SirGeneralSir

need advice for writing emotional devastation

26 posts in this topic

so a character just wakes up in the hospital, no idea how or why but their body is badly beaten etc etc, they then find out that they just committed a crime against some close friends.

the kind of thing that “you” would never do to these friends, ultimately devastating the character.

how would you describe the horror and emotional devastation?

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How I would describe it would depend largely on the type of character it is. Like George said, I’d probably start with disbelief or denial. Like something like that would take a while to sink in, if it ever sinks in at all. (which it might not if they have no memory of it) I would play with a lot of confusion, disbelief, numbness, not wanting to hear what they’re being told. Maybe anger at people telling them they would do such a thing. Maybe anger at themselves for not remembering or if they do remember, obviously for that. Over the next few hours or days or weeks, lashing out at small things, pulling away from people they love, acting cold, or uninterested, or even actively hostile. Or you could go another way and make them totally weepy and needy or even catatonic with guilt. 

I think with that level of guilt, a person could easily and quickly become pretty self destructive. On a bit of a longer term, drug use and/or promiscuity, shift in personality towards things more reckless and spontaneous, even death defying. That kinda thing. Sounds like you’re gonna have fun with it!

Edited by CloverReef
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i have it that the older sister of the character saw it happening and what lead to them being sent to the hospital via good guy showing up.

the character is an arrogant, slightly selfish ass, but generally a good guy.

ive been thinking of going the denial and weepy side before he has a little break down, i have some ideas of what to do with it later too. 

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The reactions in this case can be so different depending on the character, that’s what makes it tough to respond.  For instance, are they the type that feel they can’t repay, and are so guilt ridden they jump off a bridge, figuring it to be justice?  Or, will they guilt the victim because it happened (ie. if the victim wore less revealing clothing)?

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The biggest character punch for me is the immediate visceral punch. Your lead is in pain, not just muscle aches and sore jaw but deep in the bones and more subtle pain of delayed hunger when they wake. Those physical pains are the background for the horrible news. (however it will be told) I think the horror must come before the denial, ‘cause you wont need to deny unless the character get the horror. The horror will bleed into the denial. (only you know which is true)

Symptoms of shock I’d include: feeling cold, hollow ringing in the ears, nausea/retching, can’t breathe/dizzy/lightheaded/panic attack symptoms, covering eyes or ears to not hear anymore. :think:strangely enough those symptoms also appear with really bad colds!

 

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humm, I think the character is the kind that will feel he owes something to the people he hurt, owes them any and everything, most of all for not being killed by the hero (thanks to sisters intervention, no she wasnt getting hurt just showed up)

the guy was beat literally almost to death, were talking angry wolverine with no claws vs the mail man, should be dead beaten.

I do think I need to expand on the current reactions, make it more drawn out and reactive.

I think the drugs that are being used to keep him alive might not make him feel the things that he would under normal conditions though ….. maybe? 

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EMotional Devastation changes the way a character thinks, behaves and reacts. So the first thing is you have to spend a good deal of time letting us get to know the character and their foibles. That way when the emotional devastation hits you can show the subtle effects in their reactions, their mannerisms, the changes in their speaking pattern.

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2 hours ago, PenStoryTeller said:

EMotional Devastation changes the way a character thinks, behaves and reacts. So the first thing is you have to spend a good deal of time letting us get to know the character and their foibles.

That can be powerful but hard to pull off if it’s awkward to write. I did something like that for a recent fic, switching out of my usual first person POV and into something starker. I tried for more poetic and strong images and third person. Reaction was very good, but when the shock and devastation wore off for the character, I shifted back to my usual style. (it’s a canon char, so I didn’t need to introduce him and I start in middle of the canon trainwreck) This is a long way to say that shifting your writing style shows more than italics, what your char does, or how they see these events.

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On 14/09/2017 at 5:16 PM, Anesor said:

That can be powerful but hard to pull off if it’s awkward to write. I did something like that for a recent fic, switching out of my usual first person POV and into something starker. I tried for more poetic and strong images and third person. Reaction was very good, but when the shock and devastation wore off for the character, I shifted back to my usual style. (it’s a canon char, so I didn’t need to introduce him and I start in middle of the canon trainwreck) This is a long way to say that shifting your writing style shows more than italics, what your char does, or how they see these events.

That's actually a really good idea. Not one I see often, so a little outside the box, and may be a little harder to do well than a standard emotional shift, but would be awesome. 

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48 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

That's actually a really good idea. Not one I see often, so a little outside the box, and may be a little harder to do well than a standard emotional shift, but would be awesome. 

Since I try to evaluate plausibility when I write, to me, a sudden event, like assault, rape, murder, etc, that it produces a change fast is plausible.  To have a character, instead, read a self-help book, that would call for a more gradual shift, IMO.  Of course, a character can have different reactions as they absorb/process it, so some changes rapid, others taking time to evolve.

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thanks for all the ideas there my friends, this will help a lot.

I think that going the denial, sobbing then anger followed by devastating acceptance would work for this character (Kiba from Naruto)

having him refuse what people are telling him, then his sister confirms it because she saw it too, some slight self justification thats not intended on his part, then his world comes crashing down as he realizes whats being said is true.

I figure then that he would probably become very detached from everyone and thing, avoiding people in shame, then snap out of it eventually and try to make amends.

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Inability to comprehend, then inability to accept.  Ringing in the ears and swelling blood, clouded vision as they need to sit down.  If you’ve ever fainted from shock before these are the things that lead up to it, as well as a roaring in the ears like waves of the ocean as blood pounds around your head.  Then screams, sobs, clawing.

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1 hour ago, Anon said:

Inability to comprehend, then inability to accept.  Ringing in the ears and swelling blood, clouded vision as they need to sit down.  If you’ve ever fainted from shock before these are the things that lead up to it, as well as a roaring in the ears like waves of the ocean as blood pounds around your head.  Then screams, sobs, clawing.

If that doesn’t work, shock your character with a taser, makes ‘ya feel better, but it might not help the character.

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On 8/28/2017 at 1:35 PM, SirGeneralSir said:

so a character just wakes up in the hospital, no idea how or why but their body is badly beaten etc etc, they then find out that they just committed a crime against some close friends.

the kind of thing that “you” would never do to these friends, ultimately devastating the character.

how would you describe the horror and emotional devastation?

Ideally don't’ be afraid to use the fives stages of grief.

https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

Don’t be afraid to play up the horror of your characters actions. They did after all just do something emotionally devastating. Bonus points if it was unintentional, accidental or worst of all on purpose.

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6 minutes ago, InvidiaRed said:

Ideally don't’ be afraid to use the fives stages of grief.

https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

Don’t be afraid to play up the horror of your characters actions. They did after all just do something emotionally devastating. Bonus points if it was unintentional, accidental or worst of all on purpose.

Don’t be afraid to mix up the stages too… nobody reacts quite the same to similar situations,   How the character reacts can define them.

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I use those stages for grief of many kinds. that’s a good tip.

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14 minutes ago, SirGeneralSir said:

indeed, I think that this character would be more on the angry denial side of things, followed by his world coming crashing down.

I'm exploring something similar in one of my (unpublished) stories, capturing a great deal of anger in him.

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the easy way to explain what happens, would be that he is contaminated with something that adds to his disposition towards some people, but because of this stuff, it makes him react more to it.

so he isnt “innocent” in the idea that he felt X ways about things, but the normal him would never have done it, I think would add to the world breaking feelings that happen to him.

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18 hours ago, SirGeneralSir said:

the easy way to explain what happens, would be that he is contaminated with something that adds to his disposition towards some people, but because of this stuff, it makes him react more to it.

so he isnt “innocent” in the idea that he felt X ways about things, but the normal him would never have done it, I think would add to the world breaking feelings that happen to him.

Sounds like he’s being corrupted.

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