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Question about romance scene


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Steerpike, I totally get what you're saying, and I think those are completely valid points. Absent some sort of study or evidence, there's no way to get a good idea of how much of an impact this stuff has or on who, or to be clear whether those are the people you're writing for. And things keep changing, too. People are socializing in different ways, and with different types of people than they used to, spending less time with neighbors and sometimes family in favor of carefully chosen online friends. Fantasy and Sci Fi are going mainstream, and aren't just being read by the smarter-than-average bookworms of yesteryear. It's almost impossible nowadays to just write for men or just for women, so your audience is more diverse. It's possible - in fact likely - that some generations of youth or that specific subcultures are more susceptible to these messages than others.

But how exactly we should weight this stuff is far from clear, at least that I can tell. I'm normally inclined to suggest that people are smarter than all that, but then, I also know this is a lot like marketing. Most people say marketing has no effect on them, while their behavior says it clearly does.

Still, there's one last point, though.... which is the one I made earlier. Whatever the effect may actually be (I think: some), and to whatever degree it's fair to hold creators accountable for it (I think: in a few cases but not usually), it's pretty clear that many readers right now are looking for specific things with consent, and anyone writing romance needs to be aware of how they're handling it.


Felis amatus
Devor -- good points. I certainly agree regarding the market analysis. If maximizing sales is the ultimate goal, then you certainly have to take such things into account. But I'm all for also having the books that don't sell as well, and maybe are more for a niche audience or more challenging (and therefore perhaps prone to being misunderstood) in addition to the fully commercial books. I like them both. I wouldn't want to eliminate a work because only 51% of people receive the intended message, or 49%, or 10% for that matter.

Miles Lacey

I have a big issue with the romantic scene that seems to have been overlooked:

Because Alyssa was intoxicated enough that her image in the mirror seemed distorted and because she could not remember (albeit briefly) what John was wearing what followed when she left the bathroom would be viewed as sexual assault because she was incapable of consenting due to being intoxicated i.e. drunk.

Even if John had sought Alyssa's consent for every action and she had consented this was still sexual assault.

My advice to MiaC is to redo the whole scene with the following in mind:

  • Change the scene in the bathroom so what she sees in the mirror reflects that of a sexually aroused teenage girl, not a sexually aroused drunk teenage girl.
  • Make Alyssa more assertive, especially when John is backing her up against the wall. Remember that she should be able to express her consent - or non-consent - without waiting for John to ask for it.
  • Trim the fat by getting rid of some of the flowery descriptions and focus on her feelings towards John, his reactions and her need to dash to the bathroom that takes her past a wall and through the pool room.
  • Give John an imperfection that she finds cute and which would allow her to figure out that the guy behind the mask is John. It could be a scar on his hand from a fencing duel. It could permanently crooked finger that resulted from someone slamming a coffin lid on his finger by mistake.
  • Create a doubt or two in her mind about what she's feeling and if John feels the same way. "I know he's interested in me but does he want to go as far with me as I want to go with him?"

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I said I wouldn't comment further because it's YA and I do get that the rules are a bit different re consent signaling in YA - but I didn't perceive anything from the passage (as a whole) that suggested the POV judgment was impaired by alcohol.

But that's the challenge these days - especially in YA - to write in a way that can't be too easily parsed for missteps.

Miles Lacey

"She stared at herself in the mirror for a moment. Her reflection appeared slightly animated and more vibrant, almost like she was in a dream. She knew she had definitely drank enough now. "

"She stared up into the black empty eyes of the mask, her heart was beating out of her chest. Then she felt a hand slide gently across the small of her exposed back.

She then realized who was behind the mask, it was John. She remembered what he had been wearing in the event room, he just didn't have the hood and mask on."

When I was at my Senior Formal (what Americans call their Prom) I got drunk but I didn"t know just how drunk until I went to school the next day feeling like crap. It wasn't until I described the symptoms that I learned what a hangover was.

The thing is that Alyssa might not be aware that she is drunk, just as I didn't realise I was drunk at the formal. If a person starts forgetting what costume the person they've been lusting after for most of the night was wearing they're well and truly intoxicated.

Of course, I did major in Media Studies at university when I did my B.A so I may be reading more into these highlighted passages than I should be.

Miles Lacey

Most readers know what it feels like to be drunk.

I didn't get that sense at all from the passage. It was way too coherent.

Like I wrote, I could be reading way too much into the passage. Then again, I am descended from people who love their booze and spend a lot of time with such people although I rarely drink (alcohol burns my throat and tastes awful). I've seen just about every type of drunk imaginable so it would not strike me as far fetched that a person who is coherent can also be drunk enough that they start forgetting or seeing things.