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Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter) within the Ideas, Plots and Stories forums, part of the Writing Discussion category at Fictionpost Writing Forums - Where Writers Unite; Iíve just been browsing through TV Tropes and came across the subject of brother sister incest, which is a fairly common trope in literature and films. According to what I read there, which is supported in my own experiences of ...()

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    Author Photo moonmanmad's Avatar
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    Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Iíve just been browsing through TV Tropes and came across the subject of brother sister incest, which is a fairly common trope in literature and films. According to what I read there, which is supported in my own experiences of reading fiction, the subject of incest, whether itís between brother and sister or otherwise, is usually treated in a negative light, e.g., there are almost always negative consequences/ramifications from such behavior. Iíve used this trope in two of my novels, michelle questionmark and Valentine Road, and while the consequences in michelle questionmark are negative, the consequences/ramifications in Valentine Road are not. My questions, and the (desired) points of discussion, are these: Have you used this trope or do you plan to use it in any of your work? If you do, how do you plan to use it? Do you think itís possible or acceptable to show incest in at least a benign (if not positive) light (as I do, for the most part, in Valentine Road)? Iím not looking for anyoneís personal feelings/attitudes about incest, but about the trope itself as a plot or plot point. The reason this is a question for me is because I see a lot of material on the internet, and have seen a lot of material in literature, that has led me to conclude that people tend to have a fascination for this subject, and itís not entirely of the morbid kind. Best example: the fascination people have for the idea that Luke and Leia in the Star Wars films are brother and sister; Iíve seen every kind of reaction, ranging from horror and revulsion to humor/parody to vehement insistence that Luke and Leia ďbelong together.Ē I think that last idea is the one that intrigues me the most. Itís easyóand safer, I thinkóto have any incestuous behavior on the part of your characters result in negative consequences, but what if you wrote something in which your characters were romantically involved, and though they faced negative consequences or ramifications as a result, their love/relationship survived and was ultimately condoned? Can the argument for valid romance in incestuous relationships be made?

    Also: I realize this can be a sensitive subject for some people, so if the mods feel this is inappropriate, they can of course delete this thread and I wonít be offended.

    Also also: if this is in the wrong forum or the mods simply think it is, they can move it and I wonít be offended for very long.

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    Legen - wait for it - Melisende's Avatar
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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)


    Also: I realize this can be a sensitive subject for some people, so if the mods feel this is inappropriate, they can of course delete this thread and I won’t be offended.

    Also also: if this is in the wrong forum or the mods simply think it is, they can move it and I won’t be offended for very long.
    Naw, it's all good. I'll be keeping an eye on the responses though. o.0

    I've never really considered writing about incest, to be honest. My stories have never really gone that dark. Or at least gone near covering deep issues. I have been interested by the idea of siblings who get separated for years and years and meet up not recognising each other and fall in love, and how they deal with it after that. It happens in more than just Star Wars There were a few cases several years ago. But I've never been sure how to write a story around that since I mostly deal in fantasy and that seems like a major plot line all on its own. Also then how to deal with it so it doesn't just sound like a glorified version of the sob story I read in a magazine in a dentist's waiting room once. It'd take more work than I can be bothered to put in at my level of writing.

    However, I have been considered making in one of my stories, which is fairly dark and issues-based, a character seem more villainous/pathetic/whatever by being in love with his own sister. Figuring there's a difference between accidental incest and knowing exactly how wrong it is and getting obsessed with a sibling anyway.
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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    I admit that I have written a story with a brother and sister incest (and it's a story I hope will never be read by anyone). They weren't the main characters (although the sister is a major character later in the story). I didn't write it in a good light, and it's more to hammer in how corrupt the ruling families of the society are, but then I don't think there's a part of this story that's written in a good light. I wrote the story more to try out different things with my writing and to write something really dark and depraved.


