1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    How long is too long to hold a grudge?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lea`Brooks, Feb 4, 2016.

    In my fantasy WIP, my MC is very angry with a lot of people. Her mother died from a debilitating illness when she was seven (her death was so traumatizing that my MC has few good memories of her mother left). Her father caught that same illness and, not wanting her to have to take care of him at such a young age, disappears to die in secret (she becomes very angry at him for abandoning her). So she's forced to move in with her neighbors, who try to raise her as their own.

    But when she comes of age to take possession of her parent's property, she sells it because it only has bad memories. Her caretakers get angry with her for getting rid of everything her family worked so hard to provide her with. So my MC leaves them too and doesn't talk to them for a few years. They finally reach out to her and she agrees to work for them, but she still is angry with them when the story starts. At this point, it's been about two and a half years since their argument.

    Is that too long? I want to have a lot of tension between my MC and her caretakers that slowly works itself out during the story, but I don't want a reader to be turned off by it, thinking she's being unrealistically unreasonable. While she is being unreasonable, I still don't want it to be too large a turn off.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ That's unreasonable.

    What right do her caretakers have to be angry over any decision she makes? The property wasn't left to them in trust, or anything like that, and "getting rid of...[what they]...worked to provide her with" isn't what she's doing, she's cashing it in. Unless she then wastes it, and even then it's none of their business.

    2/ How has the property remained in saleable condition in the 10-15 years that elapse between the deaths and her coming of age?

    3/ To the OP...childhood grudges tend to fade. Adult grudges tend to ossify (our daughter still resents that we never forced her to go to college...but she was strong-willed enough where that was never going to be easy!).

    So, a couple of years later, and they reach out; yeah, she's going to be resentful, especially if she's not yet fully mature, a voyage she can make during the story.
     
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  3. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    The devil is really in the details. Some grudges separate people for life. So, by comparison, 2 and a half years is nothing.

    The issue here is a grudge is a very internal thing. It isn't something that can be measured objectively. So it is less I think about the timeframe, and more about her feelings. If the grudge lasted awhile you should show that pain and anger. You should also show why she is agreeing to work with them. Have they done something nice? Does she miss them, even if secretly?

    I have a grudge with my mother. I am confident I will never speak to her again in my entire life and I do hate her, still. I haven't seen her in 2 and a half years(almost) but I no longer speak poorly of her. I realized a while back, to still actively hold the grudge and be angry at someone I am no longer near speaks more to my character. So I no longer express anger towards her, but that doesn't change I don't like her and have no desire to speak with her.
     
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  4. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Not trying to be funny, but in my fifty years I have known women who will hold a grudge forever. Two and a half years is not that long, it will work. Just don't write it where all is well after one week of being back with the caretakers.
    As far as Shadowfax's first comment, I think it could be reasonable. Maybe the caretakers are not in it for the money and just care that the young girl is throwing her legacy away without thinking. After all, they are the one's who let time go by before reaching out again. Maybe they were just giving her time to grow up a little. Shadow is right though if it is a money issue and they want their share. That would not be reasonable and definitely not forgiven.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Exactly. It would depend on the pain and the person carrying the pain. Some would take a childhood grudge to their graves, still hating and feeling bitter over someone they hadn't seen for decades. You can't really objectify pain, or measure it.

    Here's an example, I had a seventh grade English teacher who used to bully me because I was hearing-impaired. While I can now think of her 13 years hence without the raw anger of a 14-year-old boy, I'm still not likely going to invite her over for a drink and idle chit-chat. She was a nasty piece of work. My being able to 'get over it' as it were can only be attributed to me, it can't be said for everyone.

    How long is too long? It's ultimately up to the individual to decide. How long does s/he want to hold onto that pain? That anger? How long is s/he willing to do that?
     
  6. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Wow, just when you think you heard it all. I am laughing a little now, sorry Link. Usually most teacher try to protect students with known impairments, often to the point of coddling them. She must have been a real piece of work. What a world we live in!
     
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  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, I guess I need to clarify more. :p

    Her mother died when she was seven, her father left when she was 14, and I have her getting her property back when she's 16. She agrees to work for her caretakers two and a half years later and has worked for them for six months when the story starts. So she's just turned 19 in chapter one.

    1) In my mind, her caretakers are angry at her irrationality. My MC doesn't want the property because it holds so many bad memories and not because she needs the money. It's a farm, in a time when farmer are in such high demand, so she'd make more money if she kept it. Her caretakers were good friends of her parents, and they feel it's irresponsible and childish of her to get rid of everything her parents worked for just because it holds bad memories.

