Tag Archives: trauma

Developed

I have an infamously naive and youthful character, who I’ve been writing for years now, a little over five. In all of that time, she’s found out lies about her past, her family, what was expected of her and how she was conceived. She’s gotten closer to some family and further from others. The demise of the one who wrought ill on her may have only been suggested, but because we never got to finish that story.

I’ve put her through her paces in all of this time. I threw her in a huge storm in the middle of the ocean and watched her spiral into an unknown, uncharted island, to get herself back to the world she came from with the help of other stranded strangers.

She fell in and out of love. She was introduced to people/things that could help her in her journey, has unlocked a lot of power and potential, and has even surpassed the strength of her father. She isn’t a stranger to sex, or trauma, or extremes. Time and again, when she’s forced to stand up, she doesn’t hesitate.

What I expected in all of this time was for her youthfulness to transform. To watch her go from this giggling, excitable young girl to a seasoned woman who knew how to push through and show up for what was right. Instead, she’s persevered, and held on to that brightness, that light of hers that shines when she smiles and even when she doesn’t.

I never really considered that the change was a little deeper for her. On the outside, I still see her and write her and feel like she is the same excitable, impossibly optimistic young woman who strives for the best. On a deeper level, under the surface, I see that she knows what must be done in some situations, she knows right from wrong and has a strong sense of morality. What was shaped in the roughness she was thrown into was her ability to adapt to situations and protect those she cared for at any cost.

I’d had other characters get put through their paces and turn out jaded and cynical and unkind for it. What I expected was much of the same, but that’s just not who she is.

Development comes in all shapes and sizes, I realize, after some consideration on this particular character. It doesn’t all have to be extreme, some are more resilient than others. It can be light, it can be heavy, but in the end, whatever it is will be true to who that character really is.

In other words, the surface isn’t the only place to look for a change. Sometimes you have to dig into the cushions.

It adds a whole new dimension to things, to the story, and to the character herself. And I kinda like it that way.

The Novice Wordsmith

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“…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