1. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Character going through a lot of suffering

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Aprella, May 13, 2013.

    The post about the mental unstable character made me think... I was thinking to ask my question there first, but I realised it might be better to make a new topic. (Sorry, I have the feeling I am making tons of topics... but I have so many questions.)
    This concerns a story that is in a pre-first draft (a friend and I started to write little pieces in turns without discussing plot or anything and we decided that the plot we have now is a bit too good to be waste like that and we are planning to make it into a book). We have this one character who is going through a lot during the story... and we are going to cut out some of these things because it was actually way too much. I did some basic research about stress-disorders, but I have the feeling I need more and I'm a bit at a loss where to start looking to get some ideas how the character will/can feel mentally.
    These are the things he will be going through:

    - Before the story has started, he has been in a car crash (it has been some years, have to determine how many) and his best friend died in the car crash. The character feels guilty because he dared the driver (the friend) to do all sort of stupid things while driving. He has pushed this guilt away, however, but during the story something triggers the memory and it all comes rushing back. Another character will comfort him and try to make him see that it wasn't his fault
    - With some help of an evil power he attempts to commit suicide by hanging himself, though he is saved.
    - He (and the people he is travelling with) end up in another dimension (medieval setting)
    - At the start most people in that dimension try to avoid him because his animal spirit is seen in a rather negative light (crow/raven)
    - He gets possessed by an evil power who makes him kill people. When possessed he has no control over his own body but he can see and feel everything. The evil power convinces him the people 'he' murders, have to be punished because they have committed terrible crimes
    - Finally, he is suspected of the murders and lured in a trap and with the help with this evil power he manages to get away. He joins the evil power because he doesn't know what to do else (and thus committing treason)
    - He realised that the intentions of the evil powers aren't good at all (when the evil power kills a child) and he ends up betraying the evil power and saving 'the day' for the 'good' forces
    - The good capture him and toss him into a dungeon to await his trial
    - Meanwhile in that dungeon, a guy who hates this characters, flogs him terrible and tries to kill him.

    It's a lot and it will be spread over a couple of novels (well that's the plan) and I do think that some things have to be cut since listed up like this it looks very excessive., but I haven't had time yet to go over the plot with my co-writer. Anyway I was wondering how someone that has gone through this in a time span of a couple of months (I think it will be about three) will feel and if there are any good books where a character goes through a lot of suffering (preferably a point of view character).
     
  2. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    The thing is, I can't understand what your main plot is. You have 3-4 different plotlines with no core plot and it makes the story goal hard to follow.
    You might want to think about which plot you are going to follow.
    As far as references go, first one that comes to mind is the first book of the Night Angel trilogy.
     
  3. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Well the basic of the story is: 4 people get lost (in our world) en up in another dimension and they have to defeat and evil witch (to say it very simple) and the character who goes through all the suffering is the key for the destruction of the witch or he can be the key for the destruction of the good witch. (he has some special power to neutralise their magic, though he doesn't know himself until far into the story)

    It's really hard right now to get a proper view on the story since the writing we have now is such a mess and all over the place. But the more I talk about it and the more questions I get the more I realise that we have to change. But I'm actually dying to get the pre-first draft thing finished and started to writing from the start again, but unfortunately I have a co-writer who is extremely busy right now... very annoying if you are dying to write :s
     
  4. writerdude11
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    writerdude11 Member

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    confused....

    I'm not sure about what you mean about how the character will feel. Do you mean how he will feel as a result of what he is going through?. Please clarify.
     
  5. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Yes the last :) I'm sorry for phrasing it in such a difficult way... It sounded very clear in my brain
     
  6. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    The first problem I see is that you are quite confused yourself about your plot. If this car crash you talked about is something of the past to him and you want it to be dredged up, you will have to show how it happens over time. If it is not something of the past and it is still a big enough deal for him to want to kill himself, then he wouldn't need the help of an "evil power" to suddenly come in the picture and make him do it. Also, was the evil power always in the picture or did it come in later, long time after the crash?
    There are many aspects of your story you haven't figured out yet and you should talk it over with your writing partner. Also writing something together without discussing the plot is not a good idea. It will create big controversies and inconsistencies as well as plot holes. Unless you are writing about completely different characters in completely different environments who don't interact with each other and whose actions don't affect each other, it is extremely hard to make it work without communication.
     