    2) I clarified the time difference above. It's only been two years, and her caretakers have been working and maintaining the property until she was old enough to do it herself. It's a fantasy, so I lowered the age of "legal adulthood" because... well, that's just the world they live in.

    Yes, she does miss them. She moved into the city with the money she got from selling her property and had no contact with them for two years. She worked at the shop near her apartment cleaning up, but it didn't pay well, so she was struggling to feed and take care of herself. One of her caretakers (the husband and less stubborn of the two) finally reached out and came to visit. When he saw the state she was in, he offered her a job. They make good money as farmer so he could afford to pay her enough to support herself. Besides, he could give her meals when she was over.

    My MC, missing her caretakers (she's known them her entire life and have always been like family) agrees, but doesn't admit she misses them. She's still angry at the woman caretaker for some of the things she said. My MC and this woman are both very stubborn. My MC thinks the woman should apologize and the woman thinks my MC should admit she was wrong to sell the farm. So neither of them really want to be the one to stop the fight, if that makes sense.

    The man is the facilitator. He has let go of any anger towards my MC and she towards him. But he can tell his wife misses my MC and hopes that their close proximity will get them back into each other's good graces. It doesn't work though, at least not when the story starts. The longer both of them go without discussing it, the more tension is built up between them.

    Since my MC is put in a life-or-death-but-probable-death sitatuion, she finally realizes their disagreement is petty and they make up less than a month after the story starts (a little under seven months of her working for them, three years since their argument). But until that point, they are very much at odds.

    Still sound reasonable?
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Heh, yeah. Guess even teachers aren't spared from the condition of "Being Human". :p
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, they definitely aren't in it for the money. Well, sort of, but no. The farm would make my MC a lot of money, so they think its reckless of her to sell it when she essentially owned a gold mine. But they weren't expecting anything from it or her. They just want what's best for her and thought she would regret throwing away her legacy and future stability.

    She's a very angry individual, which is something she works on in the story. She has a hot temper, which gets her into trouble, and has no connections with anyone, which she also works on. The world she lives in is so depressing that I think she doesn't think happiness exists. Both of her parents died and her caretakers essentially turned her back on her, so she shuts herself off from the world. Doesn't make friends, doesn't reach out, doesn't really care. She just lives because she has to. The turning point for her is being put into a position to save the world (literally), so it gives her something to focus on. Something that she could have control over and give her power back. So her working to save humanity is kind of what opens her up a little. She makes friends, develops a love interest, and apologizes to her caretakers by the end. She even discovers long-lost family (who thought she was dead) so she starts to feel less alone in the world.

    I'm hoping for a dramatic change in her by the end (though her temper and caution of people she'll never quite let go of).
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes.

    If neither of them will talk about it, they can neither of them let go of it, they can't understand the POV of the other, and they aren't being challenged to look at their own behaviour to examine whether it was reasonable or not. Plenty of tension to resolve there!

    One thing I don't see: if farms are in high demand, surely she's able to sell for a good price? Making more money out of a farm is dependent upon working it.

    Also, if she sold it, why is she now in the city depending upon a dead-end low-paid job? What happened to the money from the sale?
     
  11. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    My estimation was that she spent half of the money to buy her own place then spent the other half in the next year to year and a half taking care of herself (paying for food, clothing, etc). She didn't work at the shop very long before her caretakers came to visit. Too improbable? Expenditure isn't really my forte.

    ETA: I could take out her job at the shop all together if need be -- I only really put it in as a source of income for when the money ran out. But I could imply that the money hasn't run out yet and is just running thin, which is why she agrees to work for her caretaker.

    Or, I could have her still have plenty of money, the caretaker just thinks it would benefit her to get out of her apartment once in a while. So he pleads with her to work for him, making her believe he really needs the help (even though he has ulterior motives). Either one is fine with me.
     
  12. jannert
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    What an extremely interesting thought. I never thought of it that way before. If you are right, it would be interesting to explore the reasons behind the concept. You'd think, because children are in formative years, that any grudge would make a deep impression on them and they'd never let go of it. And conversely, adults are supposedly more 'rational,' so you think they'd be less likely to keep a grudge alive. But that's not really how it works, is it?

    I also think there is a difference between disliking somebody, and allowing your dislike of that person to dominate your life.

