Origin Stories: Turnpike

Welcome back for another installment of Origin Stories, where I talk about the origins of my stories! In today’s post, I’m going to be talking about turnpike, a dark short-story of mine.

I’ve previously discussed Once Upon a One Night Stand and All That is Gold, which you should check out first for some extra background and context!

Timeline wise, we’re still in the Plagiarism Haven days, though that era was slowly coming to an end…

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Acronym: Since this is a one-word title, there’s no acronym, but I usually style the title in all lowercase letters
Genre(s): New adult, short story
Trigger warnings: This story deals with strong themes of sexual assault and abuse
Summary: this is not a love story. this is a ruination.

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I started writing this story in April 2012 on Plagiarism Haven.

I was in my sophomore year of college, but it was a story I’d had bouncing around in my head for quite sometime. The idea started to form my freshman year when I heard that one of the fraternities at my school had something that had become known on campus as The Rape Basement.

At the time, I was pretty clueless about Greek life and horrified that something like that could exist. The worst part was that some people seemed to joke about it, like it was called that because it was dimly lit with sticky floors, loud music, and full of drunk, handsy college boys.

A couple frats got kicked off campus the year before I arrived to school, and rumors followed their departure. Most of them had been forced out by noise violations and too many citations of underage drinking, but some of it came down to dangerous hazing rituals.

The story really began to evolve in my head when I got involved with a guy I was pretty much obsessed with. He was so far out of my league we were playing different sports, the kind of guy who could have easily had any girl and yet he was interested in me—in secret, at least. That situation definitely stirred up some unwelcome feelings, and writing seemed like the best way to deal with it.

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Sidenote: I did use the name of an actual fraternity for the story (something I really hope won’t get me into trouble, yikes) and I’ve yet to change that because I would have to modify a lot about the story—including the title and part of the theme—in order to utilize a fake one.

This is a dark new adult short story set in college. It’s not a romance, not a tale of two people who belong together, it’s the story of a girl whose life has been forever altered after the events of one night.

The devil is in the details with this one. Very rarely are things stated outright, at least not until near the end of the story, but if you read carefully from the very beginning, you know what’s going on. She tells you exactly what happened to her without ever saying one particular word. This excerpt from Chapter 1 shows that.

I always wonder if he had anything to do with the dead pledge and five reported sexual assault cases, but every time I ask, he brushes me off in some way or another. I wouldn’t be surprised if he personally fed the kid that lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and booze, but I know he wouldn’t have let any of those girls go to the cops. That old money fortune and matching last name would have been enough to sweep it under the rug, something he’s undoubtedly done before.

This much I know because he’s tried it with me.

I never got a chance to finish this story on Plagiarism Haven. We decided to close the community in January 2013, and after that I didn’t write for two years. It wasn’t until January of 2016 that I decided I wanted to work on it again. By that point, I’d been on Wattpad for about a year posting OUAONS and ATG, so I figured turnpike might find a home there as well.

Unfortunately, at the time, there was a disturbing trend of “bad boys” and men who were essentially physically/verbally/mentally abusive being portrayed as love interests in far too many stories. Of course, this is also a wider problem throughout the media as a whole, but when a large portion of the audience on a site is under-18, children and teens are being sent a message that, “hey, it’s totally okay to date those kinds of people; if you love them enough, you can change them; they’ll become good for and because of you.”

But that’s not true.

The MMC in turnpike is not someone who can be “changed with your love”. He’s a terrible person who has done irredeemable things. Yes, the narrative is meant to manipulate in certain ways, but as readers we have the ability to be objective. We know the atrocities he’s committed. We know how he treats people, including the FMC, other women, and his fraternity brothers. We know that even though he might crack jokes and tell the FMC she’s beautiful, he’s still a monster.

Sadly, a lot of readers overlooked that.

The first line of the summary says “this is not a love story.” And it’s not by any means. But in some cases, we have been conditioned by the media we consume and the “values” that are passed down from generation to generation to think that some forms of abuse are actually love. Or to overlook that abuse for the sake of love.

Far too many readers called the FMC stupid and a whore for not leaving the relationship and for some of the decisions she made. They judged without understanding the depth of the situation—of the abuse—and truly showed just how much they hate women, even though most of them were female themselves. The internalized misogyny was strong and the empathy was severely lacking.

Some people got to the end of the story and still thought that way, even though by then everything is stated in perfectly clear language. This story definitely showed me the depth of how awful and judgmental some people can be.

