I’ve written ten books.
Out of those ten books, I’ve come to find over time that at least half of them involve a protagonist who is struggling in an abusive relationship.
It’s something I never really noticed until lately, and the reason for this is because I have gotten a lot of feedback and critiques from Beta Readers and agents alike. A lot of the feedback looks like this:
“I don’t understand why the MC doesn’t leave this abusive guy. He’s such an asshole.”
“Your character seems stronger than this, why is she staying with him?”
“You make it clear this guy is a jerk, why does your MC stay with him?”
For a long time I took these words and pondered them, gave them deep thought, but then never changed it. People were adamant about it. They hated to see such a strong protagonist struggle with an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship. WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? It’s stupid. No one does that, no one stays with someone like that.
But actually, maybe they do.
Writers write what they know. It’s common knowledge. It’s said that in every, single book ever written, part of the writer comes through in their main character. And it’s true. I’m not in an abusive relationship. My husband is probably the coolest, most chill guy I’ve ever met in my life. I’m lucky I ended up with him, because for a while I was going down the wrong path.
But I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed first-hand abusive, controlling relationships. Some of the darkest moments in my entire life revolve around those times.
I’ve come to find in my critique partner feedback that it’s generally the people whom I know have struggled with those kind of relationships in their own lives—or at least witnessed them—never make those comments. Because they get it. For others, it seems so easy: leave the asshole. Escape. You’re so tough, so get out.
That’s not how it works. Not even a little bit.
I write about these abusive relationships in my books because I know them. I’ve seen them. And honestly? There’s nothing more empowering to me than allowing my protagonist to break free at the end.
That’s the whole point, and sometimes life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, okay?
Women (and men) in abusive, controlling relationships aren’t in these relationships because they want to be . . . I promise you that. So while you’re reading about a character in a book who’s struggling to escape from this bad relationship with no idea how to do it (or fear, because fear is a huge culprit in abusive relationships), try to understand that most people can’t just “dump” their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife whatever when they’re stuck in this vicious cycle of abuse.
THAT’S why I write characters who struggle in these kind of relationships, because that’s real life. Of course their partner is an asshole. That’s the point. Of course they get battered. That’s the point. But getting strong enough to leave, walk away, to say enough is enough . . . that’s the real point. It always has been.
Ignorance is bliss, but the real world certainly isn’t.