1. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    Curious as to how these events may affect a teenage character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JadeX, Oct 15, 2015.

    (Note: He's not my MC, only a supporting character) I have a character in my book (I'll just call him "K" here) who is 14 years old and has had quite an "eventful" life thus far, and I really am not sure how all this may affect him, so I'll just give a rundown of what's happened:
    - First, the world he was born into is a $#!+ty post-apocalypse landscape
    - When he was a toddler he fell gravely ill, and his father had to fight with and ultimately kill a man to obtain the medicine K needed
    - When he was about 9 or 10, K's mother gave birth to a second son. At only a few months old, his infant brother dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
    - The [totalitarian] government suspects his mother of wrongdoing in the infant's death and arrests her
    - While K's mother is in prison, she is cleared of wrongdoing and ordered to be released, but the order is not acted on right away. In the meantime, she is beaten, raped, and killed in prison.

    And that's just his backstory. Throughout the course of the events in my book, it gets worse for him:

    - A revolution against the government begins. K and his dad live in a building containing a tavern, which K's dad owns and operates. In the ensuing political upheaval, they are forced to quarter government troops in the upstairs rooms of their building.
    - After K's dad is found to be working with the insurgents, the building/tavern is seized by the government and totally gutted; K and his dad, along with the rest of my main cast, must now live on the run.
    - K's best friend, who acts as a courier for the insurgents, is captured and executed.
    - The girl K has a crush on gets her head literally blown off by a government sniper.
    - Eventually, his dad is killed in action during a gun battle with government forces - this is perhaps K's final breaking point, as he now has nobody and nothing left.

    So, yeah, he's had a pretty bleak and %^&*ed up life. Curious to hear what opinions everyone might have on how these events have changed/will change him, how his character will evolve. Obviously I know that only I have the ultimate say in what happens to him, but I'd still like some feedback. He just has such a messed up life that it's hard to envision what it might do to him, especially at the crucially dynamic age of 14.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
  2. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I would do some reading on PTSD and survivors guilt.
    Also--there must be studies of how children and teens responded after surviving the Holocaust; reading those would be particularly insightful.
     
  3. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Second the suggestion on PTSD. If you googled around a bit I bet you could find any number of first person accounts by teenagers from, say, Syria describing a life almost exactly like the one you outline. Although you'd best be prepared for some pretty dark stuff.
     
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  4. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    I go against PTSD - not entirely but I wouldn't say it's the true issue. He is growing up in a messed up world - are these events as "normal" to him in that world than let's say drive by shootings are in some area of the world [or gang warfare, etc.].

    When you're exposed to such things over & over & over again it eventually becomes meaningless. I was speaking with my professor last term, before summer break, and he said that shootings - ISIS - other world tragedies don't get the reaction they once did because thanks to social media & the news we have all become so exposed to it that such is just "part of everyday life".
     
  5. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Wow that's 0-100 real quick. What brought THAT on?

    Anyway I'd say definitely go with PTSD as mentioned earlier.
     
  6. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    PTSD and survivors guilt will be terribly cliché. The story sounds good - very fleshed out.

    The kid suffering PTSD / survivors guilt is like opening the box of some highly desired Christmas present... and finding out it is just a box, stuffed with socks. Give him some "meat".

    Trauma affects all of us differently - some people will break down and experience PTSD, etc. and others will just "keep on trucking".
     
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  7. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    This is a good point. The question isn't how "a teenager" would react, but how a specific teenager would react (even if it's a minor character). It's also true that events that might trigger PTSD in one person won't necessarily in another--although this person would have to be pretty damn resilient to avoid it after everything you've described, I think.

    I'm not quite sure I buy @Aire 's suggestion that he'd be so normalized to violence that he wouldn't suffer psychological trauma. If the revolution happens during his lifetime, that's a big upsurge in violence that he's not used to, even if his society is starting from a more violent baseline than anything we've experienced. Also, studies of places like Gaza, some of the worse inner cities in the US*, etc. have shown that actually, despite violence being fairly routine, children in those places still have frighteningly high rates of PTSD--well over 50%, in some cases. So, when the violence is happening to your neighbors and not just on TV, I think there's a question of whether a child could ever really become normalized to it, in a non-pathological way.