I finished this story in January 2017, five years after I started it, because of how difficult it was to write. The subject matter is undoubtedly heavy, and for a while I was worried about getting it “wrong”. Despite that, to this day I still think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

I’ll stop here out of fear of spoiling things further for those who haven’t read the story yet. But if you haven’t, maybe check it out.

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Is there anything else you’d like to know about turnpike and its origins? Leave a comment below!

The next installment of Origin Stories will be about Arabian Nights, book #2 in the Fairytale Series.

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10 thoughts on “Origin Stories: Turnpike

  1. This is easily my favourite story of yours. My other favorites like AN for example, have a happier ending and don’t deal with the dark topics that this one does. I still sort of sometimes feel guilty for liking this story the most because the plot isn’t actually something that is comforting exactly aha but I think the execution of it is. I read this as you were posting it and I was always so disgusted by the lack of empathy in the comments and I’m sure a lot of us sadly know women of have gone through these sort of experiences so that was always a very frustrating part of reading the book on wp! But regardless I think stories like these are stories that need to be told even though the stakes are always very high in ‘getting it right’ 💓
    P.s did you just say a guy out of YOUR league 🤭 unbelievable
    bilaad

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  2. turnpike will forever be one of my favorite stories of yours. i think you tackled this subject flawlessly, and i know it’s not easy to write about. the message of this story is so so important, and i know that it will resonate and stick with everyone, even the people who still missed the point by the end of the book. you are a brilliant writer and a witchy goddess. love you.

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  3. I’ll admit I wasn’t ready for Turnpike. I’d never read anything like it because, as you said, bad boys are portrayed as troubled souls who just need a little love, and even obviously unhealthy relationships are encouraged. It’s one of the things I don’t like about Wattpad. Gullible, naïve preteens frequent that site, and usually I don’t particularly care about those stories, but it’s concerning when some of them become really popular, because then we know people are enjoying this book, with its terrible message and equally terrible characters. You and I and others might roll our eyes because of the unrealism and utter nonsense in those books, but there are kids who believe it. (PS Sorry for the tangent, I’m really passionate about this.)
    Anyway, back to Turnpike. I couldn’t believe that things like that happened in college in some places, and reading about it broke my heart.
    Personally, I wouldn’t call the people who called the FMC misogynists. Once upon a time, I would probably have called her stupid, too. Never a wh*re, but stupid? Maybe. I don’t know what I commented on Turnpike, but I know that if I had read about a girl in an abusive relationship (if you can call what they had a ‘relationship’) before Turnpike, I wouldn’t have understood why she wouldn’t leave the guy. Turnpike made me understand, and I’m thankful for that. It’s not a happy story, and I can’t convey how furious that ending made me, but it’s a great one. And I can’t thank you enough for writing it.

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    1. I didn’t call them misogynists. I said they had internalized the misogyny that all of us are exposed to every single day of our lives, which is part of the reason why they call her (and other women who experience those kinds of horrors) the awful things they do. And not understanding why someone wouldn’t leave an abusive relationship and calling them stupid for it are two wildly different things. I can only hope that you wouldn’t do the latter, even if you didn’t understand at first. We don’t have to completely understand in order to have sympathy for, or even empathy, people in those situations.

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  4. hiii simmy it’s been a long ass time but i just stumbled across this blog and i’m so glad i did! I’m an ancient old PH reader and I’m pretty sure at one point or another I must’ve bugged you for updates on turnpike because it was a story I adored. I love that you’re doing this “origin stories” series, as I’m always personally fascinated by what motivates writers to write the stories they do.

    I remember the long wait for the conclusion of turnpike and originally being fairly frustrated by it, but I’m glad it took as long as it did, in the end. I can’t say for sure (it’s been… 7 years? jesus) but I think the teenager I was when I started reading turnpike maybe expected a dark romance (I know, I know, that description though), but the 20something I was when you concluded the story understood what you were doing and the story you were telling and was glad for it (in spite of how sad that ending is, for my justice-demanding impulses). I’m sorry that not all your readers understood that; I suppose this is always the risk when we put our stories out in the world – but I just wanted to let you know that hopefully with enough time and empathy (which I still believe reading does a good job engendering) maybe their perspective of the story and the FMC can change too.

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  5. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Turnpike. You are such a gifted writer, and I love all of your stories. This story makes me so emotional, sometimes it’s hard to get through it. But coming from a girl with a abusive relationship background, I wanna say thank you for shining the light on relationships like this and that they REALLY do exist. Idk where I would be if I hadn’t got out of the relationship I was in. ❤

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