Posts Tagged ‘Scandal’

Lately I’ve been pondering something. Well actually, I’ve been pondering a lot of things, including how kissing is treated in different genre fictions and if swallowing the prize in a cereal box makes you a specially marked package (I ponder a lot of things, some of which are strange and some of which may appear in future blog posts), but this one thing in particular I’d like to explore. In a YouTube video I watched recently, the host of the video pointed out that a lot of movies start out with a protagonist walking in on their spouse having an affair, and how that is supposed to start a journey of transformation. This actually caused me to have an epiphany: a lot of fiction–not just movies–revolve around, or start off with characters being in, being caught, or thinking about having an adulterous relationship.

Like, a lot. A whole lot. Like if it’s not a main focus, then there’s a good chance an adulterous relationship will show up in a story at some point or another. I can think of four Stephen King stories that involve affairs as major plot points. One of the most popular TV shows out right now has an affair as a major plot point (*cough* Scandal *cough*). The novel Gone Girl, one of the most compelling mystery/thrillers of the past decade, has an affair as its catalyst. Adultery is freaking everywhere you read/view/listen!

So this got me thinking on three points. First, why do affairs show up so much in fiction? Second, is this a good trope, or a trope that should be done less? Perhaps even phased out? And third, how often do adulterous relationships appear in my own fiction?

Well, that first point is rather obvious (unfortunately). Adulterous relationships show up so much in fiction because they happen so much in real life (unfortunately). Of course, affairs have happened since the beginning of monogamy, but I’m not so sure they were discussed as openly as they are these days. Affairs were considered vulgar things, so the only places they were really talked about were places where it was okay to discuss that sort of thing: bars, raunchy plays (William Shakespeare was actually considered a very dirty and lowbrow for his time), and the occasional dirty poem (yes, those did exist). In polite society, they were only quietly discussed, and that kind of reflected how often adultery was discussed in fiction, and how it was treated when it was brought up.

Scandal, which revolves around an adulterous relationship (still love you, Olivia).

Nowadays though, for whatever reason, we’re a lot more comfortable discussing adultery. In fact, rather than being something discussed in hushed whispers, adultery can be a major and accepted talking point. When a celebrity or a politician, especially one who preaches family values, is caught having an affair, it gets discussed ad nauseum in checkout lines and on national TV. Websites that facilitate adultery are at the center of major scandals, and advice columns around the world regularly feature letters from people who had discovered their lover has a side lover. There are even people who think that having an affair is healthy, natural, or no big deal. It’s a thing, and it’s pervasive (unfortunately).

And as fiction tends to reflect the real world up to a certain extent–last I checked, there aren’t any real exiled queens with dragons calling her “Mother”– it makes sense that adultery would show up in a lot of fiction.

So that answers the first question. What about the second question? Is the adultery trope a good one, or is it overused to the point that we might want to use it less?

Well, that’s a tricky one. Affairs are so common (unfortunately) that it would seem weird to take them out of all fiction. It’s like war or murder; they’ve happened, and they will continue to happen, so you might as well base a story or two around them. Like it or not, adultery is a part of everyday life, so it will show up in fiction.

I think the thing to keep in mind is just to avoid certain clichés with adultery. Any mystery writer will tell you that the lover killing the victim over jealousy or an affair has been done to death (pun intended), so perhaps one should avoid using that cliché, or find a way to use it so that it actually comes as a surprise rather than being expected, like in Gone Girl. Another cliché to avoid is how finding out your lover had an affair is a signal to go on a journey of self-discovery, or to try something new and exciting. Like I said above, the cliché has been done quite a bit, and it really doesn’t make sense. Affairs can change lives, but I don’t think they are one of those events that suddenly change how you look at life or at yourself. A near death experience, or the realization that you become everything you didn’t want to be, maybe. But walking in on your spouse? I think that’s a more likely to cause a shouting match. Maybe an alcohol binge or a murder, but probably not a journey of self-discovery.

And while we’re on the subject, nearly all the affairs in that cliché I mentioned involve the wife or the girlfriend doing the cheating, which is odd because most affairs involve the husband or boyfriend. That’s not some anti-male sexism, that’s just statistics. We could balance it out a little more.

I guess the answer I’ve come to is that if you’re going to have an affair in your story, and it’s going to be a major plot points, make sure it’s not subject to tiresome clichés we’ve seen a thousand times.

And now to my final point how much does adultery show up in my own fiction? And yes, I have to make this a major point of this post. This is my blog about my writing, and all authors who share their work with others are a little narcissistic, including me. Can you blame me?

