Is A Prize For Thrillers That Don’t Hurt Women Good For Books? One Author Says Yes.

"It's way past time for something more original."

Sometimes violence against women or simply putting female characters in danger — no matter what media it's being presented in — is overused as a narrative device. It's 2018, after all. Can't we get rid of the "damsel in distress" trope? One new literature prize is shining a spotlight on works that are being a little more inventive with their storytelling, and it's about time.

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British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless founded the Staunch Book Prize for 2018, which, according to its website, "will be awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. Sounds refreshing? It would be. It's way past time for something more original."

This doesn't mean it'll be censoring art in any way, it's just that it will be rewarding creative people who "keep us on the edge of our seats without resorting to the same old clichés." It doesn't matter what type of thriller it is and, if it fits the criteria, it will be considered. It notes: "We know there are more original stories out there — and we want to celebrate those authors."

Lawless and Doon Mackichan — an actor, writer, and comedian behind a Body Count Rising, a documentary about the increase of violence against women on television — are the judges for the inaugural year. An author's gender doesn't matter as long as the work doesn't feature violence against women. And, for the record, this doesn't encourage violence against male characters either.

"That doesn't mean we're just looking for thrillers that feature men in jeopardy, but stories in which female characters don't have to be raped before they can be empowered, or become casual collateral to pump up the plot," the Staunch Book Prize site reads. "If your story features a woman in a strong leading role, even better!"

As for the focus on thrillers, this is because of how pervasive this genre is in pop culture. If we're able to change how women's stories are played out in literature, perhaps it can change the prevalence of it in the real world. Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted and 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape at some point in their life, according to RAINN.

"We're focusing on thriller novels because they're a huge and important genre in their own right — and they're frequently also source material for film and television. Let's show not only readers, but producers, directors and actors that there are amazing, complex thrillers being created today by writers with truly fresh ideas, great imagination and brilliant plotting skill."

Submissions will be accepted February 22 through July 15, and is open to anyone who is over the age of 18 by the end of the eligibility period. The winner — who gets a £2,000 prize — will be announced on November 25, which is appropriately the United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. If this award just moves the needle on this issue slightly, it would all be worth it.

(H/T: The Guardian | Jezebel | HelloGiggles)

Cover image via Shutterstock

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