  7. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Well it was initially only meant to be something fun and relaxing... but well it ended up quite different.
    Well he isn't deep enough to want to kill himself but the evil power (the bad witch) wants to get rid of him because he's a danger to her... and when that doesn't work she tries to get him at her side.

    and indeed this is way too confusing :s I think we are just trying to put too much in one story.
     
  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm afraid you'll just have to write it to find out what will be psychologically plausible. When you are done with one bad trip for the guy, look back and think how that specific thing has affected him. Psychological plausibility of the character is like this thread you have to keep firnly in your fist, don't let it unravel or the character might end up being all over the place and react strangely to certain things that may have more plausibly caused e.g. a PTSD related anxiety attack. Of course, people are individuals, but if you put yourself in his shoes, you might get an inkling how you would react and that's already something.

    Just a word of warning though: characters who go through a lot of crap can come off like you are victimizing them to make the reader care for them (the way I sometimes felt with Harry Potter, tbh. Oh poor Potty, everyone hates him. Ok, I'm a huge fan, but still...). It's different if they seek trouble or work a dangerous job, then it kind of makes sense bad stuff happens, but if they have "bad luck" all the time, it might be a good idea to crack a joke or two about it.
    Oh, I found the quote (by Mr. Michael Enzweiler, a member of Patricia Briggs's critique group or something. Briggs writes Mercy Thompson series. I just think this was quite well put).

    I'm not saying you're doing this, Aprella, but your post reminded me of "the danger."
     
  9. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I felt the way about Harry sometimes as well!
    I know it's dangerous since I don't want people to pity him (well at least not throughout the whole thing). And I think that is very difficult. What i was playing in my mind with is that he 'closes down' and trying to deal with it all by himself and pretend that he is okay, though I still need to explore that option and how that he is going to keep that up...
    Thanks for the advice!
     
  10. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    A short story where the character is depressed that i know of is "Araby" by James Joyce. "A classical student" by Anton Chekhov and "Why,Honey" by Raymond Carver.
     
  11. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You character--after going through all that--will very likely have developed PTSD.
    Post Traumatic Shock Disorder.

    Look that up.
     
  12. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
     
  13. sierraromeobravo
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    sierraromeobravo Member

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    This actually sounds similar to a friend of mine...well minus all the different dimensions and things. He was in a car accident that dramatically changed his life. What I know is he definitely suffers a PTSD of sorts. It's not like what the soldiers receive but it has similar side effects such as anxiety, depression, boughts of anger...and more (you can look up PTSD specifically for car accidents and things just by googling. They have reports out there).

    You mention that, "something triggers the memory and it all comes rushing back" but from what I understand that memory never leaves. It haunts in a way that is scary and dark. Some people get over this type of event however i'm assuming you want this character to be troubled by it. This event defined my friends life because it has kept him in various levels of chonic pain and depression since the event. I still feel that even without the pain he'd still be pretty messed up.

    However, if you meant that the guilt "comes rushing back" because he "caused" his friend to die then I can see understand that better. Making peace with that part of the car crash even if he can't forget the actual pain of suffering through it himself makes sense. Having that guilt come back would make all the other aspects of the car crash worse. That anger and anxiety would increase and he'd become a serious wreck...no pun intended.

    My difficulty in him having the guilt coming back is you also say that "Another character will comfort him and try to make him see that it wasn't his fault' which doesn't seem right to me. If the character had gotten over the incident at one point he would have accepted it wasn't his fault once already. So he's convincing himself again that it wasn't his fault? The only way I see around that is if some how the accident was so tramatic that he remembers nothing about it but suffers the same PTSD he would suffer if he remembered. People tried to help him understand what happened for years with no luck and it's not until some catalyst causes everything to rush into his mind and he understands now why his life has been terrible...then the other character helps him out.

