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  1. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    A plausible reason for my protagonist's suicide

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by caimomile, Aug 10, 2010.

    I'm currently planning a story (something quite short, perhaps just a novellete) wherein the protagonist, a ghost, struggles to solve the riddle of his death by going back in time.

    By going back in time, this is what I mean:

    He wakes up at September 30. The next day, he finds himself in Sept 29. When he sleeps again, he wakes up to find himself in Sept 28. Etc. Until he reaches the day he died, which is on the 24th.

    The major twist at the end is that he actually committed suicide and the killer he had been suspecting from the very beginning is actually the person who tried to stop him.

    Now my problem is that I can't think of any good reason why he'll kill himself. And I can't get anything flattened out until I figure that major detail.

    My current idea are:

    1) He and his wife/lover had an intense fight until he blacked out and killed her and soon after, killed himself.

    2) His wife/lover simply died from illness, he fell in despair and killed himself.

    3) He and his wife/lover had a fight (the wife/lover isn't killed), but he still fell in despair and killed himself.

    But... erm...

    I think option #1 is so violent, option #2 is so cliche and option #3 is perfectly retarded.

    I want a reason with more depth to it than those three...

    So... any thoughts guys?

    Thanks!
     
  2. gabelpa
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    gabelpa Banned

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    The problem with suicide is that there are very few "good" reasons. There are a lot of "bad" reasons. Suicide is typically a selfish act, that leaves behind those who loved the person to clean up the messes the dead have left behind.
     
  3. BrandonWilde
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    BrandonWilde New Member

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    I find that tragedy in great modern writing will usually revert back to the classics of greek and roman writing. A catharsis - cleansing of one's soul caused by hubris - a fatal flaw or arrogance. Shakespear, Wilde, King draw on these and some writers even retell old stories with a modern touch. This is just my opinion and it may lack accuracy or invention in the eyes of others but I think Plato (and dont quote me on the accuracy) said that there are only so many stories - just retold time again. Take of this as you will but I feel that the plot of your story is very interesting and this would be a good way to top it off - good luck and please message me upon completion as I would be genuinely interested in reading it!

    Brandon
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The most believable reason for someone to commit suicide is mental illness.

    He might have been someone who has been struggling against depression his whole life, and maybe done suicide attempts when he was younger. (Most people saved from a suicide attempt are tankful for it a few months later)

    His stable relationship with his lovely wife, she who talk him into seeking medical attention and trying meds that help him keep his depression in check might be the thing that turned his life around.

    Until the problems A, B or C arises and trigger a new destructive cycle when he quits his meds, starts drinking or abusing substances and finally kills himself, perhaps with a combination of his subscription sleeping pills and alcohol.

    One thing with noting that people tend to kill them self not when they hit rock bottom since you don't have the strength to act then, but when then start to get a little better. When you are still deeply depressed but decisive enough to kill yourself.

    The set up with a earlier history of depression gives you loads of possibility to give small clues to make the big reveal so much more rewarding.
     
  5. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    Don't think you can come up with something like that with the ideas you present. I'd look for something different or go around - make it so that he has killed himself by accident because he was depressed and didn't pay attention to some oncoming danger.
     
  6. BrandonWilde
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    BrandonWilde New Member

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    Or perhaps irony - he wanted to stop at the very last minute
     
  7. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    hmm... thanks guys. Your suggs were really helpful! I think I can add unstable mental health to the main character and a past suicide attempt that failed. Also, I think that irony is good. Thanks again!
     
  8. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    1 can be plausible if you could give an explanation why he reacted so violently to his wife/lover.... may be earlier during the day he lost his job for some reason, he came home drunk with worries and finds his lover and wife in compromising position. Temporary insanity comes into play and he killed his wife.

    Better still, he came back drunk after losing his job and he saw the man with his wife and just assume he was his lover. Then argument, fighting and killing. And later, after killing his wife when he starts thinking rationally he found out that the lover was not actually a lover, but he was there for some other reasons his wife doesn't want the MC to worry about (may be concerning their child). That will be a pretty good reason for remorse and eventual suicide.
     
  9. Pludovick
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    Like gabelpa mentioned, in most cases suicide has repercussions for other people that the suicidee (not sure if that's a word but whatever :p ) turns a blind eye to so they can escape from their own problems, making them seem, in a way, selfish. There's obviously exceptions (euthanasia?) but for the most part that holds true.

    I would possibly develop that further- you could even make it an act of pure spite and/or revenge. If you're going with the idea of mental illness, your protagonist could try and kill himself in order to destroy the life of the lover who spurned him, with endless guilt and shame. It might be hard to put into words, given the total lack of reasoned logic behind it, but it's not uncommon amongst people suffering from depression, trust me.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I would build up the feeling of depression or mental illness throughout the story. Just small hints
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it have to be suicide? Finding out that he committed suicide would leave me with that gray, flabby, "what exactly was the point of following this selfish idiot character all through this story?" feeling.

