?

Which would be more psychologically scarring?

  1. Your best friend dying because of a decision you make.

    11 vote(s)
    52.4%
  2. An innocent child dying because of a decision you make.

    10 vote(s)
    47.6%
  1. Chris
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    Chris New Member

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    Cliché or not cliché? That is the question.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Chris, Oct 2, 2007.

    Yes, I am aware of the irony in the title of this thread.

    So, here it is:

    I am about to introduce the hero of a novel that I'm working on into the story, and I would like some opinions on both the character and the way I plan to introduce him.

    Relevant background on the character:

    A while before the events of the book will take place, he was a member of a special forces unit operating in the middle east. His team had just successfully completed a mission and were on their way to the extraction point when he saw something, and as team leader, he made the call to check it out. As a result, something happened that caused either (I haven't decided yet) a member of his team or an innocent bystander, possibly a child, to die. It scarred him (of course) and he left the unit for a diplomatic position elsewhere to avoid having to face his conscience.

    As this event has haunted him ever since that night, I thought a fitting way to introduce both him and his troubled past into the story would be a dream sequence in which he relives some of the events of that night, without revealing in the dream exactly what happened on the night in question.

    So here are my main two concerns:

    1) As a multitude of books likewise contain heroes or heroines with troubled pasts, I wonder if this back story is a) intriguing or b) cliché.

    2) I'm also concerned that the idea of introducing a character as he awakes from a dream sequence may be somewhat cliché, although I think that in this context, it is fitting.

    So, those are my two primary concerns, but please feel free to point out any other issues you may see.

    Thanks!

    -Chris
     
  2. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    How about both (a) and (b)?

    A special force unit joins the terrorist group and blows himself up.

    Or

    A special force unit is driving and accidently hits an IED, and blows his friend and innocent civilians up.

    Or

    A special force units gets into a car accident, killing his friend and a child pedestrian.
     
  3. Ferret
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    Ferret Contributing Member

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    The parts of your soul you refuse to recognize.
    A child? How 'bout a grenade takes a bad hope into a crowded room or something?

    The thread title screamed a separate Peace. Get me something even close to that....
     
  4. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    I really think a guy in the special forces is pretty used to seeing children/ civilians die. I have seen the "call in air strike which bombs the wrong village back into the stone-age" story. I think it would be better if he might see a crime or something and be duty bound to the team not to mention it. I don't watch TV, so I don't know if they haven't worked this one to death either.


    I don't see why he can't just tell someone about it, and as he is talking, do a bit of "introspective" detailing. Say, for example, he is interviewing with someone in this diplomatic mission who wants him to do something. They guy has got a dossier open on his desk. He says, "I know it might be traumatic, but could you go over the details of the XYZ massacre?"

    His eyes grew distant as he remembered. It was a dark and stormy night... He could see the flames from the flame throwers and the screams from the children as they ran from the burning building....expand, etc...

    This gets rid of a sticky situation and allows your guy to have a flashback in present time.
     
  5. bluejt2000
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    bluejt2000 Member

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    I'd lay off the dream sequence at the start of a novel. One reason is that, as you've guessed, it's a cliche. Secondly, they dissappoint the reader. Off they go getting to grips with some exciting action with the protagonist in deadly peril and then suddenly its 'okay, folks, I was only kidding - it's not for real, it was only a dream'. I always feel cheated when this happens.

    Lots of published writers continue get away with it, but I'm sure they get published in spite of this, not because of it.

    There's nothing wrong with a troubled past, but my advice is to drop in backstory though either dialogue (internal or external), exposition or flashback, as and when the reader needs to know it. But keep it brief - break it into pieces if necesssary, but don't give it in one big dump. Remember that backstory, no matter how exciting or traumatic it might be, is something that has already happend and breaks the momentum of the main story.

    John
     
  6. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    dream sequence is overdone
    troubled past is commonly used - put if done properly you can make it work
     
  7. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    That type of dream, I think it is over used.

    Personally if you want to go for a dream and some type of PTSD go for the team being wiped out except for him, by whatever means, friendly fire, or hostile fire (is there a difference? I know in terms there is, but in reality?), IED, bad intel or ambush.

    That's what I think is a better call, also perhaps make him not the team leader, more interest if say, the marksman or scout survived, while the team didn't.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As in so many writing tricks, it's not whether or not you use it that makes it seem cliche, it's how you use it.
     
  9. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Bingo. The test is injecting originality into the cliche, life into the lifeless. If you can do the first, then you have a future as a writer. If you can do the second, you have a future as a demi-god :D
     
  10. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    Only a demi god Banzai?
     
  11. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Yes. To be a full god, you have to scorch planets with a wave of your hand too :p
     
  12. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    Damn.

    Does espousing immortal wisdom beyond the scope of mortal understanding count?
     

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