    Hope those insights help. The car crash was a pretty serious event for all of us, especially my friend. Sounds like a great plot and I can't wait to see it developed.
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree that the plot is allover the place however I won't harp on that since you've already said you're working to fix that.

    I also agree with K that you have to be careful about how much bad stuff you have happen to a character. It does wind up coming across as taking short cuts to make him a character the reader will care about. It's a mistake I made on accident more recently with my own writing and I rectified it. You don't need a lot of bad events to shape a character. Even one traumatic event can shape a character in huge ways. Just like actual people.

    I think you should first of all work out the major plot points. That will help the rest of the events become more clear. When you have a map that tells you where to go you can figure out the direction you need to go to get there. After that you can figure out the sub plot and minor events that surround the larger events of the book.

    As for the whole PTSD thing google is your friend. PTSD is often times portrayed incorrectly so I'd do a lot of research. Oftentimes with things like PTSD the emotions are buried deep and are brought back to the surface with another event or even a sensory thing that the person connects to the traumatic event in question. People are not stricken with mental/emotional issues like that out of the blue. There's typically smaller warning signs that lead up to a breakdown.

    One thing that bothers me is you commented that your character is not "deep enough" to want to kill himself. I'm not sure what you meant about that. Depression isn't deep at all it's soul sucking and it makes a person numb.
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Didn't they used to call it shellshock after the world wars?
     
  16. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I mean that he doesn't get to the stage were he wants to kill himself (as in seeing no other way out, tired of living/) I, unfortunately, know that depression is numbing. I have a friend who has been depressed and was thinking of ending her life.

    And thank you everyone... this is a great help :D
     
  17. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I forgot about that. You're right they did. Then it gradually became known as PTSD once it was studied more and recognized for what it was.



    Okay I just wanted to check! I get what you meant now. He wasn't deep enough into it.

    Glad to help! :)
     
  18. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Shellshock is not an actual term, it was slang for any trauma caused by the war be it physical or psychological. It was ill-defined to the point that even people who had lost money or livestock to the war would be said to suffer from shellshock. It included PTSD among other things but it was a much broader term lacking a definition.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i hope you had a collaboration contract with your co-writer signed and sealed, before you started this... if not, later is better than never... you can email me for a prose adaptation of the best one around, wga's...

    if you don't do it you may well wish you had, when it comes to selling your book...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
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  20. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I don't think plot really factors into your question, Aprella. Unless I'm wrong (and I may well be), you're asking to know the psychological ramifications of these events on a person. While that has been addressed, it doesn't seem to be the focus here. Even the plot hinges, to a degree, on the initial question. As such, I will toss out some thoughts on said psychological ramifications.

    Car crash: He may be unable to be in a vehicle with others. He may be unwilling to be a passenger but be willing to drive. He may be incredibly attentive to driving laws, possibly even to a flaw (OCD). He may be unwilling to even be in a vehicle, parked or moving. Details of the accident will of course affect things as will the character's level of mental health. Did he get over the incident at all to begin with? If he did, it may be an anxious experience being in a vehicle or he may not have a problem at all. He could hate the sound of breaking glass or crunching metal. If the accident was at night, he might not like driving at night any more. He may avoid that part of the road. He may avoid the type of vehicle in which the accident occurred (and may get nervous being around other such vehicles on the road). Did they hit someone else or did they hit a building or something? He might not be able to handle seeing headlights coming his direction. There are a lot of options here and it all depends on his personality and mental health.

