“…Wasn’t a good idea because of the shell shock–­­” “PTSD,” she corrected, prodding him in the ribs.

My last post got me to think about something bigger, after a short conversation in the comments.

When I was younger, I played a lot of games, and if you can recall the fuss about video games, you know that there’s violence in them. This isn’t about how violence influences children, but how it influences your characters, when they’re thrust right into the middle of it, be it war, a gang related felony, a city riot, or an isolated incident.

Psychology is something that I didn’t think about when considering a character for a while. When you pull the character out of a violent game or you put them in a violent setting writing wise, there’s bound to be some kind of damage.  It also comes down to what you want for them; do you see them being the type to be in action, front and center, or are they shipped somewhere with very little? Do you want them to be ruled by the trauma, or would you like to see them conquer it?

If they aren’t fazed by it, why? Is there something else there that keeps them from being tortured by it, are they hardened to the difficulties, have they seen it frequently for very long, or do they have a disorder that keeps them from feeling emotion at all (and if so, in your world, is it independent or genetic?)

There are stories that revolve around the psychosis, as well. A short story I wrote over the winter included a young girl who watched the massacre of her family and developed Disassociative Identity Disorder (Multiple personality disorder), and was based on her journey through dealing with it.

Trauma is not always a hindrance to the character, as I once thought it was. It shapes them, it makes them more human, as Victoria (http://en.gravatar.com/vdavenportwrite)said. It gives them a more real dimension that fleshes them out, and you can use it as a strength or a weakness.

In the project that I’m currently working on, which the quote is from, a new recruit is shoved into combat with a hostile alien race for the first time. After that encounter ends, he finds himself feeling more guilty from getting his friend nearly killed instead of watching the invader die before him. The difference here is played on by a thought that the less human or relative it is to that person, the less guilt there is, because they don’t see it with the same sympathy as someone else. It is, as I think about it, likely to be associated with xenophobia, really: “it’s strange, different, and I hardly know what it is, but it was going to kill me.”

On the other hand, there are others yet who could barely justify killing insects, no matter how different, physically and otherwise (obviously) they are. Everyone has varying levels of comfort with violence, toward everything. What kind are your characters?

-The Novice Wordsmith

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