    Finding out that he took a great risk for a good reason, and it went bad, would give me less of that feeling. I'm imagining a moment when all the pieces come together and you say to yourself, "Oh, God, of course, he's going to die trying to save them/him/her/it..."

    Then again, that gray "what was the point?" feeling in the reader may be precisely what you want. I'm not saying that it's not a perfectly legitimate goal, I guess I just want to point out that it may be what you're going to end up with.
     
  12. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    Well, to tell you that truth, that "grey" feeling is my goal for this story. I do not wish to write about a main character that the readers become more and more attached to as the story progresses. I wish to write about someone who becomes more and more twisted as the story goes. hahaha
     
  13. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't want this to turn into a discussion about the ins and outs of suicide but since the OP is trying to make a fictional suicide seem convincing....

    Firstly, @ Gabelpa, I hope I'm not misreading your intentions as quoted above but I wonder where you get your frame of reference to make such a statement? Suicide is the act of someone who is feeling so much pain and torment that they sacrifice every single good thing in their life (including being with loved ones) to make the pain stop. How this can be described as an ultimately selfish act makes my head reel. Perhaps you meant that the person's mental illness has so overwhelmed them as to make them self absorbed? Your post almost implies that they think "Hmm might cause a few people some pain, ach well, I'm more important aren't I?" The suicidal person doesn't sit down with a list of pros and cons before they commit the act. I would say murder, fraud or arson are very selfish acts. How suicide can be branded as something that furthers ones own selfish interests is completely flawed.

    My best friend's brother committed suicide. My friend felt guilt, shame, overwhelming sadness but not anger at her brother for having been 'selfish.' He had been battling severe depression for a number of years and her father once rescued him from a bungled attempt. Her brother was so tormented that there was no way he could have considered the interests of his loved ones. To expect him to put their feelings above his own desperate state is to completely underestimate the sheer gravity of his depression.

    @Pludovik - I'd imagine that people who take their own lives are torn apart by what they will do to their relatives. I'd hazard a guess that it's one of the reasons they try to stay alive before deciding they can't do it anymore. I think saying that they 'turn a blind eye' to their family's feelings is rather callous. Chances are, they have considered the pain of those around them and still felt that they had no other choice. If they had a choice in the matter, surely they wouldn't feel ending everything was their only option?

    As for committing suicide due to spite, it's plausible in theory but probably very rare. I think suicide for any other reason than unrelenting emotional turmoil and fear caused by mental illness is highly fanciful. It is fiction though so the parameters are wider of course. However, suicide is such a common tragedy that to handle it in a superficial manner would cause offence to a lot of readers. If I was to write about suicide I would do a LOT of research. I think a few of you ought to really consider your views before you put pen to paper. A book where suicide is treated in a ham fisted way wouldn't get very far.
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Those are contradictory sentences.

    Yes, suicide cannot be explain as black or white thing. The samurai performed hara-kiri to keep their honor, which might be considered as the highest form of suicide, a form of bravery... but in that too I'll have to agree there is selfishness and cowardliness .... dying instead of facing the consequences. Because to me bravery lies not in the fighting, but the ability to pick oneself up after a defeat.
     
  15. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, well, unfortunately, life isn't a movie Manav. It's lucky for all of us who can pick ourselves up like brave soldiers. Some 'cowards' can't eh?

    And my sentences weren't in any way contradictory. You just misread the meaning because you were coming at the issue from a different angle.
     
  16. Flyingfishphilosopy
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    Flyingfishphilosopy New Member

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    Hello Caimomile,

    I must say that, though it might be a frustrating one, this is a very interesting problem you have here. When you ask what could be the cause for his suicide, I think you should ask a few questions about the plot you had in mind. Which by the way I find very creative:

    1: What is left of your protagonist's memory? Since your character is going back in time he should have one, if all memories would remain there would be no mystery. He obviously does not remember the act itself. But if the reason was a fight with his wife, should he posses memories of being mad at her, or the events that caused this hatred? Where does the memory stop and why?(maybe he shot himself in the head?)

    2: Who will your MC follow around during the novel? As he is a ghost, he will be unable to interact with people(unless you grant him powers like making things float or to produce certain noises.) For conflict to exist, he must therefore have a view at the behavior of his family or friends dealing with his death. I can imagine by doing so he might slowly begin to realize the reason why he committed suicide. Also if this reason is mental illness, will this illness still torment him during his life as a ghost?