    Anyway. Like any psychological diagnosis, PTSD is generally a pretty fuzzy and ill-defined concept, and we could argue about how it's been shaped by the culture that produced modern psychology (middle-class bourgeois European or European-derived, etc.) and might not be considered noteworthy somewhere else. And like I said above, every individual is different so it's -possible- your character might come through all this intact. But personally, if I were reading this and your character didn't start showing some psychological damage after all this, I'd think "OK, this is a pretty incredible James Bond-type character and I'll just have to suspend disbelief." Which, if that's what you're going for, by all means have at it.

    *I won't even get into how sad it is that these places are comparable in this regard...
     
  8. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    The government treats prisoner release orders as "low-priority" and thus it's common for people who are ordered to be released to just sit there until whenever the officials get around to finalising the order. She just had the misfortune of encountering a random psychopath. Of course, as you can imagine, this infuriated K's dad greatly, as it never would have happened had she been released on time; this is a large part of his motivation to fight for the insurgents.
     
  9. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    See PTSD is oftentimes triggered by suffering the event. It is occasionally triggered by 2nd hand - if the experience is horrible enough, you sympathize with the people & get the same feelings.

    And that's my issue - none of the events mentioned in the original post are said if they are first hand or second hand. The reason why I say that is given the uprising seems to have been growing even before he was alive - his mother being imprisoned doesn't speak of a gentle world & the need of his father to kill someone for medicine - he maybe used to certain traumas. So would a second hand retelling of his father being killed --- e.g. told from his father's colleagues --- be as traumatic as if he saw it happen right in front of him for example.


    Now you say the Gaza and inner cities - and I don't deny that. But is it really PTSD or has PTSD become the "insanity" of yesteryears - almost anything that resulted in abnormal behavior [not just psychosis] was pretty much tossed into the category of "insane" until what the last 50 years? Is PTSD nothing more than a sort of catch all phrase that applies to a whole whack of stuff - some of which might not even be related [I mean people suffering brain injuries and people suffering psychosis are two different "animals" but they were all "insane" back in the day].

    But a perfect example of differences is myself & my brother.

    Myself - I have experienced / lived through some rather extreme situations [worked some extreme & dangerous jobs] - it'd take a lot to rattle me. One of my friends jokingly said after I defused a dangerous situation at work [we worked with gang bangers & drug dealers; tough guys not little wimps - cops didn't even want on this site unless someone was shot or dying half the time for fear of treading on someone's toes] - that the sky could be falling and I'd take it all in stride. My brother on the other hand gets too emotional and is a bit more than just high strung. If we experienced the same trauma I have little doubt I'd "keep my head" and be the one to keep on trucking - he on the other hand not so. And the funny thing is, is he worked in almost the same locations as I did [I'd say he has one up on me, a correctional facility, but the site I just described had a very affectionate dub of being "from hell" (as per staff & cops alike)].


    I've seen what PTSD can do to people - my co-worker for one of the armoured cash trucks [we were drivers] survived a robbery from a guy with a sawed off shotgun. Bad guy shot at my friend & his colleague [nicked the other guard] then bad guy jumped in a vehicle - ran over a woman - and my friend shoots at bad guy on the escape. Fortune or not it actually hit the guy. So we ended up with not one causality - the woman didn't last very long unfortunately - and the bad guy who was pretty much dead right then and there [it was as they say "lucky shot"]. However, blame adrenaline - once the adrenaline wears off then your brain starts working over time.

    When we were working together about 8 months after he got back from leave - how is 3 weeks "leave" when it was more an investigation if he should be charged with some crime - I remember we were working at a bank after hours and I hear him talking to someone. We're supposed to be alone - actually we are alone as safety first we always checked the building [doors, offices, etc. before getting to work]. So I come out of the vault and ask him who is he talking to. Gestures to his phone and says he is talking to Annette. Annette was his sister - I knew her, smart girl - died two years prior to this due to a drunk driver. Pretty sure my jaw almost hit the floor... course management doesn't give a sh*t [thankfully his parents did]. Now he'd had no problems that I was aware of before the shooting / PTSD [he jumped at any loud noise] but PTSD is chronic stress and that can lead to psychosis.



