So, I wrote this post a while ago on another blog of mine ‘Pen Pals of Peculiar Personalities‘ and I really like the post and wanted to share it with you all over here on this blog today! So here you lovely people go! (Yeah, I blog on another writing website also 😉 I do a few different things than on here)
So, today I want to kind of talk about writing tragedies (or tragic things that have happened with your character) and how to effectively convey emotions that might come along with it or in the aftermath of it all.
So, in a handful of my novels I have had characters who come from broken homes, abusive relationships or they had become a rape victim and such things like that. Now when I say those things, you might cringe and probably wonder what a seventeen year old is doing writing stories like that…(Now you understand why I kept ‘Holding on To Grace’ (my novel about a girl who becomes pregnant from rape) under wraps for these last couple years because I was rather young when I started it.)
While writing these different scenarios I have learned one thing and that is that it’s not so much what you do to the character but how they react that will make it all believable. I mean, obviously what happens to the character (whether in the novel or never actually shown) needs to be realistic but what comes after that is the realistic reaction to what happened. Sometimes it is obvious what the effects of that said ‘traumatic’ or ‘tragic’ event might cause either emotionally or physically but some things are harder to depict. This is where either, going with your gut and going with the reaction you think fits/works or sometimes asking either a friend or other writers input is helpful too.
Another way I will try to figure out how one would react in a certain case of trauma would be to take a look at this. This list gives the most common examples of reaction to trauma. (Because everyone treats and reacts to it differently meaning your characters will too.)
Sometimes you may find, by looking at this list that your character suffers from some of these side effects. (instead of just one) and (I am no professional who knows how the human brain works and reacts to trauma or tragic experiences) that is usually normal when it comes to this. Or one thing accompanies another just depending on the situation.
Let me just give you a couple examples from my different novels and WIP’s (works in progress)
#1: Claire Tyler
Situation: Parents were murdered in front of her when she was eight. (yes, she is halfway to becoming batman in case you were wondering) Since then she has been in and out of foster homes and has suffered bullying many times either from school or from the other foster kids in the homes.
Effects That Has On Her: Depression, Insomnia/Flashbacks and Nightmares, Little or no memories, Loss of sense of Hope for future and Self harm.
#2: Tarryn McPherson
Situation: Parents died when she was 6 years old. (Was separated from her older brother as they were taken to different homes) Has never really fit in with any families. Was sexually assaulted when she was twelve and a couple years later was adopted by a nice family but the situation soon became both a emotional and physical abusive one.
Effects That Has On Her: Irritability, Eating Disorder (wants to look ‘perfect’ to hide that she is falling apart on the inside), Depression, Emotionally overwhelmed, and Worthlessness.
#3 Billie Crane
Situation: Was living in an abusive home for eleven years and was raped by her friend which then caused her to flee, in terror of her father’s wrath being taken out on her (even more so than before) or her baby.
Effects That Has On Her: Emotionally Overwhelmed, Nightmares/Flashbacks, Shame and Worthlessness and Loss of Interest.
As you can see from my examples here, most often times it’s never just one thing that plagues a person because maybe, for example, the Insomnia is due to nightmares or flashbacks. (or pick a different set of reactions) Most often times (depending on the severity or said experience) one is linked to another and really its a long chain your character will have to break one link at a time to be free from it. Though with some things there may always be that fear that that feeling could come back one day or maybe that one thing they feel will never leave fully and will always be lurking. That all really depends on the story itself and how your character is overall. Because, remember not one character acts the same even if put in the same situation.
Hope this helped you all my lovely readers! (I feel so terrible writing these posts but yet sadly, torturing our characters to build them up stronger, and maybe even better, than before must be done 😦 ) Oh! and also, this list of sorts really help me figure out a characters personality but another post that I have also found helpful was that written by my friend Carissa on her blog! That post is how to make insecurity maps for ones characters and let me tell you that technique works wonderfully! Click HERE to check that out too!
Until Next Time!