1. Eugelian
    Offline

    Eugelian New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    USA

    Character Coping with Grief

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Eugelian, Jun 27, 2013.

    My main character's father and brother were killed a few hours before the story began. As soon as she receives this news, she is told she has to flee her home and leave everything she knows and loves behind. I want her to be naive and cocky in the beginning, her self-assuredness making her seem less weak in the eyes of others. Is this behavior too boyish? And how can I subtly show it without being blatant?
     
  2. maskedhero
    Offline

    maskedhero Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2013
    Messages:
    365
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    America
    Would someone be naive and cocky when fleeing and leaving everything behind?
     
  3. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    First thing I want to address is the whole being too boyish thing. Stereotypes will hurt your writing because they aren't true to life. Stereotypes are part of the brain's natural desire to put things in categories which leads to boxing yourself in with very compartmentalized thinking. There's no set rules for how men and women behave and there are a great many exceptions to the rules of society. Basically, don't worry whether it's too boyish or not. It doesn't matter because everyone is different.

    Second, I'm not seeing how that's realistic for someone to be feeling that way after having their world turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe. I think most anyone would be shaken to the core by something like that.
     
  4. Garball
    Offline

    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    2,846
    Likes Received:
    1,331
    Location:
    S'port, LA
    Overconfidence is an easily explained defense mechanism to being thrust into a world of unsureness.
     
  5. Aprella
    Offline

    Aprella Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Belgium
    I think it really depends of the character how she copes with the grief and it also depends on how close he was with her father and brother.
    A character in my stories loses his best friend/soul mate in a car crash and the girl he loves (she is the best friends brother and blames him for the car crash) about two years before the story started. He blames himself for losing them and never really coped with it because he pretends that he's okay and runs away from in his demons instead of fighting them and this has a major impact on the whole story.

    I do think almost every reaction is possible as long as it is 'justified'. Pick what fits your character and servers your plot.
     
  6. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    I tend to do that; I cover fear and uncertainty with overconfidence and aggression. From what I've observed, the trait is more common among men than women, but I've seen women do that too just like I've met men who haven't done that, so it's not something you couldn't write for a female character, especially an inexperienced one. For instance, this type of conduct was more obvious when I was younger, but over the years I've consciously tried to tone it down because it can lead to blunders pretty easily.

    One thing that's worth focusing on (when planning the character) is how these different elements mix and match. For instance, the tendency to put on a show of bravery when you're scared seems to be more common with people who are naturally competitive and proud (perhaps this is why it's relatively common among men: the notions of manly pride, honor, all that macho warrior jazz). This goes to the psychological plausibility of the character, and while there are exceptions to just about every rule, stereotypes are often born from repeated patterns. I often write characters who go against stereotypes and expectations, but I always try to do it consciously and from there on try to maintain the psychological plausibility of that character so s/he doesn't come off a schizophrenic.
     
  7. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    This also depends on the timeframe during which the story takes place. If the father and brother were killed just a couple hours ago, and then on top of that the character has to flee, she'd probably still be in a bit of shock, not really able to process fully what's happened.
     
  8. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    I agree because I have experienced it. Few years ago my father had a diabetic stroke and was in a coma for some days and during the same period my younger sister (who was under my care) had an operation 2700 kms away from home and she was struggling to recover. My father recovered but my sister died. I had to shuttle between the two cities to check on them and give my consent to some serious decisions suggested by the doctors. Later, I had to put my sister in a coffin, booked her like a parcel to be transported back home, sat on a plane while her body was in the cargo, and hide all these things from my father who was just out of coma. I did it without shedding a single drop of tears in front of others as if I am doing some kind of routine office work. My friends and relatives who went through this ordeal with me commented about how strong I was and so on. But to tell you the truth to concentrate on the job at hand was my way of holding back those tears. The minute I was alone in a taxi after booking the coffin, I cried like I never did before. I didn't cry in the funeral. Later and even now, I told my siblings and mother to shut up when they try to say something about the ordeal. They think I am strong and moved on, but in reality it's too painful to relive those few days.

    Sorry, I got carried away, but the thing is, show your char as naive, cocky, boyish, or anything you want, but also show the real feelings the char is hiding under the mask she wears in front of others.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. mg357
    Offline

    mg357 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    368
    Likes Received:
    33
    I have experienced a lot of death recently and in my opinion you should you should the naïve and cocky manner as a some sort of defense mechanism and then at some point the main character's experiences something that brings up the grief that she was suppressing about her father and brother's deaths and in some way have her express this grief.
     
  10. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    This is what I was thinking.

    Reading how others have explained the whole false bravado thing it makes more sense now. I guess I was thinking from my own experiences rather than how the character may react. I've had things that turned my world upside down and I was in shock initially and then I kinda collapsed in on myself for a short time then I buckled down and did what had to be done and just sort of shut off the feelings for that time. It's a process for sure.
     
  11. The Peanut Monster
    Offline

    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2013
    Messages:
    125
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    New Zealand
    People react in all sorts of different ways to all sorts of events. Naivety and cockyness could be, as Garball and mg357 say, a defense mechanism. You could read some experiences of refugees, who are often in this very situation - my (very limited) experience in speaking with refugees is that all sorts of emotions come into play, especially when survival is at stake. Some break, some become new people with previously unexpected emotions. So, I think as long as you in some way justify these feelings and make them believable to the reader, it can work.

    Also, I don't necessarily see it as being "boyish".
     
  12. heal41hp
    Offline

    heal41hp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Oklahoma, USA
    killbill hit the nail on the head for what I wanted to add, though he did it way better than I'll be able to. Both shock and coping can lead to a seeming cool exterior when everything's going down. Focusing on a routine or keeping yourself busy are (I believe) common coping mechanisms for upsets in life, especially the more traumatic events. It's when things get quiet that someone starts to crack. Again as killbill said, just be sure to show those moments and you should be just fine.

    I second/third/whatever the general consensus on the "boyish" thing. You know your character better than us. Does she find those emotions/actions she outwardly expresses/performs to be signs of strength? We act off our own definitions and if she finds cockiness and self-assuredness to be signs of strength herself, she's going to go that route to try and display her own strength to the world around her.

    Regarding subtlety versus blatancy, it will help to know which POV you're using. You'll basically be writing two different characters: her and the mask she wears. If you treat the mask as a character, you shouldn't have any problems with going overboard.
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. New Konoiche
    Offline

    New Konoiche Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2012
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Nope, I don't think it's too "boyish" at all. Everyone responds to grief differently and since she JUST learned about their deaths a few hours ago, it would make sense for her to still be in some kind of denial about it and putting all of her energy into her outward appearance because that is what she can control. This response rings especially true, given that she also has to concentrate on leaving the country, giving her something else to focus on. Her feelings will undoubtedly change later on (once she has time to process it more), but as an initial reaction, I'd say its spot-on.
     

Share This Page