1. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Character Hallucination Problem

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by aimeekath, May 2, 2012.

    Sorry if the title was a little ambiguous/ odd but I wasn't quite sure what to put. Also, sorry if this is in the wrong place.

    I've got a problem and I need some suggestions.

    My protagonist Mona is a rebel in the midde of a world run by a totilarian/ dictatory type government (similar to Hunger Games). Anyway, she's about 19 but has been running from enemy forces since she was about 14, with her mother and younger brother Danny. Her mother was shot when Mona was about 17 and this has had a big impact on her psyche because she watched it happen.

    She's been responsible for Danny and hasn't had time to slow down and grieve or anything and she's now severley depressed. Here's the thing -

    She also has hallucinations (visual and auditory) about her mother dying. I don't want her to have schizophrenia and I don't know whether there is such as thing as guilt induced halluciantions, so I've been writing as if she's addicted to a kind of drug.

    I've got a scene where Mona, Danny and their 'group' are in a sewer. They're running from enemy forces as their temporary base was just discovered, so they need to get away quickly. These sewers are dangerous and filled with loads of monsters that could attack, and the darkness is supposed to add to the fear factor/ confusion.

    This is where the reader finds out about the hallucinations, and they would hint at her past. It would also help with plot development as I'm quite near the begining of the story, and it would also start some other sub - plots. So I really, really want to keep the scene.

    So Mona starts having hallucinations, and the group is generally split up for a while whilst this happens, and Danny goes missing (which they'll only realise once they're out). However, Mona is smart enough to know that taking drugs now would be a stupid idea because they're in danger. I was wondering if anyone had some suggestions on how the hallucinations would start up?

    I thought that there might be a way for someone to have hallucinations even if they haven't recently taken the drug... is that even possible?
     
  2. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith Active Member

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    Yes, it's a form of PTSD -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An interesting psychological condition where the user of some drug could experience some kind of "flashback" to the feelings experienced when using that drug. These could include anything from mild distortion of their perception of reality at the time, to full on "trips" lasting upwards of several hours. Just as with more "normal" cases of PTSD, no one is entirely certain as to why these incidents occur, but it is a documented fact that drug abuse can lead to such moments.

    Now, to be clear, even amongst the users of harder drugs -- i.e., LSD as a common example in regards to flashbacks (the proverbial "acid flashback") -- the prevalence of these "flashbacks" is rather rare, and in most cases where they do occur limited in both scope and duration. It is, however, quite possible for a former user to experience most or all of the symptoms without having taken the drug for days, months or even years (though the intensity and duration of flashbacks does, as I recall, begin to wain with the more time that has elapsed since the last usage.)

    Other, milder drugs are sometimes thought to facilitate the occurrence of these flashbacks. For example, some LSD users have reported having flashbacks immediately after drinking coffee (caffeine). Some psilocybin (mushrooms) users have mentioned flashbacks as well during the usage of cannabis (weed) and/or other drugs. Stress is another significant cause, most especially as those prone to having flashbacks have most often experienced a "bad trip"; i.e., a trip gone awry -- whether the user becomes terrified that something or someone is out to get them, or perhaps becomes so overwhelmed at confronting their own life and mind that everything seems a downward spiral of depression and loss. In addition, many users of such drugs report lingering effects in perception -- whether it be finding themselves more apt to make up images or notice things in their peripheral vision that do not actually exist, or finding themselves with a faintly warped image of life and their perspective thereof.

    In your case, I think, it would be easy enough to invent a "super drug" of sorts; one that brings on a massive shift in perception (to the loss of one's "self" during the experience), in addition to full-blown auditory and visual hallucinations. Another thought to consider is the addiction aspect you mentioned -- as none of the drugs I've mentioned here (aside from caffeine) have much of an addictive quality, yet in others -- take alcohol as an example -- hallucinations and delirium can be symptoms of withdrawal (again, in extreme cases.)

    So -- two main points. First, it would be entirely conceivable for there to be such a drug. Secondly, it would almost definitely have to be an invented drug, as most all incidences of flashbacks are far milder than what you describe, and aside from that, are generally more a user's reliving of the psychological aspect and less an experiencing of hallucinations.

    Finally, you could invent a drug that has the urban-myth fueled qualities of LSD -- that is, after usage, remnants of the drug remain and are periodically released into the body after significant dosages.
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Also, it's possible to have hallucinatory flashbacks due to psychological trauma, without any drugs involved. (I experienced this myself on one occasion, though my flashbacks are usually just emotions.) But in this case, make sure she only sees them when she's extremely upset, and the tone reflects the trauma.
     
