1. Amphetamine Stoat
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    Amphetamine Stoat New Member

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    Adding Depth to a Drug Addict

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Amphetamine Stoat, Oct 23, 2014.

    I am currently thinking on a character addicted to some nasty stimulant like meth. What I consider one of my few talents in the area of writing is being able to empathize completely with things like mental illness and addiction; I can really get in these peoples' heads. My problem is that this character should be nothing like me and I'm having trouble giving him any depth. He's a scumbag-- a manipulative moocher-- a real jerk.
    but surely there's more to him than that, right? He's a person, he needs his next fix sure, but what's he do when he's not looking to use? What did he do all the time before he was addicted to drugs?
    I'm just having this bizarre problem of seeing him more like this plot device serving a function than being a person (a bad thing for a writer to do in my opinion). Could you guys give me a few pointers on how to grant this character a little texture and still be the amoral addict he needs to be to move the plot along?

    PS: I am not now, nor have I ever been a drug addict (unless you count caffeine). My name is more of a joke than anything.
     
  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe a vicious cycle where

    1) When your scumbag is relatively stable, he tells himself that there are certain things he would never do to people

    2) When he needs a fix, he gets more and more comfortable breaking even his own rules in order to find product

    3) When he "stabilizes," he hates himself for what he did to get to that point

    4) Being more selfish and amoral than he tells himself that he is, he doesn't feel as guilty about the fact that he'd hurt people so much as the fact that he'd broken his personal rules. Instead of trying not to hurt them again, he tries to drown out his own pain by using more

    5) see #2
     
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  3. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I'd start with why he's addicted. From my experience (as a high school student), all the addicts were peer pressured or turned to it for stress relief. Marijuana, at least where I am, is mainstream so you don't get "Cool points" for smoking it. Give the character a reason why he's on drugs. Maybe his sister died and he turned to marijuana for the stress (although I'm thinking you want it to be more than weed).

    If it's a stronger drug like Heroin, make him try to fight the craving. Have him recover from one hit (or whatever they call it with Heroin) and then just push him further towards it as he craves it due to his addiction. Have him hate himself every step of the way, give him him attempts at recovery. Then, maybe he hurts someone, and he actually goes to fix the serious problem, pushing hard at it, fighting the cravings.

    Or maybe that's not the direction of the character and I'm giving myself my own ideas for a plot.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Show how and why he hates being weak. For example, show him feeling like shit because he sold something important to help his kid sister out of a bind, but he stuck the money in his arm instead. And feeling like shit, he goes on a self-destructive drug binge. The reader can despise the character while simultaneously feel bad that he's beyond having the will to be better.
     
  5. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    it'd probably help to research the heck out of whatever addiction you're thinking of. I once had a group of friends slide into meth addiction... I tried it once and just found it annoying, but they insisted that it made them smarter. it must have been doing other things for them too, but I lost touch with them pretty soon after that. the one friend I kept in touch with years later regretted having done it so much, because one of the side effects of meth is to cause degeneration of cartilage in one's joints. he had gotten into fencing, but had to give it up completely, being in too much pain and with increasing likelihood of joint breakage and bone damage. ... not really sure what the point of that digression was, other than "don't do drugs without lots of research and careful thinking about long-term consequences"?
     
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  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Dare I ask just how stupid they were before they became tweaks?
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Was he a scumbag moocher jerk BEFORE he became an addict, or is that new?

    If it's new, I'd say you could show bits of his pre-addiction personality somehow - have a visit from someone who used to be his friend and they talk about old times, or whatever.

    If he's always been an ass, maybe show some self-loathing? It's a lot easier to not hate people if they're doing a good job of hating themselves....
     
  8. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    I would've said that they were mostly pretty bright people, but given what happened, I'm not so sure about that any more. we were all trying stupid sh*t (like drugs) because we were at that special age when one is immortal and far more intelligent than anyone else in the world (e.g. "young and stupid"), and I was right there for a lot of it, but I also had several stopping points of "y'know what--no, I'm not going to do that, that's pointlessly stupid." they told me I was being paranoid. I think the current condition of my life speaks quite well to my finely-honed sense of caution. ;)
     
  9. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a high correlation between mental illness and drug taking. I'm not sure which is cause, or whether it's a coincidence. However, it's more than likely that your character has had a sh1t life in some way...abused as a child, poverty-stricken (and I don't mean just a little hard-up) upbringing, traumatic loss of close family member,...leading to a period of homelessness perhaps?
     
  10. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Insane UK drug addict offender arrested:

     
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  11. Amphetamine Stoat
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    Amphetamine Stoat New Member

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    That video shows exactly what I'm going for. You understand perfectly.

    Definitely. Homelessness is a good suggestion, it does represent rock bottom for a lot of people.
    It's hard for me to wrap my head around, but an awful lot of people don't have any activities at all other than watching TV and drinking.
     
  12. b3av3r
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    b3av3r Member

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    You need to consider his level of addiction. There are plenty of people addicted to hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack, and meth who are able to work, keep a roof over their head, and food on their table.

    If his level of addiction is so high that he puts meth before all other necessities in life, then he will do (or attempt) just about anything to get his fix. However, he would carry on relatively normal activities in between hits. I worked in a very poor community and encountered addicts, mainly crack users, on a daily basis. The huge majority were "normal" people until they hit the pipe and got high. The high from crack doesn't last very long, maybe 20 mins., so they were back to "normal" in about an hour or so. Of course, there were some that either had mental issues long before using drugs or the drugs caused some sort of mental breakdown. These people usually just had problems interacting in society (pushing people out of line, talking too loud, repeating questions/statements, problems counting money, etc.)
     
  13. karmazon
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    karmazon Member

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    Cognitive dissonance.
    Make his self-concept be something different than what his actions show. It's very human to think that way - we might think we're good friends even if we talk about people behind their back. Write him as if he thinks he's a decent person and does the things he does because of (what he thinks) are good reasons.
     

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