Question about "which one will he/she choose" trope.

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indianroads

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I don’t post in the Romance forum because that’s not the genre I write. However, every story I’ve written has some romantic elements; I mean, characters drive stories, and relationships drive characters.

My WIP has a different sort of romantic element for me, and I could use some advice. It’s the typical ‘which one will he/she choose’ trope, that’s common for others, but as I said, I’ve not handled it before.

So, here’s the setup.

MMC is an escaped slave. FMC#1 was once an abuser (in his previous life), but she helped him escape and they are together (partners) now. New to the scene is FMC#2 – no background as an abuser and she isn’t from a prestigious family and has the same lack of education MMC does.

MMC cares for FMC#1 and feels he owes her for his freedom – there is genuine affection/love for her.

BUT MMC is drawn to FMC#2 because there is no history of abuse with her and they have more in common. Where I am in writing WIP, MMC is uncertain of his feelings for FMC#2.

At the end of the novel, should I leave the reader hanging – wondering which he will choose? Or would it be more satisfying to have him choose one over the other? Another option in my SciFi world would be for him to choose both (although I’m unsure the women would get along, but I could build a better relationship between them before the end).

I’m interested in hearing opinions.
 

Ari Meermans

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Have you fully explored both FMCs' feelings for him? That's generally where your answer will lie—in those depths, not the surface.

(Iow, it's not all about him, his feelings, or his quandary.)
 

lizmonster

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Apart from what Ari said - if your FMCs are really MCs, their stories are just as relevant - whether you want to resolve this particular conflict comes down to the story you're telling. Is the resolution of this conflict important? Does the story feel finished without a resolution?

My current MS leaves a plot point unresolved, but it's not a plot point that's at all important to the main conflicts, and the book's ending doesn't want it resolved. (I will say it pissed off one beta reader, though.)

I'm also wondering about asking this on the R/WF board, since you're writing neither and romantic elements are common in all genres. If you're not writing a Romance, you have no genre requirements for your decision, and the Romance trope you're talking about doesn't IMHO offer useful information here.
 

indianroads

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I rarely switch POV's in anything I write. Good or bad, that's just the way I roll, so this novel is written entirely from the MMC's perspective. The story is written close third or third limited, the reader only sees what he sees and knows only his thoughts.

This development was unexpected. I'm a plotter, but as I was writing one particular scene FMC#2 just showed up in my mind - she was kind of cool so I wrote her in. Initially she provided some inner conflict for MMC, and has since been the subject of some arguments between MMC and FMC#1 (I saved you, so you belong to me - which does not go over well for MMC). At one point FMC#2 asked MMC to dump FMC#1, but MMC turned her down due to his feeling of debt to FMC#2.

Currently (near the halfway point in the novel) FMC#2 has backed off a bit and the FMC#1 & #2 are just ok with each other. This relationship could improve.

In my SciFi world, males make up only 20% of the population - so how people partner up could be more fluid than in our world. Currently I'm leaning toward polygamy, but am still wondering if that's the right way to go.

In the 'which one to choose', how do these things normally work out?
 

lizmonster

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In the 'which one to choose', how do these things normally work out?

I don't understand the question. "How do these things normally work out" in any story depends on the characters.

As described, your FMCs sound more like supporting characters than fully fleshed-out people with desires and goals of their own. In that case, you need to understand what your MMC wants, and why, and have him choose accordingly (including both or neither of the women).
 

indianroads

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I don't understand the question. "How do these things normally work out" in any story depends on the characters.

As described, your FMCs sound more like supporting characters than fully fleshed-out people with desires and goals of their own. In that case, you need to understand what your MMC wants, and why, and have him choose accordingly (including both or neither of the women).

Ok. Thanks.
 

Woollybear

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I don’t post in the Romance forum because that’s not the genre I write. However, every story I’ve written has some romantic elements; I mean, characters drive stories, and relationships drive characters.

My WIP has a different sort of romantic element for me, and I could use some advice. It’s the typical ‘which one will he/she choose’ trope, that’s common for others, but as I said, I’ve not handled it before.

