Cutting is a serious problem, and cutters should get the support they need. This is common sense; anyone with any amount of compassion knows this. However, when a writer adds cutting as a trait to their character or a well-known character (when it comes to fanfiction), as a means of making them seem more depressing and self-destructive–it starts to feel contrived, like the writer is trying too hard.
I mean, come on, here. I shouldn’t feel like punching a character when I read about them doing self-harm. No one else should feel like this either, because it will translate to how they treat cutters in real life. Is that really the attitude we want to regurgitate, as a form of media? Think about that for a moment.
I’m not saying to not have them self-harm–but make sure the execution succeeds in the emotional impact that you want it to.
A comic artist I follow once drew a comic talking about her experiences as a cutter. Yes, she talked about her scars (and how she hides them with her tattoos), but she didn’t go into detail about how she made them; she didn’t have to. We aren’t stupid. She didn’t go into detail about the “red flowing from out of her skin,” how her skin was paper/canvas and the razor was her “brush,” or whatever stupid rhetoric that writers use; seriously, stop romanticizing self-harm. It is sickening.
This was a very uncomfortable thing for her to talk about, but you know what? It worked. The comic strip helped me and many other people understand her experience, including her thought process. This proves that there is a way to do it, to include self-harm in narrative without making it feel overused and contrived. Of course, to be fair, her narrative was nonfiction and no cutter’s experience is the same; but it should also work in fiction. All you need to do is execute in a way that makes it believable.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t an essay that has a basis in research or anything like that. This is more based on what I’ve experienced while reading fanfiction after fanfiction featuring characters I love slitting their wrists–heart wrenching at first; then it got so, so, so painfully boring–and when readers become bored with the same tropes, you know there’s something wrong. I’m writing this because these are the thoughts in my head right now, and honestly, I’m just sick of crappy fanfiction writers and the tropes they’ve ruined with their writing. I mean, fanfiction isn’t the ideal form of literature, but it would be nice if the writers still tried.