Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#1
I am writing an Isekai novel for adults. While most of the story is fairly tame, I do intend to have one or two scenes between some of the adult characters that are very, very, VERY NSFW.

My issue is this: the game world that my main character ends up in is one of those "looks cute, ends up terrifying with horrific subtext" settings (think Kirby, Klonoa, Earthbound, etc.). And while the main characters are all well past legal adulthood, the game world's original "heroes" are young teenagers.

Most of the illustrations I've made for this story get a reaction of "awwwwww, how cute!" I want my readers to know right off the bat that, despite my drawings' appearance, this is not a book for children.

My current solution to this is to start my novel with the main character browsing an adult toy store. I know a big complaint nowadays is that fantasy novels "force" too many adult scenes. Is this opening going to feel forced?

TL;DR My drawings look like they're from a children's cartoon, but the book I'm writing is intended for adults. Is it OK to start my book with a dirty scene so that my readers know it's not a kids' book right off the bat?

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#2
I highly recommend you do not do this at all. It would immediately lump your story, in the minds of most readers, into the "ugh, edgy" category and turn off a whole lot of people. 

Think of something like Fritz the Cat. Starting off with raunchy depraved sex/drugs stuff was an artistic thing back in the 70s, but it's not like anyone actually likes that movie very much these days. It aged very poorly. In the same way, Happy Tree Friends isn't that fondly remembered... or is it? I never liked that kind of "cartoon hyperviolence" stuff as a kid so I'm not the best judge.

Then, think of some of the "cute turning into darkness" stories that have inspired you: Earthbound doesn't have a set moment where it "goes dark," it is a slow descent that uses humor to allay itself, at first dealing with serious issues like abuse, police brutality and dangerous cults in a wacky enough way to offset the darkness, and then only in the last third does it become something like full cosmic horror. Similarly, none of the other examples actually ever get explicit, besides maybe some horror elements, and the adult stuff is very subtle.

Even if your story will be darker, I don't suggest that you add in any sex or ultraviolence except where absolutely necessary; being extremely dark, but also still being PG or low PG-13, is perfectly possible, though I guess internet culture in the post-Five Nights at Freddy's world has kind of changed the tune for that one.

My suggestion if you want to establish the dark parts ASAP: copy my favorite anime Madoka Magica and its first two episodes: It starts off with an action sequence that establishes a darker tone immediately while being so vague it's hard to parse. Then, while there's a lot of cutesiness throughout the rest of the next few episodes, it quickly establishes itself as something dark with its creepy art direction and music, a couple of the characters, and some of the more mature themes it immediately addresses. By the time the story starts to ramp up, you're already accustomed to it.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#3
My main character's story isn't the one that "starts cute, ends horrific." The game she's playing (and eventually falls into) is what has this trope. The novel itself is a pretty consistent mix of funny and serious throughout.

The sex store scene isn't particularly raunchy or "shocking" like the examples you mentioned above, either, the main character is just browsing because she doesn't have a partner at the moment. 

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#5
You could start with the characters in a goth/punk store like Hot Topic and have them literally looking at cute animals modded to have spikes or be bleeding or whatever, and they could be griping about whether they are too old for this store now.

I don't personally have any objection to browsing in an adult store but I don't think it's representative if the actual dark elements are going to be more along the lines of violence or evil.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#6

sunandshadow Wrote: I don't personally have any objection to browsing in an adult store but I don't think it's representative if the actual dark elements are going to be more along the lines of violence or evil.

I agree with this point, if you're using horrific subtext, opening with a horror movie might be better. Opening the story in an adult store makes it seem like the story will have a sexual focus.

And technically speaking, you don't even need to immediately open the story with the more 'mature' elements, so long as you don't actively hide them, I'd say you've got about the first hundred pages or so to establish that your story isn't quite what it seems.