So, here’s the setup.

MMC is an escaped slave. FMC#1 was once an abuser (in his previous life), but she helped him escape and they are together (partners) now. New to the scene is FMC#2 – no background as an abuser and she isn’t from a prestigious family and has the same lack of education MMC does.

MMC cares for FMC#1 and feels he owes her for his freedom – there is genuine affection/love for her.

BUT MMC is drawn to FMC#2 because there is no history of abuse with her and they have more in common. Where I am in writing WIP, MMC is uncertain of his feelings for FMC#2.

At the end of the novel, should I leave the reader hanging – wondering which he will choose? Or would it be more satisfying to have him choose one over the other? Another option in my SciFi world would be for him to choose both (although I’m unsure the women would get along, but I could build a better relationship between them before the end).

I’m interested in hearing opinions.

My opinion is his ongoing thought process about it and evolving motivation is far more interesting than his ultimate choice. I want to know what demons roar to the surface when the abuser kisses him. I want to know if those demons excite him or terrify him, and whether he may be perversely, at some level, excited by the thought of asserting power over her. I want to know if such a recognition within himself repulses him or not, and if he feels that something like this is something to overcome. How much Stockholm syndrome is there, is he aware of it, and so on?

I want to know what he finds interesting about the other woman beyond "She never hurt me." I want to know if he wonders whether she will hurt him, if he is PTSDing from his experiences and has trust issues. I want to know her issues, too. I don't want her to be a vanilla 'safe choice.'

His decision is less interesting to me than his inner journey getting there.
 
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KBooks

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Personally, I would rather if you're going to ask a lot of interesting questions and have a love triangle, that you resolve it.
 

indianroads

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My opinion is his ongoing thought process about it and evolving motivation is far more interesting than his ultimate choice. I want to know what demons roar to the surface when the abuser kisses him. I want to know if those demons excite him or terrify him, and whether he may be perversely, at some level, excited by the thought of asserting power over her. I want to know if such a recognition within himself repulses him or not, and if he feels that something like this is something to overcome. How much Stockholm syndrome is there, is he aware of it, and so on?

I want to know what he finds interesting about the other woman beyond "She never hurt me." I want to know if he wonders whether she will hurt him, if he is PTSDing from his experiences and has trust issues. I want to know her issues, too. I don't want her to be a vanilla 'safe choice.'

His decision is less interesting to me than his inner journey getting there.

I'm enjoying the story a lot more since adding this element - for the reasons Patty stated. He is PTSD'ing - suffers the usual nightmares and when cues occur he has flashbacks; nothing graphic though, the performance drugs given to him before encounters blanked his memory. He recalls the humiliation of being purchased for the evening, and the next thing he remembers is the aftermath - the sickness caused by the drugs.

FMC#1 triggers him sometimes - she recalls their encounters as romantic and wonderful, while he just remembers being sick afterward. He lived in cages with other males, while FMC#1 led a rich and privileged life. FMC#2 grew up poor in a rough neighborhood run by street gangs.

For me, his POV is interesting to write.
 

indianroads

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Personally, I would rather if you're going to ask a lot of interesting questions and have a love triangle, that you resolve it.

I will - that I just decided. How it's resolved remains to be seen. There's a lot of fighting going on, so one of the FMC could die, or she may find someone else, or he may chose one over the other, or they may all agree to a three person partnership.
 

lizmonster

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FMC#1 triggers him sometimes - she recalls their encounters as romantic and wonderful, while he just remembers being sick afterward.

So basically she raped him, and he's attracted to her now? ...Yeah, be careful with this. It's off-putting on its face, and you're going to have a tough time if you want her to be at all sympathetic and him to seem at all emotionally healthy.

Not saying it can't be done - antiheroes are very much a thing - but it's not romantic by any stretch of the imagination.
 
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indianroads

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So basically she raped him, and he's attracted to her now? ...Yeah, be careful with this. It's off-putting on its face, and you're going to have a tough time if you want her to be at all sympathetic and him to seem at all emotionally healthy.

