1. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    Balancing character grief and the rest of the story

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by NellaFantasia, Feb 2, 2013.

    The main character in the story I'm currently writing (or...trying to pick up again, I should say) loses both of her parents, and in the process her home and the life she once knew. Although she wasn't necessarily close to either of them, it's devastating as she realizes she took them for granted. Obviously she's going to be feeling a sense of loss, hopeless, uncertainty as her life changes. What I'm wondering is how to go about doing this without overwhelming the reader. The death of her parents is simply an event which forces other events to happen. I don't want it to be so overpowering throughout the story that the reader ends up seeing the character as whiny or full of angst, but I don't want her coming across as an unfeeling robot and magically gets over it. Does anyone have ideas on how to balance the two?
     
  2. wavodavo
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    wavodavo Member

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    Grief can turn into depression or anger or inspiration or manic mindless activity. Your MC could exhibit some of those reactions as the story progresses -showing her depressed or angry or manic without you naming the emotion or giving the cause. Readers will figure out the cause for her behavior. Also, she could think about her parents and her grief less and less as the story moves along. She could go whole chapters without mentioning it, but then have it rise up briefly in a quiet moment when she's alone. All this would humanize her, but not leave the reader weeping page after page after page.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought would be for her to work out her feelings in ways that aren't whiny and angsty, but are still apparent to a reader who's paying attention. Throwing herself into projects or other distractions, drinking too much, sleeping too much or too little, that sort of thing.

    I also don't think that an unfeeling manner would really be seen as truly unfeeling. Randomly writing a scrap of dialogue:

    Mary asked, "So how are your parents?"
    Jane extracted the orange slice from her drink and started to remove the peel. "Dead."
    Mary blinked. "I. But I just heard from... what happened?"
    Jane didn't answer until she'd swallowed the bit of orange. "Car accident. Did you order yet?"
    "Oh, Jane, I'm so sorry. Are you OK?"
    "The veal parmesan is very good."


    I wouldn't read that as an unfeeling robot, but as someone who is either in denial or determined not to express her emotions.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Place a lot of focus on moments when she is not weighed down by her grief. More than anything, these show that she in not surrendering to depression. Bring most of the exposition about her parents' deaths though her friends, who will, of course, try to deflect unfortunate or insensitive comments or questions away from her.
     
  5. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    A pitiful character is unattractive to the readers. Obviously those events are devastating but if she is to be the protagonist of your novel she should have the strength to go on despite the grief. Denial can be a strong defense mechanism and she might want to avoid the subject altogether as though it never happened.
     
  6. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    Thank you for the answers. You gave me ideas I hadn't thought about and rather like. I'm going to build on them and see what I can come up with.
     

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