Creating a Scandal

Scandals are creative causes of conflict, they are also really great at fanning the flames already made from conflict. They are probably the worst kept secrets of the writing world and are often used in historical themed fictions. Though the type of scandal itself and it’s perceived severity will depend on the time period, socio-cultural structure, and current plot of the time. But here some of what scandals are made of.

What is a Scandal?

The definition of scandal is:

An action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong causing a general public outrage.

A Crime

For this, when I say a crime I don’t necessarily mean one of the legal sort, but more of a crime against a societal or personal belief. Although if you want to pull in a legal aspect to it, go for it, but it has to be a sort of crime in the eyes of society. To pull into our own societies history to elaborate, at one time it was a scandal to love someone of another race. Also at one point it was a scandal to fall in love with someone of a different class than your family. It was hard times when a noble woman falls in love with the town baker, but these were all seen as scandals during that time. When you’re writing a fantasy universe, try to figure out what would be seen as taboo in those societies.

My favorite example is that of the character Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series. In that world it was a scandal for a woman to be a knight, so she hid it. Throughout the story many people think that she is a man and it limits her ability to be in relationships because she has to follow what society thinks is normal for a man so that she can continue on as a knight.

A Secret

What most people can’t forget when it comes to scandals is that there are always attempts to hide them. The relationship is kept to meeting in dark alleys. Family’s refusing to speak of an event that will make their image change within the community. Like a person you accidentally killed, a scandal is always attempted to be hidden, only for a heavy rain to reveal for all the world to find.

The Reaction

Once the scandal is revealed to the public (which in some cases can be a small community or a family) a domino effect occurs. Shock and horror are usually first to appear in a reaction but can sometimes be interchanged with disbelief. This is always followed by a sense of betrayal. How you want to go with the reaction is up to you, because it can be an all out thing depending on how large the public is. It can lead to violence, shaming, exile, or death depending on the writer. Ultimately this is the reason why the scandal is hidden to begin with, because the character is scared of the final reaction. But the reaction has to be of equal severity as the crime itself, otherwise it can be either too outrageous or half-hearted.

So that was pretty easy to disassemble right?

Crime + Secret + Reaction = Scandal

So what are your favorite scandals in stories? Have you tried to write one yourself? If so, how did it go for you?

Please answer in comments below! I would love to hear from you.

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