Not saying it can't be done - antiheroes are very much a thing - but it's not romantic by any stretch of the imagination.

It certainly isn't to him. Those sorts of insensitive remarks have already spurred a few fights between them.
 

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It certainly isn't to him. Those sorts of insensitive remarks have already spurred a few fights between them.

I suspect you know what I'm saying here, but: you can't sell this to readers as romantic. It won't fly.

Now, abusive relationships are effectively written all the time. I think of Hurley's MIRROR EMPIRE, which includes an abusive marriage (within a matriarchal society). Both characters are deeply off-putting, but extremely well-written, and Hurley even manages to make you root for them now and then (mostly by putting them in situations that are even worse). But the relationship itself is skeevy and gross, and she never tries to make it anything else. It's abuse and addiction, and it's sad and realistic (within the universe she's drawn).

It was a terrific book. If she'd tried to sell that relationship as anything other than the train wreck it was, I'd have flung the book across the room.
 

indianroads

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I suspect you know what I'm saying here, but: you can't sell this to readers as romantic. It won't fly.

Now, abusive relationships are effectively written all the time. I think of Hurley's MIRROR EMPIRE, which includes an abusive marriage (within a matriarchal society). Both characters are deeply off-putting, but extremely well-written, and Hurley even manages to make you root for them now and then (mostly by putting them in situations that are even worse). But the relationship itself is skeevy and gross, and she never tries to make it anything else. It's abuse and addiction, and it's sad and realistic (within the universe she's drawn).

It was a terrific book. If she'd tried to sell that relationship as anything other than the train wreck it was, I'd have flung the book across the room.

Excellent point, and I'll keep it in mind.

When the story starts, he cares for her and she for him - the abuse has ended. Relationships can continue and improve in those conditions. Once I acted as a 'Guide' on a website to help people cope with infidelity (definitely abuse). Both sides were there, both the wayward and betrayed. Many reconciled, and had good relationships after all the nonsense stopped. So it can happen. The lure of FMC#2 is that she represents a clean slate, which can be tempting to someone that's been abused.
 

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I rarely switch POV's in anything I write. Good or bad, that's just the way I roll, so this novel is written entirely from the MMC's perspective. The story is written close third or third limited, the reader only sees what he sees and knows only his thoughts.

This development was unexpected. I'm a plotter, but as I was writing one particular scene FMC#2 just showed up in my mind - she was kind of cool so I wrote her in. Initially she provided some inner conflict for MMC, and has since been the subject of some arguments between MMC and FMC#1 (I saved you, so you belong to me - which does not go over well for MMC). At one point FMC#2 asked MMC to dump FMC#1, but MMC turned her down due to his feeling of debt to FMC#2.

Currently (near the halfway point in the novel) FMC#2 has backed off a bit and the FMC#1 & #2 are just ok with each other. This relationship could improve.

In my SciFi world, males make up only 20% of the population - so how people partner up could be more fluid than in our world. Currently I'm leaning toward polygamy, but am still wondering if that's the right way to go.

In the 'which one to choose', how do these things normally work out?

Considering the feelings and motivations of 2 FMCs has nothing to do with POVs. I assume that those 2 FMCs have needs and wants and feelings so you need to factor those into your decision of who ends up together. Even if they don't have a POV their decision and feelings are as important as his; unless those women have no free-will and will just accept with whatever the MMC believe.

Who says those 2 FMCs don't fall in love with each other and leave the MMC behind.

One thing I would say and others might disagree but I would be careful about having someone whatever their gender fall in love with their abuser even if they help them escape. For me it's not a portrayal of a healthy relationship as there would be PTSD, also residual fear from victim about what would happen if they didn't go along with the relationship, gratitude is not love. I'm just saying with the issues with domestic violence nowadays it's something to keep in mind.
 

lizmonster

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Once I acted as a 'Guide' on a website to help people cope with infidelity (definitely abuse).

Infidelity != rape, and I'm having trouble believing you're actually equating the two with a straight face.

