpose.  King wasn't being sexist nor did he throw it in just because he could.

Robert Lin enjoys basketball and anime.  Follow him on Twitter and/or Google.