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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    I haven't written a story with actual acts of incest, however I do have a story where there is a group of people (almost like a cult) that is basically structured like a family. The leader of this group is called The Father and there is an implied incestuous relationship between him and several other members of the group. Even though its basically only incest in name, not blood, I still used it in a negative light. I do believe that anything can be protrayed as normal depending on the setting and plot of a story. It would just be a matter of creating a world in which and incestuous relationship would be something that was not seen as negative, even if it wasn't an everyday occurence.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Quote Originally Posted by Melisende View Post
    But I've never been sure how to write a story around that since I mostly deal in fantasy and that seems like a major plot line all on its own. Also then how to deal with it so it doesn't just sound like a glorified version of the sob story I read in a magazine in a dentist's waiting room once. It'd take more work than I can be bothered to put in at my level of writing.
    Considering the profound effects even “casual” incestuous behavior can have in a person’s life, whether positive or negative, it’s always a major plot line or plot point. Most of your characters’ major decisions will be influenced/affected by it. This is, I think, even more than the sensitive nature of the subject, is what makes it most difficult to write about.
    Quote Originally Posted by Melisende View Post
    However, I have been considered making in one of my stories, which is fairly dark and issues-based, a character seem more villainous/pathetic/whatever by being in love with his own sister. Figuring there's a difference between accidental incest and knowing exactly how wrong it is and getting obsessed with a sibling anyway.

    This is an interesting remark, mostly because I think that’s how most people would approach this idea, even if the person in love with his/her sibling only acted in positve ways toward that sibling; it implies an assumption that those feelings are univerally wrong, no matter what the context. I, on the other hand, approached it from the opposite angle in Valentine Road; the relationship in question is based primarily on affection, romantic feelings, and overdepedence, and the brother in the equation is the protagonist/hero of the story.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rose Laflesh View Post
    I admit that I have written a story with a brother and sister incest (and it's a story I hope will never be read by anyone). They weren't the main characters (although the sister is a major character later in the story). I didn't write it in a good light, and it's more to hammer in how corrupt the ruling families of the society are, but then I don't think there's a part of this story that's written in a good light. I wrote the story more to try out different things with my writing and to write something really dark and depraved.

    Another interesting remark, much along the same lines as Lizbob’s, in that you automatically assume that the incestuous relationship is dark and depraved. So far I’m seeing that my question whether or not the incest trope can be seen as positive in any sense is heading toward a no.
    Quote Originally Posted by orochichris View Post
    I haven't written a story with actual acts of incest, however I do have a story where there is a group of people (almost like a cult) that is basically structured like a family. The leader of this group is called The Father and there is an implied incestuous relationship between him and several other members of the group. Even though its basically only incest in name, not blood, I still used it in a negative light. I do believe that anything can be protrayed as normal depending on the setting and plot of a story. It would just be a matter of creating a world in which and incestuous relationship would be something that was not seen as negative, even if it wasn't an everyday occurence.

    I should note here that in both of the novels I mentioned, I don’t actually have a scene in which the incestuous incidents are described. In michelle questionmark the incident is told in a sort of flashback style, the particular actions aren’t described in great detail, and the fact that it was an incestuous incident isn’t revealed until much later in the book; in Valentine Road I don’t even have the brother and sister committing any type of overt incest; it’s mostly romantic feelings, atttitudes and actions, with (if I recall correctly) two separate scenes where they come close to doing something but back off. Your story may not have actual acts of incest in it, but I would still classify it that way because of the trope, which is more about the relationship and question of power and influence than actual blood relations. As for your suggestion of creating a world in which an incestuous relationship wouldn’t be seen as negative, there used to be societies many centuries ago in which this kind of thing actually did occur; in ancient Egypt, for example, royalty were allowed to marry siblings to keep the bloodline pure, and even though their society had your standard taboo against it, this was acceptable to most of the people in that society. By the way, welcome to FP, new person.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Quote Originally Posted by Moon
    Have you used this trope or do you plan to use it in any of your work?
    I think the closest I've come to writing incest is a male character being in love with his cousin, and then Radu and Flora's relationship from 13. Though, those are really watered down versions of the trope.

    If you do, how do you plan to use it?
    Well, I wouldn't say incest plays a major role in the first example; in that society it's acceptable for cousins or even half-siblings to marry if they're of noble or royal blood. Problems only arise because by the time the female character learns that her cousin has been in love with her since they were kids she's already married to another man. A man who happens to be the ruler of an enemy country. So there's that as well as plain old jealousy motivating the male cousin. It's a heartbreaking situation for the female character since she does care deeply for her cousin and probably would've happily married him if things had turned out differently.

    Radu and Flora probably don't even count since a) they aren't siblings, b) they're not truly related by blood, and c) they aren't even the same species. Besides, that has more overtones of an older relative taking advantage of a younger one.

