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In a visual novel my friend and I are writing, I created a female character who is obsessed with making furniture out of (living) people. Yeah, it's weird, but everyone in the story has their quirks. In the story, a bunch of social pariahs are trapped together in a hotel. She's one of the characters, but isn't a main character. She, along with the other non-main characters, all are supposed to seem a little off-kilter, so that it's reasonable to think they just snapped and murdered someone.

This woman says things in an odd, sometimes sexual, way especially if it's furniture related. If offered a seat, she'd say something along the lines of "I disapprove of seats that aren't quivering with anticipation beneath me," or something like that (and then she forces someone into "becoming a chair"). She also doesn't notice people's faces first, instead noting some other part of them that's good for furniture. She refers to everyone in the story as "it" or "that [furniture item]" and talks about regular furniture items in a similar way (so she confuses some of the other characters when she talks to them). She also berates the characters who "aren't beautiful" for being "defects" and doesn't address them as furniture but "materials," "kindling," or something similar. But her furniture fetish isn't sexual (as in she's not getting any sort of sexual pleasure out of making people into furniture), just an oddity that she has.

Despite this, she's one of the more intelligent characters and so she has a lot of dialogue in the story. The problem is that my friend and I disagree on how prominent this feature of hers should be. I don't think she should constantly be saying things in that way, especially since her furniture fetish doesn't come into play much even if the others are talking to her. The way I write her, it's not very prominent at all (and not very sexual, normally). But my friend seems to like the idea of her being completely and totally obsessed with furniture and plays up the sexual aspect.

For example, I'd have her (Alice is her name) say (after being accused of killing another character):

"Ah, I see. Indeed, it is true. I have no patience for unruly furniture or defective materials. But I hardly see why I would destroy something that doesn't drip with the pleasure of doing my bidding." She takes a drag from her cigarette, staring at me. I'm unsure if I should move or not-- Alice sometimes gets weird when she talks...like this. She blows out a stream of smoke and sighs. "You see, footstool, I cherish my furniture whether or not it is misbehaving. And misbehavior is nothing that a good upholstering won't fix. For example, you would be a better footstool if you rid yourself of those itchy fabrics... but I'd settle for you changing the fabric every day. I'd probably fix you all the same, though. A good footstool should give foot massages."

But my friend would make it extremely sexual on top of already being about furniture.

Ah, I see. Indeed, it is true. I have no patience for unruly furniture or defective materials. But I hardly see why I would destroy something that doesn't drip with the pleasure of doing my bidding. I do rather like the smell of sweating leathers..." She takes a drag from her cigarette, staring at me. I'm unsure if I should move or not, she... could be thinking weird things about me again. She blows out a stream of smoke and sighs. "You see, footstool, I cherish my furniture whether or not it is misbehaving. That is nothing that a good upholstering won't fix. A couple minutes with my tools and I'm sure any furniture would be begging to do as I say. In your case, footstool, I'd need to teach you proper etiquette. You don't prostrate yourself immediately when I enter, you never give me foot massages... It's almost as though I need to install some sort of vibrator to get what I want. Ah, yes, I rather like that. A vibrating mechanism would make you rather twitchy, wouldn't it? Perhaps then you could give me foot massages."

Ugh... I can't write how my friend does. Well, you get what I mean, right? She really elaborates when it comes to something that could be considered even slightly sexual. She'll even have the character derail conversations to talk about some sexual aspect of people becoming furniture. That does make her seem odd, though. On the other hand, if every now and then she says something sexual about furniture, that could also make her seem off, especially considering just how smart she is.

I'm trying to determine what would make her seem more off. Should we highlight the sexual way she talks about furniture and make it prominent in the way she talks? Or should we downplay it and make her say one-off comments?

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Is she a main character, or just one secondary character of many? How prominent a role does she have in the book? How often is she "on-screen"? –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 4 at 10:00
    
She's a secondary character and she's pretty important for a few endings, while she dies in others. In endings where she lives, she's usually the person who people (hesitantly) go to for information about items, history, or icons, so she's on-screen pretty often for a secondary character. –  Ice-9 Apr 4 at 13:20
    
When you say "making furniture out of (living) people" do you mean just treating them that way (which may even be physical), never taking it farther than making it uncomfortable for people to be around her; or do you mean that she tries to make semi-permanent or even completely permanent furniture out of people, making it unbearable or even impossible to be around her? (you'll see why I'm asking this later). Also, just so I'm clear, what's the purpose of the story? Is it a murder mystery? Mystery in general? Or something else? –  JMcAfreak Apr 6 at 20:12
    
She tries to make people into furniture, but not permanently. She calls people by titles that are furniture related and uses them as though they're furniture, but isn't surprised if they talk or move and doesn't have a problem if they're generally fidgety. Permanence isn't important to her. The story is a mystery with murders in it, but I wouldn't call it a murder mystery per se. The point isn't to find the murderer, but to escape from the hotel. People are dying here and there (and the characters are concerned about the murderer) but the murders aren't the focus. –  Ice-9 Apr 7 at 13:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I like her better in your version. It's more interesting that she sees the entire world in terms of furniture.

If you make her aggressive sexually, than aggressive sexuality—regardless of kink—becomes the major feature of her character and that's pretty boring, even if the kink is pretty bizarre.

There are lots of stories out there with kinky dominatrices in them, but vanishingly few have a person who is such a strong sociopath that they literally see other people as nothing more than talking furniture. That's pretty intriguing.

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After talking it out, we're going with your answer. My friend decided the oddity of having our character be too sexual might diminish how weird the actual odd behavior is if people think she's just a dominatrix. And I have difficulty writing her dialogue in such a way that she doesn't just turn into a dominatrix with a weird kink. –  Ice-9 Apr 9 at 17:18
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@Ice-9 Thank you for putting me exactly on 1K. For that, sideboard, you have earned the privilege of having my finest claret sit atop you. –  KitFox Apr 9 at 17:28

I think if she's a major secondary character, you should try a draft where you go big with the weirdness without trying to explain her or "civilize" her. Make her weird. Embrace her weirdness without apology. She should embrace her weirdness without apology. And just as important, keep her mysterious — don't explain or justify her kink or have her explain herself to anyone else.

People have to go to her for answers (received wisdom), but she's strange and off-putting, yet somewhat appealing, and a bit naughty. So the main characters have to put up with her to get her knowledge. I think that gives you an opening for some interesting character tension. It leaves your main characters feeling off-kilter, because they're not entirely sure they can trust her, but they have no choice about it.

And she's going to do her weird aggressive flirting thing like in your second example, and the protagonists have to take it. Or not — one could push back, and Alice gets pissed and leaves, and then the protagonists have to apologize and make it up to her. Or one of the protagonists decides that maybe she finds the idea of being Alice's footstool is somewhat intriguing, despite herself. More interesting tension.

I say run with Domme Mame.

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