Surprisingly, not that much. I’ve thought about a number of stories I’ve written since I was ten years old, and of those, adultery shows up in maybe three or four. Only to really come to mind. One was a vampire novel I wrote in high school that was really me exploring my own sexuality before I was aware of it (see this post for more details), and the other was a recent short story. In the latter example, I only spent about a paragraph on the affair. It serves as one of the reasons why another character commits a double murder, but it’s far from the main focus, which is actually the environment of the characters. I actually have plenty of story ideas that involve adultery, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them, and they are a minority among all the other stories I’ve come up with but have been written yet.

Whether we like it or not, adultery will continue to appear in fiction for a long time to come.

I think this might be because adultery is just not an issue I want to focus on. Outside of a few shows I watch, I’m not very interested in adultery. This might be because I’m not interested in romantic relationships in general, or because they’re just other tropes that I would prefer to work with. Not only that, but adultery is rarely that scary. I am all or a writer, I prefer to write about scary things. Monsters, ghosts, the horrors that mankind is capable of, the fear of things that could happen to us if things were just a little different. Unless you’re dating a psychopath or something, adultery is not really that scary. The biggest fear is getting caught, and in most fiction, that is what happens. Not much incentive for a horror writer to focus on adultery. Or at least not this horror writer.

But who knows? Adultery could show up in more stories in the future. My style is still evolving, so anything is possible.

Adultery is sadly very common, which means it will continue to show up in fiction for generations to come. However, the way we use adultery in our fiction can be highly a versatile, and that ensures that it won’t be a trope that will get tired anytime soon. Just avoid the clichés, and if you don’t care to use adultery in your stories, don’t. For every writer who isn’t comfortable running about such a subject, there is always one who is.

What’s your take on adultery in fiction?

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?

(Note: the following post contains some spoilers from various television series. Be a little wary before reading on.)

I watch a lot of TV. Sometimes I think too much. Actually, there’s a strong case to say I watch too much TV But what can I say? A lot of great stuff on TV these days. Serial killers, seven different types of apocalypse, a dozen different types of crime shows, screwball comedy and dramas that twist and turn with every episode. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Isn’t there another way to explain why Annalise is the way she is?

As much as I love TV though, sometimes I think Hollywood might be going in the wrong direction or not thinking things through before they create something. Here’s one thing that’s got my goat recently: in the latest episode of How To Get Away With Murder (SPOILERS!), it was revealed that main character Annaliese Keating, as well as several of her relatives, were raped when they were young, which is why Annaliese has such trust issues and puts up a tough, angry front.

While I do agree that sexual assault could cause this to happen, I have to wonder if it was necessary to use sexual assault as the reason why Annaliese is the way she is. In fact, it makes me wonder why sexual assault is being used as a form of character development in so many different shows. Not just HTGAWM, but Scandal, Reign, Game of Thrones, heck even Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and several more than I could name here.

Now, I may not be the best person to speak about this. Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault has been part of my stories more than once. Heck, I wrote a novel about a young rape victim trying to fight her demons, set within the backdrop of a conspiracy in Washington (now that’s an original idea for a thriller, isn’t it). I plan to rewrite it later this year if possible. But I have to say, how much rape is being used as a form of character development or backstory is rather too much.

Rape is a horrible thing, and it does change the people to whom it happens. But there are other ways to change someone, to make their personalities make sense or to bring them to the next stage of their journey. The loss of the lover, seeing someone die, a war starting, an apocalypse, time travel, a new job, a betrayal, torture, kidnap, etc. Heck, that last one (SPOILERS!) was used in the last three or so episodes of Scandal, and Olivia told Fitz afterwards that there were some things worse than rape. Why is rape being used so much, to the point that it seems to cheapen the tragedy when it happens in real life? Makes it seem like it’s not a big deal, because it happens so often and heck, most of the characters on TV to whom it happens may not be 100% better afterwards but their characters grow and change in interesting ways?

It also says something that it’s used almost entirely with women than with men. Sexual assault of men does happen, but due to a number of reasons is not often reported by the victims themselves or by the mainstream press. And yet when portrayed on TV, almost always it happens to women or children. Men on TV are rare victims, which I can’t help but wonder might be because people don’t want to see that or something along those lines.

So I’m going to finish this post with a request to the heads of the television industry, to the writers and actors and producers and everyone else involved in the TV making process. The next time you wish to use rape in your show, ask if it’s absolutely necessary, if there’s a good reason for it, or if it’s just there to boost ratings and explain why a character is the way s/he is. Because I don’t believe the latter should be used that often. Perhaps something else might do the same sort of thing for your characters and show than what you plan to use. And I think many people would agree with me, maybe even articulate it better than me.

It’s something to think about.