    My thing - PTSD is a can of worms to write. It is very complex - it's probably one of the most complex disorders to write. So to make it a bit believable you'd have to do research ... I mean certainly we've all heard of PTSD soldiers whose personality has done a complete 180 [from loving husbands to violent abusive "monsters"].

    And that's another thing - open the book with a kid with PTSD or build up to it. What other disorders does PTSD either cause or amplify because of it. Like I said, a can of worms.
     
  10. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    I agree. The stuff I described isn't just things that he sees happening on the street as he walks by, it's stuff that actually happens to him, affects him on a deep and personal level. Albeit he obviously didn't witness his mother's death, but the circumstances around it are pretty bad.

    Actually, quite the contrary... I'm considering possibly, after he loses everything, that maybe he snaps and goes on a bloodlusting suicide mission, like going full Columbine on a government office or something. Who knows, maybe in his blinded rage he'll accidentally do something important.

    Well, obviously he didn't witness his mother's death. (I actually have not yet decided if he already knows what happened, or if he'll come to learn about it in the course of the story). When his friend gets caught, both the boys are operating as couriers, but K escapes while his friend does not. Haven't yet decided if his friend is killed on the spot, or detained and executed later, but at the very least, he witnesses his friend get a brutal beating. When his crush gets sniped, he's nearby and sees the immediate aftermath - nothing left above her chin, her skull cap lying on the ground a several feet away, a real mess. And when his dad is KIA, he's also close by, but he can't do anything because they're in a firefight and he's pinned down - which makes matters worse, because his dad doesn't die right away.
     
  11. Ozzy
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    Ozzy Member

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    I would read up on traumatic therapies and the VAST amount of things that can come from them. PTSD, surely, but there are so many things that lie under that particular umbrella, and you bet they have different names, symptoms and treatments. Even if he's 'used to it', which CAN happen, he'd probably still have anxiety, depression, maybe IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder). Keep in mind that most people can't just be diagnosed with one mental disorder and have it fall in line with what the general populace believes.
     
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  12. Ippo
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    Ippo Member

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    To me K must be very distrustful of almost everything. Things coming means things going to him and when they leave they rip out a piece of him, too. I'd say he doesn't let things (people/hope) near him (and that would be my 'most important' character trait I'd give him)
    If his father killed for him I would suggest that he and his father have a very strong bond that surpasses every other relationship has (after all he is the only one that did not 'leave')
    What I gotta ask you or moreso you gotta ask yourself is: Why the @$!&! is he still alive and did not commit suicide a long time ago. What kept him going?

    Ps. In case you don't feel like taking whole bits that someone else thought up just take the mere ideas of what I proposed, if you will. I wish I would've come up with the idea for PTSD as it is quite good (since it gives you more of a neutral playground for the character design than my more sketched-out ideas) but hopefully I was able to inspire you in any way
     
  13. cameron yamamoto
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    cameron yamamoto New Member

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    What might be an interesting and unconventional approach is to change K from someone who hates his situation and the world, to someone who has grown an apathetic acceptance of the terrible world around him. Teens and young adults who are exposed to many violent and volatile situations are forced to grow up quickly and learn very difficult lessons. Following from the progression of events the lesson that could potentially be supposed onto K is that the world is a place that will take everything you love. Therefore it might seem logical that K assuming this character is a male, tries to build an emotional detachment to things in case he were to lose them. At the end of the story you might be left with a hardened young boy completely un-phased by the death of his father, a terrifying and alarming symbol of how the world has left a permanent scar the psyche of K and humanity as whole.
     
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  14. Ippo
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    Ippo Member

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    I think this is defintely a realistic option for the outcome of these events. Just like the body turns numb after too many blows and just like the consciousness fades after dealing with an overwhelming shock, the human spirit dims when it has been hit too hard in a fragile state. This, however, has to be converted. At first it can be used as a device (I like that), later on the charge of his personality should shift its value, as "story is" life (McKee) and life is change.

    Hey, OP, ask yourself this: What would be most "useful", most horrifying, most uplifting, most whatever you aim for in your story? What is it that you want to say and which version of K suits his purpose in the story the best? And from the on ~work~, because the utmost potential is only reached if you dig. Don't leave uncertainties to pure chance.
    Anyways I hope you gathered enough from all these posts. Hope to see your project in a fruitious state on here one day. Enjoy writing it!

    So long, Ippo
     

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