    Do you think it’s possible or acceptable to show incest in at least a benign (if not positive) light (as I do, for the most part, in Valentine Road)?
    Absolutely. However, the tricky part is getting readers who see it that way rather than, say, froth at the mouth with moral outrage from the get-go. People are notoriously difficult to deal with, or so I hear. As you pointed out, though, there is a fascination with the subject--enough that I think such a venture would be worthwhile.

    Apologies if this post turns out to be a waste of space.
    Last edited by The Laughing Goth; 07-03-2012 at 01:16 AM.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Well, I do have this one story, where along the way, it gets hinted that two characters could possibly be related, as both were adopted and did share many similar features (In that subtle sibling-style way) and they end up in a relationship, they don't care. Or don't seem to. It's when they finally get ahold of records that whether they're related comes to light. It's not the largest part of the plot, but it does add greatly to the tension.

    And, diverging from original fiction into the minds of fangirls and Rowling, some of the best fanfictions in the Harry Potter sections have close cousins in relationships, though that's a touch watered down... That fandom is actually pretty understanding of the whole incest and cousincest thing, as long as they aren't the extreme newbie writer. It's almost weird...

    Showing incest in a good light is a difficult thing, since society is up in arms against it, after seeing overblown examples from inbreeding. People (I'm pretty sure this doesn't apply everywhere, so correct me if I'm slapping a label on a country that don't care) also assume that incest=sex, when it could be a more platonic relationship. People are pretty good at getting their brains wired. It's getting it REwired that's the trick.
    Last edited by Darkotter's Kosher Bacon; 07-03-2012 at 03:05 AM.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Well cousins are often legally allowed to marry. I think it's the case in this country for example... Have a feeling it changes state by state in the US, although go look it up if you actually care.

    I for one don't really care that much about cousin relationships: I think that's far enough removed not to do too much genetic damage as long as you don't do it with royal family intensity, but just a one-off. People are almost all related to each other anyhows; the further back you go the less links there are in the family tree.

    As far as I'm concerned, for writing a story and trying to show something weird was up, you'd need to mention a family marrying its own cousins together for at least 3 generations to prove creepiness.

    Anyways, to Moon's comment. I do think a story well-handled could use sibling incest well, like you're suggesting with your story, as a romantic plot as much as anything. People will almost certainly be revolted by it in large proportions, but making at least half the readers sympathetic at the same time is the challenge. Since you say the characters don't act on it, even if they do seem to acknowledge it, you'd probably be able to get away with it because by keeping it away from actual sex you keep it a philosophical exercise for debating it.

    Obviously it is such a provocative topic though that you can use it for making a character seem instantly villainous. It's something most people recoil away from instinctively even if they are equally fascinated. Because incest is biologically programmed to revolt us, since our species stays healthy by not inbreeding, it's a sign that something is broken inside a character, and something that unlike many other things in human behaviour and sexuality which are banned and frowned on, I can't see ever being unbanned unless in the case of huge sci-fi changes in the way reproduction works, making it safe to fall in love with who or whatever you want without producing weird inbred babies. Which would be an interesting story, if you wrote about the world around the cusp of that change to legality... Hmm. To the plot orphanage! (I can't write SF at the best of times )

    Anyway, bumping into the Game of Thrones boxset yesterday reminded me of a rather prominent case of twincest in popular media. What's interesting, having read further through the series than the show has gone, is that Jaime Lannister ends up seeming a rather nicer character, and his love for Cercei seems a bit more of real love. She carries on being the villain and as far as I can tell from the point I've read to (I'm still a few massive books behind ) is shown a lot more twisted and going for incest for much more disturbing reasons: there's no real love in her. Anyway, two people who've read considerably further through the series than I have seem to both like Jaime Lannister a lot more than I do, so I can only assume the guy whose first real thing in the series was being shown doing the nasty with his sister ends up being quite a sympathetic character.

    If you read 5 massive fantasy epics, that is.
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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    @ Gothbabe: the “watered down” version of the trope can serve the purpose of indulging the reader’s interest in it without actually having to face the socially conditioned aversion to it. And the way I handled the subject in Valentine Road was to have other characters voice that outrage, and to do it in such a way that, though the reader might agree with them, those characters still come off as antagonists. As you said, tricky.

