I recently shared an excerpt from my writing with friends who are acting as casual '
beta alpha-readers' (I use this term extremely loosely), partly as they have more lived experience with, and sensitivity to some of the topics in my writing (being a woman and/or plus-sized, something I'd asked about before).
It did not got well, as I had written some very raw stuff about a character being mistreated due to their size in an unrealistic way.
In the excerpt the main character is forcibly made to wear some armour by their mother (who essentially has super strength), in preparation for a festival. I wrote it such that the armour clearly doesn't fit and it looked like neither character noticed until the main character being forced into it couldn't breathe.
On re-reading the excerpt I identified two issues:
- On reflection the scene was darker/more extreme than I needed, and should have had a content warning specific to the topics my '
betaalpha-readers' are helping with. Part of this is because I wrote a character more extremely than would be expected, and I'm figuring out how best change this.
- After re-reading the preceding scene, the excerpt lacked any context or build up to indicate the direction it was heading in. Prior to the scene in the excerpt, the main character is clearly aware of the issue, but doesn't react in time. Instead I dropped the '
betaalpha-readers' into a moment just before the action.
I'm limited on how much I can share with my friends at a time (both the chat client message length limits, and how much I can expect them to read at a time), and I didn't catch the troubling themes myself. In retrospect, I had written the excerpt in a rush, and then not reread before sharing.
How can I best warn/prepare my friends who are doing me a favour by reading these small excerpts, and prevent over sharing distressing stuff?