I very rarely do plot edits, and virtually never do them after a chapter is posted. That said, a comment I got from last week has been bothering me. In the comment, they said that the condom felt like an odd choice to make for a chapter that wrapped everything up. Given the lack of a condom in earlier sex scenes, the scene felt lower-stakes than it should have been. I felt the same way reading it back and even writing it, but at the time, felt that the commitment to not showing “the wrong thing to do” as “the actually good thing to do” was important.
I struggle with morals in my stories, and in my past, have failed spectacularly. In Being More Social, Jenna was an annoying character that wielded the sword of her own causes to belittle Adam’s problems. As a result, Adam makes fun of feminism on a whole. The intended point was that a lot of immature guys will see a bad example of a cause, like feminism or something, and feel like they don’t have to listen to a whole ideology. It’s much easier to see one bad example of a social movement and to go, “Sweet, that person sucks, That must mean the whole movement sucks. I don’t have to ask myself uncomfortable questions or grow as a person after all.” Sadly, to a lot of readers, the subtext was lost, and a lot of people just assumed I meant “fuck feminists.”
As a staunch feminist myself (slut-shaming and the accidental belittling of women are themes that regularly show up in my stories), this was unfortunate. I could deal with the occasional misinterpretation when someone would tell me, “You think feminists are like this? Shame on you!” This did not trouble me as much, because that just emboldens them to keep fighting the good fight, and it was equally possible they misread. But when I got a message from a reader going, “Haha hell yeah brother, that feminazi BITCH got what was coming to her!”, I felt the need to modify her ending, at least in the edited version. I don’t want to empower people that seek to belittle and/or oppress, and I don’t want these people thinking I as the author in any way take their side. I should change the standard version on my website sometime soon, too. Perhaps it was telling on myself to admit I didn’t see the problem as much when some readers tried to warn me. I’ve done a lot of growing since I first wrote that story.
While the scene in Mutual Benefits was much less dire, the commenter was absolutely right, and I realized that while it’s a good idea not to have teens shirking protection, there were better ways to be conscious of the consequences and also raise the stakes. For those that already read Mutual Benefits Chapter 20, the change is small – instead of using a condom, Morgan just promises to use another method of birth control, the morning-after pill – so there’s no need to reread it purely for that scene’s effect, but I think it works better for new readers.
As a side note, if you’re in high school you shouldn’t be reading my stories unless you’re 18, but if you’re ignoring me and doing it anyway like teenagers do, please do use protection and take precautions. It can be easy to fool yourself when you’re a young adult that taking care of a child couldn’t be that hard or that pregnancy is easy to deal with if you’re planning on terminating or even that the risk of pregnancy is so small that it’s sometimes worth the risk but these gambles can be things that ruin lives, either of the parents or of the children should you see through with the pregnancy knowing you’re ill-prepared. Even in my late twenties, a lot of my IRL friends are having unexpected kids or taking risks with protection and finding it shockingly complicated and/or damaging to take on risks they weren’t prepared to shoulder. As a teenager, you don’t want these stresses, nor do you deserve them.
At any rate, Mutual Benefits is done. Consequences (the sequel to Being More Social) was the next non-commission story people voted for next, and I’ve fully mentally prepared myself for the people who, especially near the end, will be catastrophically disappointed, either because the story isn’t as good as the original (which is very possible), the story isn’t what they wanted, or because it isn’t just 20 more chapters of Being More Social and is its own story. I don’t say this to garner sympathy, I say it to warn the more self-aware of my readers: please, don’t go into the story with an expectation. It will cause you hurt, or at the very least, annoyance.
I need to limit my tangents. Anyway, Mutual Benefits has been finished! Hoorah! As has become tradition, if you’ve read through this entire post, feel free to comment with a question you have about this story and I’ll do my best to answer it in the blog post next week. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org instead if you wish for the question to be asked privately. No question is too small or too silly, and at time of writing, I’m not planning on doing a sequel with these characters, so I can understand if people want closure for their curiosities when it comes to this particular story.
Once again, feel free to ask any question below. I’m working on Worlds Apart right now and will soon work on Consequences as well. Thank you all for being a great community. I’ll talk to you all next week.