1. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Characters and suicide

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by La_Donna, Mar 9, 2013.

    Ok, here is a problem I'm currently encountering, and it's a little bit plot, a little bit character so I thought I'd put it here.

    Firstly, set in the early 1900s so status/class/reputation are very important factors. I've used substitute names for my characters.

    Bob is in love with Penny, a rich girl whose family look down on him. He's not allowed to be with Penny, and Penny gets married to Bob's boss, so he grows depressed and inconsolable. He begins to drink heavily and at the place he goes to get drunk he meets the barmaid, Rachel. They end up sleeping together, but Bob instantly regrets it. Rachel on the other hand is convinced it's true love. However, Rachel gets pregnant and Rachel's family force Bob to marry her. Then Rachel loses the baby - Bob grows to hate her as he feels she has "trapped" him in the marriage.

    He gets even more drunk and grows violent towards his wife, because he still has to see Penny everyday in the place that he works. However, in spite of all this Bob and Rachel have two sons. Eventually Penny's husband (Bob's boss) dies and Penny starts to hint that she still loves Bob. This makes Bob even more tormented over what "could have been" and he becomes increasingly violent towards his wife. Rachel believes that Bob loves her, it's just the drink that does this to him.

    One day Rachel goes into the place that Bob works (which has now been taken over by Penny) and she sees Bob and Penny in an intimate situation. She runs home, realising that Bob has never loved her and it is just his cruel personality that is causing her misery. Bob comes home, and beats her up to keep her silent.

    Then Rachel hangs herself.

    She needs to die for the plot to move forward as:
    1) Bob needs his two sons and they need to have a low opinion of their mother
    2) After Rachel's death Bob needs to propose marriage to Penny and she refuses him because he is not of a high enough class.
    3) Bob needs to become increasingly unpopular in the town, and his wife's suicide is linked into this.

    Firstly, I'm worried this will be a little over the top for Rachel. She has two sons to think about - why would she kill herself when she knows she would be leaving them to a violent father? Also, several other characters die (this is just a sub-plot) during WW1 and this death may seem a little melodramatic when I've just killed 3 important characters in the war. But she needs to die for the plot to develop and it needs to be at this point in the plot.

    Also I'm worried about how to approach this subject. Should I have Rachel's thought process, right up to the moment she kills herself? Or do you think it will be more shocking for Bob or one of her sons to discover her body?

    I would really appreciate your thoughts!
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    what if Rachel accidentally kills herself? She goes home all upset, drinks Bob's whiskey and A) falls off the balcony to her doom or B) confronts him when he gets home, violence erupts and she falls off the balcony - his feelings of double guilt now give you more legs or C) after a blazing row, he raises his hand, she runs and falls off the balcony without him actually striking her. Either way he is black balled in town, his kids are in bed and don't get the full picture or not at least the truth untill...... all they know is alcohol had to do with their mother's death and they think "she" was the down and out alcoholic?

    There are multiple conflicts here if you are looking for a deep soul searcher

    Hope this helps a little...
     
  3. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Well that plot certainly gave me a couple chills btw

    Well I'm unsure that she even has to die, as I learned through numerous revisions of my own plots because sheesh I killed more people than I ate cheerios, that death is not the only atrocious act that can cause a low opinion on someone. Plus there is the fact that, and I'm assuming, she is a conscious and unselfish mother then the suicide would screw your character's progression a bit as she goes from believable to lunatic. However you can have all of those elements you needed to progress the story if you have her attempt suicide but not go through with it because she's a mother and Bob can find her either passed out or in the bathroom crying. You can use that to create a good tense moment. And her children and everyone else would lower their opinion on her because of her selfishness which in turn can affect Bob's reputation too.

    However you can go with the original plot of her killing herself its just that you'd have to think of and answer the reader's questions about why? Or leave them unanswered and just give them the "life is stranger than fiction" explanation.

    Just my 2 cents
     
  4. creative_nothings
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    creative_nothings Member

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    It sounds like you have a fixed, must happen part of the story. So to ease your fear that Rachel would not kill herself because of her kids... a few months ago a friend of mine took his own life in a very violent manner. He left behind a wife and two kids. To this day, I have no idea why he did it (I know they were getting divorced, but that doesn't seem worth killing yourself over). So, you have to make her reasons believable. It has to seem like (in her mind) the only alternative left. Years of abuse can do this I'm sure, especially considering your time period where divorce was less common and women had fewer rights. Lastly, is the abusive husband also an abusive father to his kids? I think if he is, Rachel would most likely NOT kill herself as she would want to do ANYTHING to protect them. Hope this helps!
     
  5. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    I'm very sorry to hear that and I hope you are coping. If I have her commit suicide it is because she thought she could "save" Bob from the alcohol, and she suddenly realises her love will never be enough for him. I want to link this into the fact that Rachel can do absolutely nothing about her abusive husband, especially as Bob becomes increasingly unpopular in the town and she is seen as a bit of an outsider due to her work as a barmaid.