    Attempted suicide: He may become a huge advocate for suicide prevention, possibly even volunteering with a support group or something. He might also be very ashamed of what he did and never speak of it, possibly even becoming agitated or angry whenever the subject comes up. He could deny it happened or deny it was him, while deep-down doubting. How could he have been persuaded to try doing it if there wasn't something in him already leaning that way? I, personally, tried killing myself when I was sixteen and was really only able to talk about it within the past few years. I wrote a little something on it that might help you: http://fav.me/d4nx8nl

    Ending up in another dimension: This one I'm not quite sure how to address. There would be a lot of confusion, a lot of worry. Is there any indication he'd be able to go home? To see the people and places he loves? Maybe he wants a fresh start and embraces this change. He has great knowledge of the modern era and skills no one else in a medieval setting would have. He could rule the world if he played his cards right. Of course, the medieval era was incredibly harsh and required a lot of skills a modern man wouldn't know. How would he earn money? How would he get food? There's no medicine and illness would be a severe concern. There's also concerns of his dress, manner (the way he acts and the way he talks), and knowledge could implicate him as a witch or demon or something and he could be persecuted for that. There may even be a language barrier. We, today, could not communicate with a medieval person because language has changed so much since then. He might be obsessed (or just preoccupied) with getting home and may cling to reminders of home. If someone took his watch (or whatever), for example, he might just lose his freaking mind and go on a rampage until he got it back. There's lots of crazy stuff that could happen with this.

    Avoided due to negative light on the animal spirit: I'll be making some assumptions here so bear with me. :) First off, your guy's in a strange place with strange people and unknown ways and means of living. People avoiding him could cost him his life. He could be overzealous in trying to get people to help him. He could resign himself to being a pariah and push himself to survive only by himself. He could become a thief or thug. Alternately, he could throw himself at the mercy of those around him, becoming over-the-top nice to try to gain favor. I have no idea how this animal spirit thing works but he could try to convince people of the goodness of his spirit or even pretend he has a different one. He could find someone with a different type of spirit to keep near in hopes of confusing people. If the animal spirit is physical, he could try chasing it off or even try killing it (or just hiding it).

    Possessed to kill: There are some interesting psychological quandaries available here. He could feel he's too weak to control himself, so why fight it. He might turn to murder of his own volition because of that. He could become depressed for not being able to stop himself and thus blame himself for the murders because his will was not great enough. He could avoid being near people because he worries he might kill again. If he's truly convinced these people were being punished for something, he might pursue that path as an inquisitor of sorts until he's convinced otherwise and then do some of the above things. He might develop a deep hatred of the witch for making him do what he did. He might try to make amends for what he's done, through charity for the survivors or something. It might be what drives him to pursue his "destiny" and destroy the evil witch, and then when he's done, proclaim his debt to the survivors repaid. He might have a crisis of identity, wondering whether he's good or evil, or if good and evil even exist (I love throwing the good/evil dichotomy to the wind and just playing with the gray that's left over!). He might be ashamed of what he's done and hide it (similar things to the attempted suicide) or become like Lady Macbeth and lose his mind, thinking there is blood everywhere (including on his hands) until he somehow makes up for his misdeeds or comes to grips with it. All sorts of fun stuff available there!

    Suspected of murders and joins evil: A lot of the above applies here. What is good? What is evil? How does he fit into this? He might try to sabotage the evil witch's plans that she brings him in on. He might follow her every order with every intention of turning on her at a crucial moment and destroying her or her operation. The TV show Burn Notice is great for this sort of thing. There are numerous times when the main character has to join the bad guys so he can keep tabs on them and manipulate their actions. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." This, I think, will really test the mettle of your character. How far into evil does he go? Does he give in or does he fight it from within?

    "Betrays" evil: This depends entirely on how you handle the previous issue. If he gave in, this is another blow to his probably now fragile morality. He thought he'd found his last resort but then has to turn his back on it. However, it could also be a moment of healing for that fragile morality. He recognizes killing children is evil and he musters the will to stand up against that action! If he's manipulating the evil witch from within her organization, his hand could be forced by this action. When he had plans to drop the hammer at a specific time, he's forced to act without the proper preparation and without any other conditions in his favor. There's all sorts of good stuff that can come from this, too. You might even consider the child being saved (maybe he was ordered to do the deed) and becoming psychologically symbolic of your guy's turn back to purity and hope, thus resulting in his staunch defense of the child.