  4. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Spot on, to a certain extent, though it has bean years since I have ingested the chemical, I can say I still get flash backs, sometimes mild and sometimes dramatic, fairly frequent. Some of which, more related to what is called 'euphoric recall' will probably stay for most of my life. I wouldn't have it any other way. But I am not here to talk to you about that nonsense. The point I am trying to make, is the reason why most of these happen, are as the result of being triggered by something. As Clumsy noted, sometimes it could be coffee, or a smell, anything that pertains to the senses, will trigger it and bring me right back into that state. For me, it is ESPECIALLY strong with music, because that was the setting it was used in 100% of the time. If it's music, or a show I have been intoxicated at, and I am hearing it, the re-created feelings become much more vivid. More often then not, it is emotional, and I can phsyically feel the experience emotionally and mentally, very rarely is it a distorted reality that comes back, though it does happen.

    I would suggest doing away with the idea of her using a chemical. It would cheapen her experience and her feelings towards her past regarding the death of her mom, because the point of the chemical would be to mask the feeling, whereas if you create a situation such as PTSD, she has no control over it and cannot avoid the hallucinations and the re-creations of feelings she IS trying to run away from/not experience. This adds much more tension and character depth. I would also suggest doing some research on what is called 'State Dependant Memory, Euphoric Recall, and Pyscological Flashbacks' in general.

    Hope this helps.
     
  5. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Thank you all so much, this was so helpful! Although I didn't say so, I was genuinley worried the whole drug addiction thing could, like you said so accuratley, cheapen the character and her experiences, and maybe that the reader wouldn't like that. Thank you again, this has given me so many ideas!
     
  6. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Do not let me discredit the idea by anymeans. I think that addiction could serve as a useful device in certain settings, and stories, but yours, I just feel like you want to heighten the feelings your character is going through. She wants to avoid them but hallucinations come on whether or not she wants them to. They are unavoidable. Now, you could combine the two, and have her use a chemical to numb the feelings she gets as a result of the halucinations, which readers can definitely relate to. Though the idea of creating a tension and conflict revolving around something happening to her she has no solution for (yet) creates a much more interesting plot imo.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    All sorts of psychological states can produce hallucinations - dissociative experiences, post-traumatic symptoms, depression as well as a condition called "complicated grief". It is when grieving, for one reason or another, didn't resolve normally, but it carries on for years, and person continues to experience a version of normal grief symptoms, which include seeing and/or hearing the loved one after they passed away.
    How and where you start to introduce these is up to you. But usually, no matter what their origin, hallucinations tend to be specific, so decide on what the hallucination will be about exactly, and then weave it into the story.

    ps. Drugs that cause hallucinations usually cause all other impairments of reasoning and behaviour which severely influence the person's ability to function, while other types mentioned above can be isolated and affect the functioning much less (so the character might still be able to recognise them as not real, and carry on doing whatever they were doing, without making bizarre decisions etc). However, it is true that the more upsetting and intrusive the hallucinations (such as the ones arising from trauma or psychosis rather than grief alone), the more likely the person is to self-medicate with substances of choice. But the hallucinations pre-date (or are worsened) by drugs, not necessarily caused by them.

    pps. PTSD is NOT caused by drugs. Drug flashbacks, such as those resulting from solvent inhalation or LSD, are flashbacks too, but they are different kind of flashback, typically the memories of specific visual hallucinations. PTSD flashbacks are intrusive memories of highly traumatising events and they are emotionally wrecking. Two completely different things which should not be confused.
     
  8. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Ok! Thank you for the clarification and help again :)
     
  9. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Drop the drug bit. You don't even need it to be about the grief over dear old Mum. Make it simple dehydration or lack of food. Both can cause hallucinations do to lack of nutrients to that there brain in your head. In the desert people don't start seeing things just because of the heat itself, but the lack of water and the damage that can wreak on the human body. She just hallucinates her mom because she was thinking about her before they were on the run and had to leave their provisions behind.


    Then you have her kill one of the "monsters" (which of course will turn out to be hobos) and eat. Problem solved.
     
  10. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Yeah, I'm definitley dropping the drug bit. I've actually incorporated some of the flashback things, and now Mona often sees a younger version of herself in her peripherals, which is a bit creepy since she's often covered in blood. Though the suggestion of it getting rid of the grief bit I'm not sure of... perhaps it could be a combination of both the lack of provisions and the psychological trauma? It might make it seem a little more realistic maybe.

    The hobo bit is hilarious and made my day.

    Thanks for the feedback, again. :)
     

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