    To everyone else who replied, thanks so much. I like the idea of an accidental death, but I'll have to think about how that works. They are very poor and live in a tiny cottage in the countryside, so the balcony option is out. Maybe he hits her outside the house and she falls onto the curb and cracks her skull? Mmmm, I'm not sure...
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it is at all over the top. The way I read it, I'd prefer to not know a lot of Rachel's train of thought (for her not to be a POV character) but her death to be a bit of a shock with people around including Bob asking the same questions you asked (but why would she do it if she is leaving kids to him etc).
    In reality, this also happens. Victims of domestic abuse are so conflicted and powerless, sometimes they convince themselves the kids would be better off with a new mum, that dad likes, at least they won't watch her being beaten and humiliated etc. (ps. this could be all in her note to Bob, for added pathos). But if you leave it unresolved, and everyone trying to guess her motives (as is usually the case in real life), the reader will think to themselves, 'hey I know why she did it' making them feel "in the know" but at the same time, thinking about the issues.

    ps. Excellent example is in "Lolita" by Nabokov. When mother finds out her new husband only married her to get close to her daughter, Lolita, who he lusted after, she comes out on the road and throws herself under the car. Onlookers aren't sure, it's pronounced an accident, but the paedophile knows that she killed herself. He tells Lolita a different story however and then the rest of the story happens.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I'd have a hard time believing the suicide unless Rachel had a) been shown to be a bit of 'hysterical' type or b) had already known that her husband was either interested in or actively involved with other women already, making this the last straw. If she's been blaming the booze and not herself for his violence, and had no idea he wanted someone else, that makes the suicide even less likely.

    Now, an accidental death - either via her husband's actions or something as simple as being so upset she pays no attention to the traffic as she runs across the street (a bit cliche, but just an example) - would satisfy me as a reader and add a bit more pathos (once again Rachel has no control over what happened).

    My 2 cents anyway.
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    perhaps leaving with the kids and continuing her life elsewhere?

    Like I said you got yourself a pickle-pickles-27629021-120-107.jpg here, If you want to make it believable you have to up the c_buffalo_steak.736ac3cbf87178a0986bb3f8dd0f27f463485c14.png s a bit more
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Two things strike me. One is, if this is very early 1900s, how is it that Penny's family is progressive enough to allow her to have a role in the family business but not progressive enough to allow her to marry whomever she pleases? Particularly since they would be less likely to look down on a loyal employee.

    The other is, where did Rachel's other children come from? While it's true that loveless marriages often produce children, it's hard to see Bob as interested if he is still so enamoured of Penny.
     
  10. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Once Penny has married her husband (Bob's boss) she joins a progressive family. When her husband dies, she is the last possible person who can control the business, so that's how she gets hold of it.

    Rachel and Bob have two children; he doesn't find Rachel totally repulsive and Bob's boss (and Penny's husband) tries to make Bob mend his relationship with her. Thats where the children come from.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In that case, I think you will have some work to do to make the suicide believable, although as others have pointed out, maybe not so much. I see a different problem, and that is the impact her suicide would have on Bob. He would almost certainly have feelings of guilt, which would have a negative impact on his ability to move forward in his relationship with Penny (or, if it didn't, she would surely see him as exceedingly cold and heartless). As for an accidental death, I just think that would appear to be a little too convenient.
     
  12. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    I had no trouble believing her suicide. Leaving behind children isn't always an anchor against it either.

    A lot of people do it as a cry for help (i.e. they want someone to stop them/call an ambulance for them) but sometimes go all the way by accident. This might be a little easier (and oh so tragic), but it depends on the character.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    We all love a good tragedy...

    so Rachel times taking a load of tablets in conjunction with Bob's homecoming, only he doesn't come home. He stays at work to help Rachel with a project (just to be close to her, to maybe confess and tell her how he feels) and poor Penny dies alone and is found by her children...
     
  14. Revenant
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    Revenant Member

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    I have an idea about the children. It's quite a dark idea, and I don't think it would hold up if you've already established that Rachel is a level-headed character. But if you've incorporated a bit of a mad streak in her (who sleeps with a guy once and decides she's in love with him, anyway?) then I propose that she tries to kill the children too - but fails.

    Imagine this: She's completely distraught. For years she has been in love with this man, convinced he loves her too, somewhere inside him. She's put up with the beatings and the verbal abuse and just hopes that someday she can help him get off the booze and they can have a happy life. She's had his children, suffered a miscarriage, and been the one blamed for it even while she is grieving. She's trapped in this situation. She has no way out of a loveless relationship where she suffers physically and emotionally. The only good thing is her sweet, poor children. She has no way of escaping with them (I expect in this time period she would not have many options, and I really doubt she could afford to support all of them). Except there is a way. A terrible way.
    So maybe she goes more than a little mad. She snaps. After so many years of crap all her hopes have finally been crushed. She has a way to save herself and her children, and also maybe to punish her husband. So she takes a pillow and tries to smother them in their sleep. Only she fails. She thinks they're dead and then she kills herself.

