1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Forced Love, how to show it?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by spklvr, Dec 9, 2011.

    I’m having trouble portraying the feelings of a character in my story. Basically, she and her husband tried to have a baby, but they found out he was unable to have children. In a period of them wondering what to do and arguing a lot, a man rapes her and she later discovers she is pregnant. She wants to have an abortion, but her husband talks her out of it and considers this a blessing in an otherwise dark time. After the birth she suffers from postpartum depression, but is too ashamed to admit it and pretends that she loves this baby with all her heart. This continues for a long time. Because she is ashamed that she doesn’t love her child enough, she forces herself to believe it. It becomes even worse as the child becomes older and he starts looking awfully like the man who raped her.

    That’s where my problem lies. I have never really experienced forced love. My one idea was to have her be very overprotective, and because she is afraid he will turn into someone like his biological father, she insists he only participate in non violent activates, such as art and music. Does this sound logical to you? How would you depict forced love?

    (And believe it or not, this story is in the feel-good-dramedy genre)
     
  2. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Hi Spklvr

    When you say 'forced love' do you mean fake? I'm not sure how long someone can keep up that facade convincingly without letting it slip, but if it is so convincing she starts to believe it herself, wouldn't it just become genuine love?

    I know someone who had a child as the result of a rape. At first she found it very difficult to bond with him, she was quite depressed, mentally unstable, and wasn't sure she wanted to keep him, so he went into foster care. But she visited him so often that she just fell in love with him, and finally took him home for good when he was 6 months old. He's 9 now and despite the difficulties of bringing him up as a single mother, and the emotional trauma she went through, he is her world. Even though he looks like his dad (I imagine, because although she doesn't talk about it he certainly doesn't look like her) she doesn't see him and feel sad or bitter or angry. She sees him as the only positive thing that ever came out of all the bad stuff that happened to her, and she just lights up. If not for him, I don't think she would still be here to be honest - the depression would have taken hold and she wouldn't have thought she had anything to live for.

    Sorry if that's not an answer to the question you were asking. But I think I would struggle to understand how a woman who could feel anything but love towards her own child, despite the way it was conceived. Logically I can see all the reasons why she would have difficulty - the child would form a focus point for resentment, with her bitterness about her husband's infertility and anger about the rape - but ultimately I just think love is more powerful than resentment, and harder to resist - as in the case of my friend.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not really 'forced love'... it either is love or it isn't... if she's trying to love her child, but can't, due to the circumstances of his birth, then all kinds of problems can arise for both the child and the mother...

    i suggest you google for 'child of rape' sites to get a real-life perspective on this sadly too-common issue...
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not really 'forced love'... it either is love or it isn't... if she's trying to love her child, but can't, due to the circumstances of his birth, then all kinds of problems can arise for both the child and the mother...

    i suggest you google for 'motherhood after rape' and 'child of rape' sites to get a real-life perspective on this sadly too-common issue...
     
  5. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    I imagine it'd be the same really as someone pretending to show that they love someone else. They put on a large veneer and/or veil of affectionate behaviour and of "believable" caring but beneath it all, the sharp eye can see small cracks in the armour and self-projection. Perhaps their words are oddly staggered, stuttering, and unintentionally cold (or rather subconsciously so). Or maybe they feign happiness and joy at minor successes of another to compensate for the fear of not seeming supportive enough. In private, they secretly agonize and torture themselves with the gripping and creeping fear that this fellow may be onto something or perhaps has picked up some invisible trail leading to the generally apathetic self hiding behind all of the layers of forced love. That's just my take.
     
  6. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    There's a strong biological imperative leading a woman to love her child. If she gives the child away she may not love him, but if she gets to know him, she'd either have to be seriously disturbed or he'd have to be a very unpleasant child for her not to love him, despite how he was conceived. My guess is she'd agonize over feeling like she should love him but she can't, and then when he first shows signs of noticing and caring about her (probably the social smile around 2-3 months) she'll fall in love despite herself. Then at some point she thinks back on her early worries and laughs, because now that she knows this kid she can't imagine not loving him.

    If you're going to have him take after the rapist in personality, she'll probably feel very torn between love of him and fear of him (I've read stuff online by parents of psychopathic kids, having a scary kid is really tough). Otherwise, she'll probably not really associate him with the rapist, except occasionally when she sees his face from the wrong angle or he shows some bit of behavior that could be interpreted the wrong way. Probably one of the hardest things for her would be if he figures out that his father isn't his biological father, and wants to know about his origins.
     
  7. proserpine
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    Does the reader know, from the start, that she doesn't love her child, or is it something you want to be a surprise?

    I think that, if she is so unhappy with her child, that she would also be unhappy with her husband, and herself.

    it would be interesting if you could show her doing cookie-cutter perfect mom/wife things, and then something that totally contradicts her behavior.
     
  8. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    Simple. Write her taking care of the child and loving it and being a mother while simultaneously revealing her thoughts about how much she hates the kid.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    This can come off as being kind of gimmicky, though. You can't do that in a film without it coming across as being extremely tacky. In fact, thinking of how it can be done in a film is an excellent method of figuring out flaws in storytelling.
    She hesitates before touching him sometimes, shivers slightly when he hugs her, doesn't sit on his bed or too close to him when she reads him a story at night, and when it comes time to turn off the light, she just says, "Good night." and then leaves. But she's still caring, just from a distance. She'll suggest different haircuts to make sure he doesn't look like a "thug", and she'll make sure he wears respectable clothing and gets a good job when he's old enough.

    She'll make sure her husband raises the child right. She probably wouldn't sleep with the husband much either, I suppose, but her priority would be making sure her son treats women right, and that would be very much the father's responsibility. Any time he goes against her word in front of the son would be extremely terrible for him in private.

    Does that help?
     
  10. UnknownBearing
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    Sure, considering how writing books and writing movies are two completely different mediums. I thought it was funny how you called writing a window into the character's mind as gimmicky instead of, you know, good writing.

    The child would very quickly pick up on the fact that his mother despises him if she acted this way, and it would probably affect his personality negatively. If that's part of the story, then all right.
     
  11. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I'm calling 'gimmicky' is having two vastly different opinions; the one shown by her actions, and the one shown by her thoughts. And yes, novels and film are both very different mediums, but storytelling is common to both of them, and techniques in either can complement the other. It's gimmicky to have us learn how she thinks by just being told what she's thinking. That's not a window into her mind. That's a loudspeaker saying, "THIS IS WHAT SHE'S THINKING." It gets cheap, and it gets cheap quickly.

    If you show her different actions in different situations, it gives you a lot of fodder to fill the pages with. It gives you chances to say that she feels this way about this, and she may not particularly love him, but she still cares enough to do this. You can define the boundaries of her love better than saying, "I really really hate him, but not so much that I won't let him go out dressed like a hooligan."
    My suggestion was riding on the presumption that the child would be affected negatively by the mother's forced love, rather than natural, and the circumstances of his conception.
     
  12. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    This is about forced love, after all.

    When did I suggest something as stupid as that? Explicitly telling the reader anything is the first step to boring them. I didn't say to *tell* the reader anything, I suggested revealing what she actually thinks and feels in contrast to how she's acting. This can be achieved be employing a number of devices.

    Then it's a good thing this was never actually suggested.
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you suggested was showing her as a caring mother, but then giving the reader her thoughts, which would contradict her actions and thereby show her feelings. But that doesn't really give much room for specifics of how she feels which will come across with her actions a lot easier than with thoughts. Nobody thinks in sentences, but you can get away with that in fiction. What you can't get away with are really really specific sentences, and when you're putting across a feeling like this, specifics are going to be what you aim for. You want the reader to know exactly how she feels.
     
  14. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    I think you're really breaking this down to the point where you're analyzing thoughts I never had. I just suggested that he simply display the two sides of her, I didn't dictate how he should do so. If I were to suggest a way to do it, it wouldn't be by using the specific sentences you're going on about. It would be through contradictions in her actions, it would be through scenes of dialogue with her husband, it would be through introspective paragraphs that would vary depending on what type of narrative you're using.
     
  15. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Interesting question.
    I personally would only write about things I understand or feel, hence writing with my instincts.
    If you do not feel it then don't write about it otherwise it will show off and be too obvious for those who do know about it.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think forced love is possible... only fake love, or deluding oneself into thinking one loves someone.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    speaking from sad experience, there is such a thing as 'inhibited' love for a child, though... i couldn't understand why it felt harder for me to be as affectionate toward my fifth and last little one [4th daughter] from my first marriage than it was with my older 4, till i finally realized there was something about her that reminded me of her father [who'd been one scary dude for the whole ten years we'd been stuck with him and who'd refused to pay any child support or alimony when i finally got up courage enough to divorce him]...

    she was a sweet, quiet, cute little thing who was no trouble in any way, but it was as if something held me back from being as cuddly and feeling as loving toward her as with the others... nothing negative, really, just not as much of the positive, if you can get what i mean... i felt terribly guilty about feeling that way, but couldn't do anything about it... no matter how i forced myself to act loving toward her, it just didn't feel 100% 'real'...

    and i'm sure part of the guilt and inhibitive feelings may have had something to do with the fact that she was my 5th child in less than 5 years [!] and i'd tried desperately to not continue the pregnancy, but none of the legal self-aborting ways back then worked and i didn't dare go the legal medical abortion route, due to fear of my husband, though i would probably have qualified, having physical probs from having had 4 so close together...

    so, while i wouldn't term it 'forced love' i would definitely see a character feeling guilty about an 'inhibited' love toward her child as something that happens all too often in reality...
     
  18. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Dear mamma
    what is or what do you mean by the legal self aborting way?
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pretty much everything from strenuous exercise and physically jarring bodily actions, to ingesting various and sundry supposed abortifacients [herbal and otherwise]...
     
  20. juniorfletcher
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    maybe try using symbolism? for example.....when he comes to the door...have her be less than welcoming....a not so warm hug, walking out on him mid-sentence. entering the house and not speaking
     
  21. Flipdarkfuture
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    I'd say give her actions a strained vibe to them, and some very reluctant expressions of emotion.
    A good way to do it would be for her to show her feelings and for someone to know theres something off about them.
     
  22. SeverinR
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    I would show her as the "perfect parent" when in public, and less then perfect at home.
    She wants everyone to think she loves the child, so she pretends to be "perfect". When she is in her enviroment (and relaxed) she is more likely to show her true feelings.
    But possibly still smothering the child with false affection.
    The child will feel it, and will either act out or also try to be the perfect child, to get the affection it needs.

    I also agree with mammamaia, read about real stories and create yours.
     
  23. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    wow..this is truly deep..when you think that we have hopefully moved on from that.
     
  24. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was pretty much what I was thinking. Maybe calling it forced love was bad wording. I wouldn't say she necessarily hates her child, or even that she doesn’t love him to some extent, but looking at him constantly reminds her of that gruesome experience, and she feels guilty about that since it wasn't his fault. However, she also can't bring herself to love him as much as she thinks she should and he makes her feel uncomfortable.

    This thread got a little out of hand while I wasn’t looking… but many good suggestions. Thanks a lot everyone.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you've nailed it!

    the love is there, but just 'inhibited' or 'constrained' to some extent in re being able to show it...
     

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