    It's okay to dislike a person—so long as it's not everybody you meet, whereupon you may be the problem yourself :eek:. But if you dislike somebody for what you feel are valid reasons, just accept the fact. Your relationship with them is likely to remain toxic due to irreconcilable differences between you. You're not going to win them over, and it's not worth wasting any more of your life trying. Just leave them behind, and refuse to feel guilty about doing so. Nobody has the right to wreck somebody else's life.

    However, if you find yourself constantly replaying events to keep your anger alive, or are constantly seeking revenge, that's another game. That's holding and nourishing a grudge. It's not about forgiveness, it's that you are allowing the situation to drive you. You don't have to forgive a person if they've done you wrong, but you do need to free yourself from their influence on you—whoever they were to you to begin with—and get on with your life.

    You said, @Lea`Brooks , something to the effect that your character's grudge will fade over time. Most stories containing people with grudges generally have a moment of epiphany, where suddenly they realise something about either themselves or the other person that causes the grudge to instantly disappear. That's a fairly common thing to happen in stories. I don't know that the 'fading' slowly idea will work so well. I'm not saying it won't, I'm suggesting it might not be dynamic enough to sustain a story. And I'm not sure how that would play out in real life, either. What are your thoughts on this idea?
     
  13. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think "fade slowly" might've been the wrong term. You're right, she'll have a sort of epiphany moment and reconcile.

    My MC has been chosen to try to literally save the world. If she fails, she'll die, and someone else will have to try. But the world is in such a bad state that there won't be time for someone else to "win" before the entire population of the city will die. So my MC doesn't want to die on bad terms with her caretakers, but she also doesn't want them to die should she fail. So before she goes to try to save the world, she meets with her caretakers, apologizes, and tells them to relocate somewhere safer. I make that their bonding moment.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that should work well indeed. In fact, it does double duty. It not only gives her the bonding moment, but presumably also gives her an extra reason to win her fight.
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    I agree that the caretakers' objection to the sale doesn't make sense. If the farm is "a gold mine" that should be reflected in the sale price. If she's not going to stay home on the farm and work it personally, it's completely logical to sell it. She's not getting rid of everything her parents worked for, she's just converting it into a different form. That doesn't mean that their objection has to make sense, I'm just saying that it reflects a somewhat irrational and controlling nature on the caretakers' part.

    Howevr, your later background suggest that she got very little money for the farm. It seems strange that a farm is a gold mine but a farm sells for almost nothing. I don't see any reason why the money should run out, unless someone stole it from her, she developed a gambling or shopping habit, or something of the sort.

    Although, she could be "brick poor"--If city real estate is insanely expensive, I could see that the city apartment might gobble up most of the sales price of the farm, but she'd still have the big asset of her city home. So that could be a motivation to work for the caretaker--she wants to keep her new home, but she's having trouble feeding herself.

    In any case, holding the grudge for that long certainly makes sense.

    Edited to add: To add a more tangled note to the grudges, maybe the caretakers wanted to buy the farm? Maybe they aren't angry that she sold the farm, but that she sold the farm for the best offer available, an offer that the caretakers couldn't afford to beat?
     
  16. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm okay with irrational and controlling. lol

    Let me try to explain the circumstance a little bit more. Like I said, expenditures aren't my forte, so I could be completely wrong about all of this.

    In my novel, the world is literally being eaten alive. There's an evil force (won't get into that here) that is infecting the ground and people around it. It has a radius, which quickly spread and infected the country and is now moving to surrounding lands. This infection (that I only call "the sickness") can't be healed. Any person or animal infected with it eventually dies, and any plant in the ground dies as well. I haven't quite worked out the specifics of infection in humans/animals, but I'm going to go with oral ingestion at this point. You eat an infected fruit or piece of grass or drink tainted water, you get infected.

    So food is very hard to come by. There are specially made greenhouses for plants, and farmers have to take special care to make sure their animals don't get sick. So food prices have skyrocketed. What we would consider the poor and middle class are essentially dying because they can barely afford the ever-growing prices of food. Only the rich (which is becoming rarer and rarer) can afford to eat normally. So my MC Seren, because she was born into farmers, has a property that could not only benefit her money wise but food wise as well. She had cows, chickens, goats, and pigs that she could eat as she wanted, or she could slaughter some and sell their meat for even higher prices.

    But farming is still a huge risk. As I said, they have to be very careful to protect their animals. Boil water to remove the contaminants, only feed them in their stalls where they can't accidentally eat long dead grass, watch them like hawks as they graze to again make sure they don't eat contaminated greens. It's very demanding work. So not only does Seren not want to go be around her bad memories, she doesn't want the hassle of farming.