    @ BaconKid: I personally detest the whole “we had no idea we were related” thing; for the most part it’s been used as a comedic plot twist, which, to my mind, is simply not funny. That’s not to say that I don’t find incest humor funny; I just don’t think this particular twist on it is. Don’t really know why. As for the incest=sex issue, I can completely understand it, since in most cultures romance=sex, at least eventually, and besides, I find it extremely hard to believe anyone would become romantically involved with someone else without considering the sexual aspect.

    @ Melzaar: I’m not convinced that the incest taboo is a biological imperative. I’m more inclined to think it’s a socially conditioned response (and the belief that it’s a biological imperative is also socially conditioned). I don’t make this argument in any of my novels, but I can certainly see the intellectual debate on this occurring in one of my future works. I also like very much your SF story idea, though I doubt I’d be able to write something like that myself, since I too tend to avoid that genre.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    “we had no idea we were related”
    comedic plot twist,

    I don't get it. How's that funny? That, because of social things can be rather terrifying. It's the "what if others find out?" and things like that. My characters, when they finally have to confront it, actually spent a bunch of time talking and considering what to do if it actually turned out that way.
    (Of course, this is all notes, old notes, I haven't typed any of this. And for the record, they weren't siblings. I'm pretty sure they're third cousins, however...)
    I was actually talking about the fact that people think they've been screwing each other from the get-go. Sorry, I was typing fast, things got lost.
    Hey, I'm typing in Moon font!//random
    Last edited by Darkotter's Kosher Bacon; 07-03-2012 at 05:24 AM.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Edited
    Last edited by Frances; 11-12-2013 at 05:50 PM.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    If you eanted to play a positive spin on it, don't introduce the blood line until the end of the story, so that the reader already likes the couple. Interesting topic, very original.
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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Quote Originally Posted by Frances View Post
    Hello,

    I'm new here and I joined up, because I thought this might be of interest to people maybe.

    I wrote a novel involving brother/sister incest... and it would be great to have some feedback

    Take a look here:

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    Pretty close to spam. I'll let the real mods figure it out.
    Quote Originally Posted by Falcon720 View Post
    If you eanted to play a positive spin on it, don't introduce the blood line until the end of the story, so that the reader already likes the couple. Interesting topic, very original.
    I would agree with you if I didn't disagree with you. Saving that kind of reveal for the ending is a cliche plot twist that I've never appreciated. The better course of action, in my view, is to reveal the truth of the relationship later rather than the blood relation. Besides, if you do it right (and I do), you can make the couple likable, or at least sympathetic, to the reader despite their socially unacceptable behavior.

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    Pro Golf Player Falcon720's Avatar
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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Really? I would like to see an example of that sometime, from you or otherwise.
    Last edited by Falcon720; 25-06-2012 at 04:43 AM.
    Hmm...cheese? No, that's not it. Is it...dog?

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    You should have been here a year or two ago when I posted my novel Valentine Road here. It's not here now.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Aw. Well, I'm sure this will come along again eventually. What gave you this idea?
    Hmm...cheese? No, that's not it. Is it...dog?

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    To be honest, I can't remember. I first started writing the novel twenty-five years ago, and when I started it I hadn't intended to introduce that dynamic into the story. The relationship between the siblings ended up that way, but as I said, I can't remember why.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    I didn't know.
    Hmm...cheese? No, that's not it. Is it...dog?

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Edited
    Last edited by Frances; 11-12-2013 at 05:51 PM.

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    Re: Writing About Incest (obviously mature subject matter)

    Eh, it's all good, Frances. My reaction was based largely on the fact that your first post as a new member was a link to another site, and we do get a lot of spammers here (and we like them not). Also, I'm a very cranky person. If your book does contain an incestuous relationship important to the plot, then itís certainly relevant. I appreciate your input.
    Quote Originally Posted by Frances View Post
    I don't know if I did the cliche plot twist or not, I think if you're not paying too much attention then it could be a surprise... I tried to do it that the reader goes 'ah I thought so' once everything is revealed.

    Yeah, my remark about the plot twist was a bit arrogant, I suppose; like the method of revealing the relationship early, if you do it right, it can work.
    Quote Originally Posted by moonmanmad View Post
    You should have been here a year or two ago when I posted my novel Valentine Road here. It's not here now.

    here, here, here. This is really a badly constructed sentence.

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