The Dead Robots' Society

Writers on Writing


Episode 202 – The Dangerous Lives Of Characters

This week the Robots sit down to discuss the value and difficulty that can be found in making our characters’ lives a living hell, if they live at all. We hope you enjoy the conversation.

This week’s promo – ThrillerCast with David Wood

Also, two links I’d love for all of you to go to and use:

Movember Donations!

Amazon! Shop through us!



  1. I will have to disagree on the notion that YA generally stops short of sexual violence.

    “Speak” and “Living Dead Girl” are both books that deal with sexual trauma. In Speak, the main character is a 14 year old girl who was raped by an upperclassman in the summer between her last year of middle school and the first year of high school, and how she tries to regain control of her life through refusing to speak. It’s also a movie (starring a pre-twilight Kristin Stewart).

    “Living Dead Girl” is a story about a teenage girl who was kidnapped, confined, and repeatedly raped by a man and then forced to select his next victim. It’s shocking, gut wrenching, and an extremely well-done book. Both of these books are read by teens everywhere. My roommate, a teen librarian, has given me a few more examples as well, but I think those two show it best.

    I think the difference is this: in adult fiction, sexual violence is often treated as simply “something else bad that happens to this character”. Obviously that’s not always the truth, but we do see a lot of rape in Sci-fi and fantasy, which serves little purpose other than to push a female character over the edge, or show how seriously evil the bad-guy is.

    In YA, if sexual violence is present, it’s the central point or problem of the story, around which plot, characterization, and theme revolve. I don’t think sexual violence is something that authors should shy away from totally, but I think the treatment in YA has to be different than the treatment in adult fiction – it can’t just be there to show how bad things are. It’s got to be the point. It’s got to be life-altering somehow in a way that no other type of event could make it.

  2. Since I don’t read much in the way of YA, I can only assume that your assessment is correct. And, it makes sense. For a younger person who hasn’t developed the coping skills needed to deal with a situation like that, it would be the biggest thing in their life, whereas with an adult’s story it would probably be one of many issues they were dealing with.

    And, it’s unfortunate that something as vile as rape would be used as nothing more than a character development point… but it does.

  3. Thanks, Scribe. I think you are bang-on. We’ll have to read your comment on an upcoming show. I think it’s a great insight.

  4. I have always loved paper books, even their smell – but I have to admit I’m with you guys that I prefer reading via eBooks far and above what now feel like clumsy paper books. Plus what’s cooler than having the next 20 books you’re going to read all in your pocket? I have talked to a lot of people who now do most of their reading on their phones. It’s a brave new world of consumption ya’ll! I also really struggle with putting my characters through the paces. I’m having to ramp everything up in my revision stage. Thanks for another great show.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts