1. DisFanJen
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    DisFanJen Member

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    A good reason for a character to feel uncomfortable in their own skin?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DisFanJen, Nov 28, 2010.

    This is both a plot point and something that will effect the main character so to hedge my bets I decided to post it in General. :)

    My character feels that their 'mental me' doesn't match their 'physical 'me' and that is about to be revealed.

    Now the obvious one to go for is Gender Dysphoria as i imagine it's the most extreme example, but at this isn't really a LGBT story I thought I'd see if there were any other options before I went down that route.

    So does anyone know of any other conditions that can lead to this feeling? Preferably of an extreme nature but with no obvious external signs (assuming the character hasn't done anything about the feelings as yet).
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My MC of my first story has an issue with his body. He is a strong good looking boy but being physically larger than most people he feels self-conscious. His problem is simply he is a teenager.

    But some forms of bulimia could have a similar effect - without the anorexia the bulimic does not have to be hyper skinny.
     
  3. DisFanJen
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    DisFanJen Member

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    Nice idea but I don't think the character will react the way I want with bulimia.

    It needs to be a major shock that other character in the tale knows about this. In fact I have this 'rabbit in headlights' line prepared for the reveal, and I don't think bulimia would have enough punch.

    As you've reviewed the start of the story you know the two character's I'm talking about. :)
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think just an event in childhood is enough - someone telling him something - he then hides it. It grows out of that -or maybe he has a little hairy patch on his back that makes him self conscious and it grows out of that.
     
  5. DisFanJen
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    Again possible, but it really needs to be something that leaves the character looking in the mirror thinking 'that's not me.' and something that would, at least until they readily admit it to others, be shameful to them if revealed.

    EDIT:

    I just re-read that and I have to say I'm talking myself back into using gender dysphoria. It does tick all the boxes.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd be glad to help but I think I'd need some insight onto who the characters are before I can give any suggestions.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Body dysmorphic disorder - the gender issues are a part of it.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which almost certainly means you shouldn't use it. You are already contriving major plot features just to get to the line. Unless it's simply a joke and you are working towards a punning punchline, the story should drive the text, not the other way around. Kill your darlings.
     
  9. DisFanJen
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    DisFanJen Member

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    Errm, that's a bit of a reach isn't it?

    I'm not contriving a plot point, the issue of not feeling right in their skin is central to the story and the line I had in mind works well for explaining the character's reaction. The line is there as it fits the plot point not the other way around.

    Sorry if this sounds snippy but I'd appreciate it if you'd get to know me and the specific situation a bit more before making assumptions like that.

    I'm not trying to give my character a quirk just to throw in a funny line...
     
  10. DisFanJen
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    Cool, I didn't know there was a more generic disorder that applied. This may be what I'm looking for so I'll call on my good friend Mr Google and do some research. :)
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you're rejecting suggestions for the required plot element on the grounds that they don't match the line you've already written. That means that you've already decided that the line is more important than the reason the person is uncomfortable. And it wasn't me that said "Kill your darlings", it was William Faulkner, and he in turn based it on Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's advice “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”. I think they were both on to something.
     
  12. DisFanJen
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    *sigh*

    I wasn't rejecting on the criteria that it didn't match the line. I rejected based on the fact that they didn't in my head produce the right result. Fear and Shame amongst others, as well as the anticipation of te possibility of fixing things. I'm not saying the other suggestions didn't do this to some extent, just that I didn't feel they would be intense enough.

    But if you feel that you know me so well you can interpret my motivations then feel free. However I'd like this to get back to the topic at hand if possible.

    Oh, if it makes you feel better, consider the line dropped. However that doesn't change my criteria for the condition one jot.

    As an aside, it's nice to know where the kill your darlings line came from. I got it from Brandon Sanderson on the Writing Excuses podcast and didn't know he was quoting someone else. But then I've not had a formal literary education so I get my knowledge where I can.
     
  13. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The character has done something horrible. Maybe he was just a little kid and didn't know better but whatever he did has been a burden on his shoulders. His face would probably have to be the type that just look innocent or what that character percieves to look innocent.

    So when he looks in the mirror and sees his face, he knows its a lie because he isn't innocent. That a 'monster' lurks underneath the surface.
     
  14. DisFanJen
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    Hmmm, It'd need some of the plot rearranging but I actually like this as an idea.

    I'll have a play and see how it goes... :)
     
  15. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    I would respectfully but somewhat disagree. Gender issue can be one of the elements and why I am only 'somewhat' disagreeing. By Mayo Clinic's definition, it is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined and thus the dysmorphic element.

    I would hesitate to use LGBT as your 'issue' in that it makes the assumption, via your statement that 'leaves the character looking in the mirror thinking 'that's not me.' and something that would, at least until they readily admit it to others, be shameful to them if revealed.'

    The reason being is that, while being 'in the closet' and remaining so is most always driven by shame. Those people that I know that have made the transition from denial to acceptance to revealing to others is not one of shameful in the end but of liberation. The shame is part of why the did not reveal to others for whatever period of time.

    My point is that you may not be truthfully speaking to the LGBT/Gender experience. I am not an expert in as much as I have had a few friends go through this experience and they tell a pretty similar transition.

    My point is that you may want to return your focus to body dysmorphic since it has so many contributors.

    Moreover, I would suggest that your character be a 'victim' of their body. Also having had someone very close who wrestled with body dysmorphia, she felt like a victim of her body simply because she had medical conditions that made it tough for her to maintain 'perfect health' and that fight along with environmental influences such as an overbearing and a non-understanding mother made for a rather difficult combination to overcome.
     
  16. w176
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    If you depressed you can suffer from feelings of unreality and anxiety about pretty much anything. Perhaps he has dances with the dark lady of depression every now then during his life and developed a feeling of being disconnected from his body, not being at home in it, it not really being a part of him.
     
  17. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    The character can be of a race/ethnicity that he is ashamed of belonging to - either because of how your character perceives his own race/ethnic group, or because of how other people perceive them.

    Also, obese people can at times be so looked-down-upon and discriminated against that they feel their "real" self is hidden somewhere inside their bodies.
     
  18. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting idea. The character could also be filled with feelings of hatred and revenge, belying his angelic exterior, even though he hasn't actually done anything gruesome. Yet.
     
  19. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if this would in any way fit into your story, but just a thought based on my own experience of not feeling comfortable in my own skin-

    I was raised in a very, very religious household, and everyone around me thought I was this perfect, shining example of what members of the church were supposed to be, but I always felt like I was playing a role. When I turned 21, I stopped going, and a couple years later I had my name removed from the church records. It was a huge shock, caused a lot of gossip, and people I grew up with, as well as adults who know my parents, still talk about it and bag on my behind my back. Hearing about someone leaving their childhood religion as an adult doesn't seem like much of an event, and to be honest it seemed like more of a natural thing than a giant life choice to me, but it was pretty earth-shattering for the people who knew me.
     
  20. DisFanJen
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    Lol!

    I can guarantee that while a transgendered person is in the denial stage, shame is a feeling that is felt. One has to accept oneself before outing goes from shame to relief.

    I wasn't intending to out myself within a week of being on a forum but hey, it's not like it's a biggie nowadays and your post just made me laugh.

    I was going to avoid Gender Dysphoria as a plot point as it's simply too easy for me to write.

    As the expression goes, write what you know. Ten years post op and very aware of how someone would react. :)
     
  21. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Here's a couple of ideas:

    1. What if the character was adopted by a family that's a different ethic/racial group? There might be issues of feeling different there -- the person might feel like they don't fit in with their family because they look different, and they might feel isolated from their ethic group as well because they weren't raised with the same culture and thus don't fit in. I'm not saying that interracial adoption is bad or anything -- in fact, it's great and race shouldn't matter -- but you could use that situation to create the not-fitting-in dilemma, especially if the MC is young and prone to insecurity/fitting-in issues.

    2. Does your story have any fantasy elements? If so, maybe your MC could have some type of supernatural power that makes him/her feel abnormal.

    3. Everyone keeps mentioning imagined deformities/body dysmorphia. Is a real deformity an option?

    4. Maybe as a result of being abused/bullied, the MC created an imaginary self..sort of a "this is what I want to be" persona, an imagined cooler-than-life person who the MC wants to be in 5/10 years (or right now!). Every time your MC looks in the mirror he/she could be disappointed and feel like he/she is supposed to be the "cool version." The obsesesion could get worse over time.
     
  22. DisFanJen
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    The first part of the story is already written and I'm not sure this would fit. See the piece in the fantasy review section.

    Yes there will be fantasy elements but the feeling of not being right is supposed to be an indicator that the person has potential. So active unnatural abilities wouldn't fit.

    Doesn't go with the original idea but it's possible with a re-write.

    Now that is a viable idea. It'd change things a bit but not noticeably. This might be a winner! Thanks. :)
     
  23. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    With that last one, you could get into some dark psychological stuff, too. It could start of as sort of a wistful I-wish-I-was-this-way daydream, and then it could...spiral out of control. ;)
     
  24. DisFanJen
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    Yeah, though that would expand the story noticeably. You only find out about the MC's issue when the mysterious stranger talks to them.
     
  25. digitig
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    I know what you have explicitly told us about your motivations. You said "In fact I have this 'rabbit in headlights' line prepared for the reveal, and I don't think bulimia would have enough punch." In other words, you told us that you rejected the suggestion didn't match the line you already had, and then got cross because you thought I was assuming what you told us! Was my mistake in thinking that I could trust what you actually wrote?
     

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