    All and all, I think the plot you are planning for your story tells you the reason for his suicide.
    If the story is only about the problems his family has while mourning the death of this man, and when he gets to the point of the suicide he was simply mentally ill and it had nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, as a reader I would be very confused.
    Though making this work will most likely not be an easy task. I might be easier if you start from 5 days before his death and proceed to it, since memory would then not pose a problem.
     
  17. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    Peerie Pict:

    I see your point. What you said made me thought again.

    I will do some research first. Thanks for pointing that out.


    erm, I'll answer a bit.

    1) the story will start more or less 7 days after his death and memories of 6 days before the suicide are "locked". The "next day (6 days after the suicide) memories of day 6 before the suicide is "unlocked". the "next" day (5 days after the suicide) memories of day 5 before the suicide is "unlocked". And so forth.

    2) I still haven't figured that yet...
     
  18. gabelpa
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    gabelpa Banned

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    That is the very definition of a selfish act, where your concern is solely for yourself, and not others. Yes, there can be more to it, such as incapacity, or euthanasia/assissted suicide due to illness or old age, but that is not the sort of suicide most commonly thought of, and not the kind of suicide I thought the OP was after.

    I have lost a friend to suicide, she was deeply troubled, and could see no way of improving her situation, so she chickened out, and took her own life. There were ways out for her, she could have gotten back on track, could have sought treatment and found happiness, but she chose the shorter path. Don't you dare insinuate that I don't understand.
     
  19. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most suiciders are well aware of the pain they will cause the family but have such negative view of thier own worth that they believe there loved ones will be better off without them and the burden they pose.

    Futhermore I think it not meaningful to judge the action as cowardly etc. since it not the logical well grounded choice of a sane person. It's a sick person reaction to pain and a twisted view of self and the world, not a sane well grounded choice to be condemned.

    Killing herself is not cowardly. It's sick. It is the effect of an disease.

    Giving up hope and not believing in the good alternatives is a part of the depression. It one of the things that defines depression. She wasn't cowardly not daring to continue living, it is a part of the disease she was fighting. In a better world people would getting help before turning to that reaction. But moral judging it is as cowardly is as stupid as judging an anorectic for losing weigh, someone recovering alcoholism to not be able to handle alcohol well, or someone in a psychosis for being paranoid.

    Suicide is the effect of illness, not a well informed sane chose that you can judge and condemn.
     
  20. gabelpa
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    gabelpa Banned

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    w176, I don't have the time for that attitude.
     
  21. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    If you look a little harder, you'll find ordinary people who are bravely facing the ups and downs of life. A grieving mother who lost her only child going to work after a few days, a teenage boy in Zambia who looks after his Aids ridden siblings after their parents die of Aids etc etc (and those are not movie scenes, nor are they soldiers). They can easily resort to suicide, but they don't. Compare them to those who commit suicide for any reason.

    Anyway back to topic, many have suggested mental illness history. I don't like the idea that suicide is committed only by those who have a mental illness history. Yes, they are most prone to commit suicide but, I feel it can happen to any normal person who when face with something unbearable/unacceptable (to him) things (most likely tragedies), they might just snap. They cease to think rationally and they might commit murder, suicide....

    Your MC is going to logically analyst the cause of his death, so I don't think making him metally ill is wise. It'll be like "See I am like a smart ass detective :).... and what do I find... I am an irrational mentally ill person:("
     
  22. Flyingfishphilosopy
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    Flyingfishphilosopy New Member

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    Off topic;
    In my opinion it's impossible to describe the reason why people resort to suicide with the humble available words of a forum post. They can be as broad as the reasons why some people fail to get jobs, can't stop eating or like football. Psychologists can(and they do) write gigantic books about the actions of suicide.
    Moreover judging these actions as cowardly depends not only on the individual case, but also tremendously on the point of view of the person judging.


    On topic;
    Caimomile, Amazed by the solution you have for the protagonists memory:) Once again, this idea is very creative! I wish you the best of luck with this difficult, but therefore all the more interesting subject and I hope to be able to read it in time.

    Regards,
     
  23. Islander
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    caimomile, if you don't want to deal with the implications of suicide, maybe the main character can discover that he had to sacrifice himself to save someone else.
     
  24. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    The people you are describing are not suffering from mental illness. That's why they can "bravely face the ups and downs of life". It's a question of ability, not bravery.

    Why would a depressed person be more irrational than someone who is so impulsive he commits suicide in the heat of the moment? The depressed person at least has a reason to die (their suffering), while the impulsive person is likely doing a mistake.
     
  25. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mentally ill does not make irrational or less intelligent. One of the professions that are most prone to depression and suicides are doctors.
     

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