WARNING: Discusses sexual violence: Do my villains have to have a tragic backstories?


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Thread: WARNING: Discusses sexual violence: Do my villains have to have a tragic backstories?

  1. #1

    WARNING: Discusses sexual violence: Do my villains have to have a tragic backstories?

    My story is a thriller, with a group of villains going around committing rapes, which the police are trying catch. I wrote it so their motivation was that they are doing it as revenge cause they have involuntary celibacy and that is why they are doing it, as revenge.

    However, a couple of people said this wasn't enough motivation and for them to do this, they have to been raped as well, and one suggested that I should write it so that the villains were gang raped in the army or something like that would help make it a lot more believable. But I feel that changes a lot around though. I also don't know if I like the tragic backstory as it's been done to death by now, and can't villains just be villains without a backstory that is much more tragic? Or do I need the tragic backtstory for this kind of motivation for this kind of crime do you think?

  2. #2
    The purpose of a backstory is to achieve some kind of empathy or sympathy. The problem you have is you are picking perhaps the most difficult subset of characters to do this with, for the simple fact they not only sound like total pieces of shit but also ones that most normal people simply don't find justifiable. That makes it difficult, but not impossible.

    I say not impossible not because I have a clue how to do this but because of the simple fact that if other writers have been able to create some level of convincing sob story for racists, murderers, etc then there's no logical reason why rapists can't get that too. However, just because it's possible doesn't mean it's feasible for you.

    The fact you seem to think 'Involuntary Celibacy' is a legitimate condition analogous to some kind of mental health condition, per your post above, tells me you don't necessarily fully grasp the stakes in play here. Let me spell it out clearly: Almost nobody (rational) accepts that rapists have a reason to rape beyond selfishness and psychopathy.

    Involuntary celibacy isn't some unfortunate condition one must suffer. The only people who argue that are...involuntary celibates. Assuming your audience is made up of rational, decent, people, your attempts -- however well meant -- to lend legitimacy to the argument that "The poor boy just had to become a rapist because nobody would love him" is going to make most people laugh or vomit or both.

    The fact these rapists are in a gang rather undermines the most obvious (and only halfway legitimate) angle I could think of to make them somewhat empathetic: Which is just that they are lonely, sad, desperate people. When you start talking about gangs, you start introducing a sense of community, a sense of energy, a sense of life-beyond-the-basement. That doesn't fit with the pathology of 'poor sad masturbator'. As soon as you start introducing the gang component, you lose the sense that these people are powerless. Powerful people are not, typically, easy to identify with.

    So, you have two options: Either really try to shoehorn in the 'tragic backstory'. I have no idea how you would do that in a convincing or original manner. You could have them be raped, however that is itself problematic. The process by which a rape victim becomes a rapist is tenuous. On the other hand, there is some evidence that a lot of sexual criminals were abused in childhood. It's a tired trope but it exists and you could exploit it. It's just boring.

    Other option is quit with the charade and just write them as absolute monsters. Still rather boring, still rather unoriginal, but at least you avoid the minefield of looking like you are trying to humanize the inhumane.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  3. #3
    Oh okay thanks. And I'm not trying to say that involuntary celibacy as an unfortunate condition either, it was just the motivation. However, the characters behave in a certain a way, in which I feel it would be tough to change the story, to a different motivation. But I also feel that when it comes to rapists in other stories, being sexually rejected is the reason for the rape. In the movie Back to the Future for example, Biff Tannen tries to get Lorraine into bed so to speak, she rejects him, and then he responds by raping her out of revenge cause she rejected him.

    This also happens in other movies as well. In the movie The Accused, which is based on a true story as well, some guys hit on Jodie Foster's character and she flirts back, kind of teasing him. But then she rejects them. They hate this rejection, so they rape her as a response. So rejection has been used before as a motive for rape, so I am wondering if I could use it to, especially since some of some of the directions that the plot has to go in, requires that kind of motivation. Is it possible for me to use it too for my story, if others have used it?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Oh okay thanks. And I'm not trying to say that involuntary celibacy as an unfortunate condition either, it was just the motivation. However, the characters behave in a certain a way, in which I feel it would be tough to change the story, to a different motivation. But I also feel that when it comes to rapists in other stories, being sexually rejected is the reason for the rape. In the movie Back to the Future for example, Biff Tannen tries to get Lorraine into bed so to speak, she rejects him, and then he responds by raping her out of revenge cause she rejected him.

    This also happens in other movies as well. In the movie The Accused, which is based on a true story as well, some guys hit on Jodie Foster's character and she flirts back, kind of teasing him. But then she rejects them. They hate this rejection, so they rape her as a response. So rejection has been used before as a motive for rape, so I am wondering if I could use it to, especially since some of some of the directions that the plot has to go in, requires that kind of motivation. Is it possible for me to use it too for my story, if others have used it?
    Which one of those two examples you gave involves a backstory for the rapist(s)?
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

    Hidden Content


  5. #5
    Oh what I am saying is, could I do it like those two examples, where there is no backstory much? I was giving examples, of rapists without backstories and wonder if I could do that for mine. That's what I meant.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    Oh what I am saying is, could I do it like those two examples, where there is no backstory much? I was giving examples, of rapists without backstories and wonder if I could do that for mine. That's what I meant.
    So your options are:

    - No backstory -- your antagonists resemble the formula used for number of prior antagonists (including the two examples you provided)

    - Backstory -- now you're on the pathway to legitimizing rape as a reasonable outlet for *problems*

    Sounds like quite the challenge.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

    Hidden Content


  7. #7
    Well I feel that the whole tragic backstory, works best in some stories, but mine builds towards an ending, where one of the victims seeks revenge on the villains and is successful, so does that ending work as well, if the villains have the tragic backstory? Like for example, Hamlet wants revenge on his uncle for murdering his father. But what if their was a backstory, that the father bad already murdered the Uncle's wife, prior? Would the revenge seem kind of hypocritical then?

    Does that make sense, as to how the tragic backstory, might not work so well for mine?

  8. #8
    Skip the tragic backstory, IMO. Shoehorned-in tragic backstory is lazy writing. Having no backstory is a legitimate choice--your villains become archetypes of evil, basically. And that's fine. A lot of my favorite movies/comics/books contain that variety of villain.
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

    "[An artist is] an idiot babbling through town. . .crying, 'Dreams, dreams for sale! Two for a kopek, two for a song; if you won't buy them, just take them for free!'" ~ Michael O' Brien,
    Sophia House

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    trampling on Death by death,
    And on those in the tombs,
    lavishing light.



  9. #9
    Oh okay, and I can do that, but a couple of readers I show it to so far, say I need a backstory and motivation, then what am I doing wrong for them to say that?

  10. #10
    Incel identity as justification for rape is lazy. Don't tell, show. Humiliation beyond mere rejection in personal instance work better than a label. If you want to go that route, then go all the way, and have him quote some MGTOW personalities to show rather than claim he's radicalized. You don't need to give motivations and personify your villain(s), but if you do, then you've got to go all the way. I've pushed myself to write works representing views that I find abhorrent. When I share them with someone and their aghast because they assume that I must hold those views, for representing them so favorably (when I'm attempting to speak in the voice of their advocates) then I know I've done it right. Don't go there unless you're willing to really go there, and if so people should be outraged by it because otherwise you haven't really touched on the true motivations you are aping at.
    You can never hate something so thoroughly as that which destroys what you love, and who is more guilty of this crime than the stranger who was once a lover?

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