    Her neighbors (Loren and Adina) know if Seren, with their help, can protect her animals, she'll be fed for life. So they think she's being reckless by putting herself in a situation where she may one day struggle to buy food.

    As for the housing and prices... I'm still wondering about that myself. :p The only people that could probably afford to buy a farm are farmers themselves. They make the most money, since food is the top priority. But still, I don't know if she'd ask much for the property. She probably would just put it up for sale without a price and take the best offer. She wouldn't want to wait until she gets just what she wanted -- she just wants it gone. As for housing in the city, it wouldn't be expensive. As I said above, I figured she'd spend half her money on an apartment, maybe even less than that. But with food prices being so high, she'd likely run through her money pretty quickly.

    I don't know if that makes sense... I don't even know if it matters. :p I'm barely even going to mention it in the book, since it all happens before the story starts. I could just nix her getting a job and say she still has money left, Loren just begs her to work for him because "he needs help," when really, he just wants Seren around.
     
  17. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    It has been a decade now, but and I am still pissed off at someone for backstabbing me out of an item in a video game that I worked hard for. It depends on the person, but some people are unable to get over certain slights.
     
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  18. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Yeah, I know 50-80 y/o people who still carry grudges from childhood. I mean, they're related - and related to me - and stubbornness and spite plainly just runs in the family, hahah. Other members of the family totally think they're being irrational, and your reader may think your character is being irrational, but holding a grudge for a super long time isn't unrealistic. Some people are like that. If you characterize Seren as someone who seems like she'd hold a grudge (being stubborn, for instance, having a hard time admitting when she's wrong) it'll probably seem a lot more reasonable. I'd also think that she feels pretty hurt and betrayed by the adoptive family for not understanding why she couldn't keep the family land, for essentially 'punishing' her for having bad feeling re: her parents' death/abandonment, so I'd play that angle up too.
     
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  19. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    Just answering your question re grudge length. If it hurts me, I try to let it go but that is not always possible due to rumination addiction. Trouble is as you get older, you keep meeting people who remind you of original perpetrator. In psychological terms, transference.
     
  20. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short answer: Yes that sounds reasonable.

    Long Answer: Well not much longer, because you explained the reason it made sense. They were at odds, and had little contact. Yet she didn't want to hold a grudge but was stubborn, her life getting harder allowed her to get past her stubbornness. I can't see anything wrong with that. Though the three years thing or two in a half year thing really doesn't matter. If you had said that it was five years later, my response would be the same. Because, the lack of contact/stubbornness explains the grudge. If it was five years before they reconnected, or even ten years, it would still make sense. The only thing that would probably be harder to believe is if it was too short. But I think 2 and half years is fine. :)
     
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  21. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've held a grudge towards one particular person for about 20 years now and I don't see it going anywhere. However, in my case it doesn't mean I wouldn't talk to her. I do, and often very civilly as well because if I act like a cunt it will put extra pressure on my dad, whom I don't want to suffer. So the grudge is there, but I can co-exist with this person.

    This grudge has evolved though, and become less heavy as I've come to understand where this person may have been coming from back then and, in a way, I can see her having made amends on the way. Unfortunately, I can't wholly forgive her, so the grudge is there, I wouldn't call it my being simply resentful, and I honestly can't see it instantly disappearing. I don't know, maybe there's some epiphany waiting for me behind the corner that justifies her behavior, but I doubt it. I'm protective of children and expect adults to be the responsible ones around them, so having been scarred as a child myself, I'm a bit of a hardliner in this case.

    So perhaps this depends on your character's personality, development arc, and, of course, the way she was wronged, ergo, it depends on what you want to do. People who don't hold grudges might not buy your decision if she holds it for a long, long time while others will understand her and accept her behavior.
     
  22. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I don't feel like I have reason yet to see things one way or the other. If the caretakers had some objective grounds for her keeping the farm, and in light of the fact that these are people who have a vested interest in her well-being and what they think is best for her, and also in light of her age, then some anger of the caretakers makes sense to me. However, Seren knows these people are not strangers, so there's no need to make judgments as though they were first impressions. What's unanswered to me is what was so bad about the fight that keeps her 2+ years from seeing why the caretakers were angry. What I picture is not so much anger but pride and even regret from keeping her from reaching out. Unless, of course, that's how deep her general anger is, or if she has a major sensitivity to perceived betrayal. In that case, it'd have to be mentioned, as I see it.
     

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