Thedude3445 Wrote: My suggestion if you want to establish the dark parts ASAP: copy my favorite anime Madoka Magica and its first two episodes: It starts off with an action sequence that establishes a darker tone immediately while being so vague it's hard to parse. Then, while there's a lot of cutesiness throughout the rest of the next few episodes, it quickly establishes itself as something dark with its creepy art direction and music, a couple of the characters, and some of the more mature themes it immediately addresses. By the time the story starts to ramp up, you're already accustomed to it.

Also agree with this, since most stories involve a certain level of escalation, or raising the stakes as the story goes on, you could do it subtly and build it up. Start out with the cute, and then slowly slip in darker elements as the story goes on, in which case I think the best way to hint at the darker elements is a healthy amount of foreshadowing.

FayThompsonAuthor Wrote: If you wish to position a warning, you can do so in the prologue area of this writing format. What you want to focus on is telling a good story in an authentic way.

Agree with this too, only if you're still worried about it, I'd suggest putting a warning in the actual synopsis like: "Warning: This story contains strong elements of horror and violence, reader discretion advised." that way people are warned in advanced that things aren't always going to be light hearted, rather than getting the warning when they try to start reading.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#7
Quote:Opening the story in an adult store makes it seem like the story will have a sexual focus.


That's.... that's my whole issue. The story definitely does have a sexual focus, at times, but there's more to it than just sex. It does keep popping up though, so I guess my opening scene stays.

I'm not sure where people are getting the idea that I want to go in an ultra-violence/cosmic horror direction. As far as dark themes go, I think my story's going to end up pretty tame. There's just sex in it.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#8
OHornswallow Wrote: I'm not sure where people are getting the idea that I want to go in an ultra-violence/cosmic horror direction. As far as dark themes go, I think my story's going to end up pretty tame.

Fairly certain it was this bit that threw everyone:
OHornswallow Wrote: My issue is this: the game world that my main character ends up in is one of those "looks cute, ends up terrifying with horrific subtext" settings (think Kirby, Klonoa, Earthbound, etc.).

(And I'm pretty sure parts of Kirby and Earthbound could be considered cosmic horror in the right context, so that might've just worsened it for you.)

-Just realized you had a second post that invalidated all of that, and I apparently blanked over it.

Regardless, if it's not a horror story, then yeah the store thing should work fine for what you want.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#10
I think that you should approach it from a different direction:

First, you need to define for yourself how much of each content is supposed to be in your story - as a percentage of pages describing that (estimate, no need for a detailed statistic). Make this for each specific part, not using general descriptors like NSFW or "dark" but specific descriptions in that list - for example list blood, gore, fright, nudity, sex, rape and so on as different points.


Everything that gets above 20-30% can be considered a "main part of the theme", but everything below 10% should be checked again - is that really neccessary inside the story or do you use it as a gimmick or attention grabber?
If something is a main theme then it's almost impossible to keep it below 10%, because even if that is the big end-point you'll need to build up to it with lesser parts of the same.

If it is an extreme shock effect, then it's your decision to keep it or not - but if it's a shock effect you're loosing part of it if you use it in your opening scene.
If it's only a gimmick or attention grabber, just keep in mind that those have disadvantages as well - some people will be turned away, and some of those who like those scenes will also protest that there is not enough of it.

you can also have other forms of warnings to keep things - for example an explizit horror scene at the beginning to keep the shock effect of a sex scene even while making it clear it is an adult story.

As for your art - keep in mind that style and content are two different things, you can use cute pictures with disturbing content (the bunny slaugthering the wolf while being drawn as an easter bunny) as well, and that might fit your story better than cute pictures of cute content.

Re: Is it okay to start your novel with something "adult" to establish who you want your readerbase to be?

#11
Quote:If it is an extreme shock effect, then it's your decision to keep it or not - but if it's a shock effect you're loosing part of it if you use it in your opening scene.


Not a shock effect, more of a genuine warning to readers that there's gonna be sex in the book.

Anyways what I'm getting from this thread and re-evaluating my story is that there's no issue with how I've started my book. Thanks everyone.