PLEASE bear with me...

Question: OK, my fantasy world is heavily based on the Ancient Middle East. My main characters are fraternal twins, a prince and princess of a country in this world. My story is still in the works, I must admit, but perhaps the biggest subplot (I can't quite tell yet if it is a subplot or just one part of the main plot) is the relationship between the two. Twins in literature typically either fight a lot or are inseparable. I want the relationship between these two to be very complex and at times confusing to the reader, but a big twist in the story that I had planned to put in was for the brother to eventually reveal a love for his sister beyond that of even the closest sibling. and what my friends think will prevent my book from ever seeing daylight is that she starts to discover she might just feel the same. The idea is that this world, like many parts of the Ancient Middle East, doesn't have the problems with incest that today's world does. After all, it was standard practice in Ancient Egypt for royalty/nobility to marry relatives. Anyway, as the princess struggles with her feelings and the prince's sanity comes into question (he's held his feelings in the dark his whole life and now that he's revealed them, he wants an answer NOW), there is still the antagonist out there, as well as others who are attracted to both siblings, some for politics, some for love, some for vanity, etc. The princess is struggling with her feelings, her social status, and the main antagonist and the threat of war. The prince, as the story goes on, becomes increasingly obsessive and amoral, his psyche becoming dominated with only the thought of his sister. Keep in mind: This is not mindless lust. He is genuinely in love with her and would do nothing to hurt her. But if she does not return his feelings, he sees no point in living save to protect her from any danger the world may throw her way. Those I show the story to have no complaints other than the standard touch-ups here and there that every author expects, until they get to that plot device. I know incest is a pretty taboo topic in today's society, but could it really cause that big of an uproar in a fantasy novel? By the way, in case it is important, there are a few scenes that, while not pornographic, could still prove "disturbing for sensitive viewers". Any advice is appreciated!


Answer: Even though you're writing fantasy, you're writing for a modern readership. You have to ask yourself if you're writing soft porn - along the lines of an erotic tale of "forbidden love," which is meant to titillate while deftly avoiding the emotional issues that would be present in such a real life situation - or if you're writing an honest and realistic exploration of the subject matter.

If the latter is the case, as you suggest it is, and if the reader can say "I may not agree with what these characters do, but given their situation I can understand it," you may be all right.

However... The other question I might have is what your thematic message is? What values are you trying to communicate to the reader and will they ring true? Is the brother's story intended to be tragic (i.e. is his lust for his sister a character flaw that leads to his undoing?)? It might be hard for readers to accept a happy ending for this relationship as believable or realistic. In fact, if you try to write a happy ending, you would be interpreted as advocating incest, which is not the way to win readers' approval.

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