Soap operas notwithstanding, people don't fall for people who've raped them. With extreme contrition and demonstrable amends, you might have someone forgiving a person who raped them. But romance? No and no and no, not if you're wanting your reader to see this as in any way something they're rooting for. As framed FMC1 is a loathsome monster, and MMC is at best an object of pity.
 

Elle.

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Excellent point, and I'll keep it in mind.

When the story starts, he cares for her and she for him - the abuse has ended. Relationships can continue and improve in those conditions. Once I acted as a 'Guide' on a website to help people cope with infidelity (definitely abuse). Both sides were there, both the wayward and betrayed. Many reconciled, and had good relationships after all the nonsense stopped. So it can happen. The lure of FMC#2 is that she represents a clean slate, which can be tempting to someone that's been abused.


Infidelity and rape are massively different things that cannot compare on any level. If you think people can fall in love with people who rape them sorry but no.
 

indianroads

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Infidelity and rape are massively different things that cannot compare on any level. If you think people can fall in love with people who rape them sorry but no.

Talk with someone that has been abused that way and you may come away with a different opinion. I don't want this topic to degenerate, so I'm leaving it now.

Thanks to all that responded - your insights were very helpful.
 

Roxxsmom

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I generally find it unsatisfying if a protagonist ends up with a former abuser, even if the abuser really has changed and is attempting to redeem themselves. I was in an abusive relationship (note, the abuse was physical--slapping, pinching, foot stomping under tables, and sometimes full on hitting, and tons of unrelenting pressure for sex when I didn't want it--and emotional--lots of gaslighting and crazymaking, body shaming, emotional control, and verbal abuse--with infidelity being the smallest part of that) when I was very young, and while I still know my former abuser peripherally, and he appears to have changed and expressed remorse years later, I could never be attracted to him romantically again. Even decades later, there are simply things that are far too triggery for me--not just with him, but when things remind me of what happened in that relationship.

This is just my two cents worth, but I prefer stories where the abused character finds love with someone in a more equal and baggage-free relationship.

Having said this, the choice your characters make will be up to you, and what actually works will depend on how you develop their arcs. Not everyone shares my sensibilities, and that may be your target audience. There are plenty of romances and books with romantic arcs with love interests that are what I consider abusive (Twilight anyone), or former rapists (or whatever) who redeem themselves and earn the love of their former victim. Some readers do prefer these kinds of relationships.

I also prefer novels where romantic arcs are resolved by the end, unless the book is a trilogy or series and the next book is already out and ready for me to pick up and read seamlessly.
 
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I know you are gone now from the thread, but from a philosophical perspective I wonder how the abuse narrative might shift if he believes her to be his abuser and (she either allows the misconception or does not know he holds it) and after she helps him escape at some point it comes to light that a different guard had abused him and she never had. And she either had, or had not, abused others.

I don't have any clear thoughts here, but it seems like there could be additional confusion for your MMC with this sort of twist. Also, whether she *would* have abused him if ordered/had the opportunity/etc, would be something interesting to me. Whether this idea would come across as DeM to help aide the attraction issue would depend how it was handled, I think.

Just mulling ideas. I dunno.
 

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Talk with someone that has been abused that way and you may come away with a different opinion. I don't want this topic to degenerate, so I'm leaving it now.

Thanks to all that responded - your insights were very helpful.

I see you are not going to post anymore in this thread, but something to consider when people stay with, or return to former abusers or rapists, is that this isn't necessarily part of a healthy resolution for the relationship. Stockholm syndrome, low self esteem, fear of being alone and utterly unlovable to anyone, fear of retribution, and even the sunk costs fallacy (and other factors) can keep someone forgiving and emotionally involved with an abuser, but that doesn't mean this is a good thing or a happy ending.

The question is, of course, how do you want to present this if he ultimately decides to remain in a romantic relationship with his former captor/ abuser. Is it supposed to be a sweet, "awwww" kind of ending, or is it one that is meant to be kind of gritty and raw, portraying a disturbing reality about the way abuse erodes a person's sense of self and boundaries?

I'm not saying that infidelity can't be a form of emotional abuse, but the kinds of abuses and lack of empowerment one experiences as a slave would be, imo, far, far worse.
 