    This would account for why her sons hate her.
     
  15. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Does she have to die? Can't she just run away and abandon the kids? That would be quite a scandal and I feel it fits all your criteria, especially if people start gossiping about why, correctly and incorrectly.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    What if in addition to the two sons there's also a daughter? He adores his sons, those little miniature copies of his own male perfection, and he hates his daughter, that evil copy of the woman who's to blame for taking him away from the woman that he loves. It becomes clear (exactly how, I'm not sure) that he will do anything to to keep his sons, but he'd rather his daughter just disappeared. So his wife leaves him and takes the daughter with her, on the theory that she can at least save one of her children from him. Bob teaches his sons that their mother abandoned them, but the town knows that she ran away from his abuse.
     
  17. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Thanks guys for your replies.

    Revenant...thanks for that idea I might run with it and see where it goes.
    Selbbin...I don't like the idea of having this loose thread. I am a reader who HATES it when writers do this sort of thing, and I think there might be anticipation that she would come back at some point.
    ChickenFreak...I don't want anything even half happy for Rachel. I need her accidental death/suicide/murder/running away to be a stain on Bob's character in the eyes of the readers as well as the other characters.

    Thanks again!
     
  18. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    A few weeks ago, Mindy McCready committed suicide at exactly the same place her boyfriend had comitted suicide one month previous. She left two children behind - one ten months old, and one six years old.

    Rachel commits suicide, you said, because she found out the man she loves, the father of her children, is in love with another woman and possibly cheating on her. What does it matter if she has children? If her heart if broken, and she gets beaten up, yet again, by the man she is married to, wouldn't she snap? All this time, he has abused her, and she has withstood it because she thinks he loves her. But when she founds out he doesn't, wouldn't she think that all the violence and abuse is her fault? Would killing herself free her children from a home full of violence and anger? Is she likely to suffer form post partum depression? Is one of her sons still an infant? Or both of her children over 10 or so? No longer little boys, but men who have begun to take after their father? Could one of them be in an apprentice ship or could they both be in school full time?

    Don't forget, Medea killed her own children when Jason betrayed her. Some say it was out of revenge, other's say it was to protect them from the dangers of the world she lived in. Either way, she killed them.

    A mother does not live exclusively for her children. Some could care less. Other's find their love is expressed in darker ways, but leaving the child, or killing the child.

    It doesn't matter if Rachel has children. Mindy left her children orphans. Medea killed her children. Rachel can kill herself if she feels like it is the only escape from life with Bob, from the pain and the abuse and loveless marriage she has given everything too.
     
  19. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Rachel's two children are four and one when she dies, so she could have some form of post partum depression. I'm thinking that Bob is going to beat her up and then she makes her final move...
     
  20. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Well, here's how I might do it, but it makes an already-tragic story even more tragic. It might take a bit of rewriting and backtracking, though. What if you gave Rachel a history of using sleeping pills (in a standard, non-abusive way)? She could come home after experiencing that traumatic event and be in such shock and dismay that she downs quite a few. Only after she swallows all of the pills does she realize the situation that this will leave her children in. As this realization sets in, she fades away. A scenario like this could portray her as hurt and impulsive but not necessarily unfeeling toward her children.
     
  21. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Mmm, I quite like that as well. I want to portray her as sympathetic so that when her children get told a story about her later the readers know the truth!
     
  22. nanobelle
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    nanobelle New Member

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    She plots to kill him and herself but she is drunk when he arrives and after babbling out her discovery she is too inebriated to go through with it. She drops the gun and it discharges, killing her instantly. A suicide note that turns up later can fuel the plot further.
     
  23. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    I think you were on the right track, going back to the simplicity of the story. Rachel has been desperately clinging to the fact that Bob loves her through all the abuse; when that string of fact snaps, the rest of her fa├žade falls down. She now knows she's been living a lie the past five years, and despair takes over. She kills herself.

    Having firsthand experience with emotions like this, the person who attempts suicide does not have clear reasoning. They might be the most logical people on earth, but when the mood (since that's what it is) strikes them, it's now a matter of willpower. Since Rachel's main anchor (the fact that Bob loves her) vanished, she has nothing to brace her willpower against, and she succumbs to suicide.

    Just my two cents, but I think you were on the right track to begin with.
     
  24. Markpearce17
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    Markpearce17 Member

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    There have been some interesting suggestions here to solve the problem you have. I wonder if Rachel could be acting in such a way as to get Bob's attention. She takes tablets thinking that Bob will arrive in time to resue her and come to her senses but he doesn't do this in time, perhaps because he is delayed elsewhere. This might make him feel guilty about the failure of his relationship and his behanviour towards her.
    Rachel may be suffering from Post natal depression or Bob's behaviour towards her may have brought out a family trait which she was previously unaware of (a bit weak I know).
    Hope you get the answers you seek as I feel this has the makings of a great concept.
     

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