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A blueprint for writing abuse in fiction.

Hardcore TW on this for emotional abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, mentions of self-harm and suicide.

We don’t have a great pattern for talking about healthy relationships, and the boundaries between human flaws and abusive tendencies. This means that many times, when writers seek to show abusive relationships, they jump right to the obvious stuff: the “I’ll kill you before I let you leave me!” level physical aggression and verbal abuse.

But to present a more realistic and compelling abusive relationship, you need to think subtler. Here’s a few emotional abuse techniques that worm into the relationship long before someone raises their hand. As always, your mileage may vary. This is simply my perspective and experience, as someone who’s survived a lot of domestic violence, both from family and partners. Some examples explicitly refer to heterosexual relationships, however the core aggression we’re talking about can happen in any relationship. And its shape is so heavily influenced by the individuals involved, that this is hardly a conclusive rundown of all of the manifestations of non-physical abuse out there.

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