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Octavia Butler's Kindred does an interesting job with some of these kinds of ideas.

FMC is African American and in a relationship with a white man in the late 20th century.

FMC is pulled back to the early 1800s for temporary periods of time and for a repeating purpose.

She is treated as a slave in the 1800s. It is a slide, for her, from privileged non-slave to relatively privileged slave to slave with no privilege at all. Another slave, who she tries to help, is whipped to within a hair of his life and sold.

The whole of the story is harrowing and thought-provoking.

How the FMC views *everything* --her relationship with the white man in the 20th century, herself, slavery, education, the whole of it--changes over the course of the story.

Everything is messy in the novel, and it's done very well. You might get some ideas from Kindred. Possibly anyone who reads the novel will think of slavery differently.

Also, there is rape in the story. Importantly--the rape of a slave is treated differently, from a societal view--this is one of the things Butler addressed--the idea of property.

To my mind, a bigger problem for you, IR, than the rape/infidelity question (I believe rape is far worse, FTR), is if any historically enslaved community might feel that you are appropriating their cultural pain. So read Kindred, but be aware, as you probably are.
 
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MaeZe

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... So, here’s the setup.

MMC is an escaped slave. FMC#1 was once an abuser (in his previous life), but she helped him escape and they are together (partners) now. New to the scene is FMC#2 – no background as an abuser and she isn’t from a prestigious family and has the same lack of education MMC does.

MMC cares for FMC#1 and feels he owes her for his freedom – there is genuine affection/love for her.

BUT MMC is drawn to FMC#2 because there is no history of abuse with her and they have more in common. Where I am in writing WIP, MMC is uncertain of his feelings for FMC#2.

At the end of the novel, should I leave the reader hanging – wondering which he will choose? Or would it be more satisfying to have him choose one over the other? Another option in my SciFi world would be for him to choose both (although I’m unsure the women would get along, but I could build a better relationship between them before the end).

I’m interested in hearing opinions.
You probably have enough opinions, I haven't read them all. Here's another one anyway.

MMC is an escaped slave. FMC#1 was once an abuser (in his previous life), but she helped him escape and they are together (partners) now.
Right away I need to know how did FMC#1 go from abuser to rescuer? You didn't say owner, you said abuser.

FMC#2 – no background as an abuser and she isn’t from a prestigious family and has the same lack of education MMC does.
So FMC#1 is a rich slave owner???

MMC cares for FMC#1 and feels he owes her for his freedom – there is genuine affection/love for her.
That's a bit contradictory.

Does she feel he owes her? He loves her but not really? That's what "feels he owes her" triggers in me.

Love is not built on owing a person.

Love is built on equality.

He could love her and feel grateful but you put it the other way around.

BUT MMC is drawn to FMC#2 because there is no history of abuse with her and they have more in common.
No history of abuse? Does that mean he really hasn't gotten over FMC#1's abuse?

I need to know more about that abuse.

He needs to either be in love with FMC#1 or their love might be slowly dissolving due to all that baggage you put in the story. And since he's attracted to #2, that suggests love with #1 is weak and full of cracks that could grow.

If he stays with #1, he might always long for what he missed with #2.
Or if he goes with #2 he could be guilt-ridden and that destroys their relationship.


I suggest you need to resolve those issues with #1. He either stops loving her and feeling guilty and leaves with #2

Or he gets over his issues with #1 and their love grows.

Or he never stops feeling guilty in which case both relationships are doomed, whichever he chooses.


Don't forget these women have a say in this too. If you leave that out it will die a tropey death. :tongue
 
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Rojack79

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Talk with someone that has been abused that way and you may come away with a different opinion. I don't want this topic to degenerate, so I'm leaving it now.

Thanks to all that responded - your insights were very helpful.

As someone who's has been raped before I can tell you that it is not something to be taken lightly nor would I find myself attracted to my abuser. I kind of find it insensitive of you to even suggest such a thing but if you have the literary chops to pull this off then best of luck to you. Just know that rape and infidelity are two drastically different things and both need to be handled with care.
 
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