    Tossed into a dungeon and awaiting trial: This depends a lot on your guy's personality. Is he sure of himself? He'll be more worried about what's going on the less sure of his actions he is. If he's absolutely sure he's in the right, or has an argument that makes him innocent, this might just be a wait out the clock sort of situation. However, with growing doubt comes growing desperation. The more worried he is about the outcome of the trial, the more he'll be likely to try to escape. If he's a shady guy, he might try bribing or threatening the jail-keeper. If he's intelligent, he might try to devise some way to break out. If he has allies outside, he might try coordinating an escape with them. If his allies are good ones, they might try working from the outside to get him released. If he's sure the trial will only end in his torturous, gruesome death, he might just try hanging himself with his boot laces (possibly made easier by doubt in himself caused by previous suicide attempt?).

    Flogged: This also depends heavily on your guy's personality. Does he feel he deserves punishment? He might encourage the flogging. He might give tips on how to better do it so he's got a better chance at dying. He might confess other things, including the death of his friend in the car wreck, thus encouraging the flogging. He might just stolidly take it, letting fate weigh the good and evil in him and do with him as it will. He could see it as a test. However, if he doesn't think he deserves it, he might try pleading, bargaining, bribing, lying, etc. to get out of it. He might even attack the flogger, knocking him out, injuring him, or even killing him. It would be quite amusing if he managed to convince the flogger of his good ways and build an ally out of this experience.

    The psychology of a character is very important. I really appreciate that you recognized this and were willing to seek assistance on the matter. :)
     
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  21. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yes of course. My mistake.
     
  22. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are asking about how the character behaves when suffering a lot, but then you give detailed account of your synopsis which doesn't make a whole lot of sense (as early synopsises tend to do). None of the supernatural things are important to your original question.

    People react to stress individually, they may stop eating, or eat too much, they can lose sleep or become lethargic, they can cry or lash out or get indigestion or headaches or nothing at all in 3 months, the effect of stress is cumulative and some people can better cope with it in short term. "Survivor guilt" is a big one, but also, highly unpredictable and stressful series of events will push that on the back burner, which might result in even stronger survivor guilt. Also, post traumatic stress with the memories of the car crash could be haunting him, and the combination, usually exacerbated by alcohol, can result in attempted suicide.

    One of the ways to deal with this is to have him go through catharsis, emotional release where he faces head on all the feelings, and purged of emotion, even though shaky, to transition into a stronger phase where he completes the task by the end of the book,
     
  23. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    Fantastic point! That's really what this boils down to. You need to get to know your characters like they're your best friends (or better). You need to know them on an intimate level so you can slip into their shoes and figure out how their individual personality and individual experiences will cause them to react in different situations.

    Forget about the plot for now. Focus on your characters. Once you know them, and I mean know them, then head back to figuring out the plot. You won't be able to figure out how the characters will navigate the plot (and thus won't be able to plan for where they're going and how) until you know the characters. However, once you know the characters, you'll be able to perform some author magic and manipulate plot points to nudge your guys in the direction you want them to go (and they don't necessarily).
     
  24. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    We don't have one... since well we didn't started it with the thought that it will be an original story. We started it as something fun, a fanfiction, but it turned out to be really interesting... I should talk to my co-writer about that. Thanks for pointing it out :) But I have never seen such a contract. What kind of things are discussed in it? Because honestly, I already feel a bit... annoyed by my co-writer since she hasn't written anything for 3 weeks. I do understand she is busy, but she is planning a lot of things to do over the summer while I hoped to get a lot of work done on the story.

    @Heal41hp: Thank you so much for putting time and effort in giving some suggestions! This helps a lot! I was thinking to make him unable to be in a car when someone else drives... and get mad when someone is trying to distract him (or in case he has not other choice but to be a passenger, get mad when someone distracts the driver) because the car crash happened because he had distracted his friend.
    I found the murders the hardest to imagine how one would deal with that since I have no clue how it feels to murder someone... but you gave some great suggestions!

    I am slowly starting to know this character more and more. Every evening before I go to sleep, I think about him and try to place him in different situations and see how he reacts.

    In what we now have, he forgets to eat when he is worrying about everything.


    Thanks all for the amazing help :D
     

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