1. Chelsea
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    Chelsea Member

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    Is this realistic?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Chelsea, Jul 12, 2015.

    My main character Jane is an emotionally abusive relationship, she is planning on living her husband secretly, she has a date and a safety plan in place. One day before she leaves her husband finds out something that causes to him be very angry and he beats her. She decides at that moment that she cannot wait any longer and when he leaves the house she leaves. Would it be realistic to make her feel a lot of anger towards him after he beats her? I'm thinking of a change of character at that moment, like I'm not going to be this person who is bullied by my husband anymore I am going to stand up for myself. I'm angry with him, I hate him, I hate the way he treats me and I'm going to change I'm going to make myself into a strong person and I'm going to heal. Sorry if this is badly explained just got this idea in my head. So please be kind :)
     
  2. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    It sounds rational to me.

    A good way to get answers to stuff like this is to tap into your own experiences of similar scenarios, or that may have happened to someone you know. If you don't have any experience to draw upon, you can simply ask yourself, 'how would I feel if that happened to me?'

    People do spontaneous and irrational things in the heat of the moment, especially when they are feeling upset.
     
  3. tasjess
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    tasjess Active Member

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    I think so. Maintaining that anger and not falling into the trap of fear and self doubt the next day would be the challenge
     
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  4. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes and no. I think that when in the cycle of abuse, victims have a tendency to feel more sympathetic with their abuser than angry with them. It tends to take quite a while for them to fully admit that what's going on is wrong, and not their fault. Usually abusers will slowly desensitize their spouse/victim so that when shit hits the fan, they're not shocked by it and not angry with the abuser, but at themselves for "triggering" the abuser's anger.

    That said, everyone has their threshold of tolerance, and your MC's may have broken at physical abuse. She may have been willing to put up with emotional abuse, but draws the line at physical abuse. It's just so likely that her abusive husband would slowly introduce her to that life so that when the cards fall down, she wouldn't be ready to leave.

    This is a good article/website that digs into what abuse looks like for both sides, and the common cycles of the abuser/abused.

    http://outofthefog.net/CommonBehaviors/AbusiveCycle.html
     
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  5. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    In that vein, it may be good to give her a little backstory regarding abuse. Perhaps her mother was physically abused, and she resents her for not leaving or taking too long to leave. Maybe the whole time she's been emotionally abused, she's harbored this contempt for her mother and thinks to herself in so many words, "they're just words. It's not like he hits me. I'll never be weak like my mother." On the day she's physically abused, that could trigger her to realize that she's no less "weak", as she sees it, than her mother if she doesn't leave right away.

    Just an idea to try and tie it together?
     
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  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It also depends if this is the first violent incident. If it is, the victim will be more shocked and the victim won't know what sets off the abuser. It'd probably be later incidents that when the sympathy comes in right away.
     
  7. tasjess
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    tasjess Active Member

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    To expand on what I said last night,in my experience of domestic abuse (which is not first hand) often immediately after a beating a victim will resolve to leave. But once the blood is cleaned up and the adrenaline slows, they start to minimise the event or blame themselves (he wouldn't have done it if I haddn't.....At least he didn't......He has a bad temper but.....) Abusers can sometimes be very apologetic in a manipulative way (I am so sorry babe....you know I would never really hurt you....I hate myself for touching you.....I would die if you left......if you just stop making me angry....it was only once). I think it's absolutely believable that a beating would push things over the edge, especially as she was planning to leave anyway which shows she had some sense of self worth.
     
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  8. Chelsea
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    Chelsea Member

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    I was emotionally abused by my father when I was child. My mother was single and forced me to see my father every weekend. I hated him and I was full of anger towards him. When he died I was only sixteen and I didn't even cry at his funeral I was just so happy he was gone and I didn't understand why no one ever stood up to him or stopped him. So I know that you can be angry and you can show it to your abuser.

    When my dad was just in one of his regular moods so he wasn't yelling or screaming or talking down to me I would back talk to him. Like when I was about twelve I told him to stop smoking and that it was bad for him so he blew his smoke in my face. Or when I was around thirteen he asked me to borrow money because he had none I told him I wasn't going to give my money to him and that I was his child so why should I? He blew up at me and sent me home to my mother I was happy I got to go home to her because I hated being around him.

    Even though I was so angry at him, I was still scared and I still let him control me. One time I stopped seeing him and he kept calling me and calling me and calling me until I would see him again or when my mother told me I was old enough to stay home on my own late at night and I didn't have to go over anymore I still did. Even when he yelled at me I would just sit silently and take the abuse. So I do know it is possible in the child/parent relationship but not sure in a wife/husband relationship.

    Now that I have explained this does it make more sense?
     
  9. everett
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    everett Member

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    So i think this is the gist of writing. something i always try to keep in mind as a writer, its not what you do its HOW YOU DO IT. you can make anything fly if its done right. and i think we writers are notoriously fickle and sensitive. remember, the reader WANTS to believe you. he or she is not the enemy. what i think is really the important question here is why? why is this the time she is fed up? why is this the time she has had enough? you need to drop leaders in, but with the right amount of subtlety. thats hard to do. two things that help, a trusted second opinion (like a forum!) or shelving something for 6 weeks, or six months, and reading it from another perspective. Most writers suggest just write the whole book. dont second guess yourself. write it, shelf it, forget about it, and THEN re-read it. thats when you as the question: Is this realistic? :)
     
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  10. Scrib
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    Scrib Active Member

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    It seems to me that she's already had more than enough of the abuse to be able to decide on an exact plan to leave him. His attacking her yet again has obviously helped strengthen her resolve to leave, so yes, I think anger is likely to be one of many emotions she experiences when finally escaping. The very act of her leaving will bring about a big change in her life, and ultimately her character. Her life won't be the same after this, neither will she be. Possibly the one thing that might influence the severity of her anger could be the brutality of that final outburst, along with subtle indicators shown leading up to the event. But anger won't be the only emotion she'll be dealing with.
     
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  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm remembering Sleeping with the Enemy here.

    Julia Roberts has more of an intention to leave than a plan, but when the opportunity comes, she grabs it. So far so good.

    I think she'd be more angry with herself for putting up with his abuse, more blaming of herself for provoking him. Guilt seems to be a corollary of being abused.
     
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  12. everett
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    everett Member

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    how about some element of protectiveness. Like, she knows its been too much, but she is a bit of a martyr. however, when his abusiveness spills over on to someone else, she wont stand it. A friend perhaps. and she confronts him. but then the outburst is such, the backlash, that she must now decide once and for all, and she realizes her life may be on the line. leave him, or stay, and risk death. and this confrontation, she realizes, her finally standing up to him, has forever changed their relationship. she must leave. because she is not a victim in his eyes anymore, she is an enemy.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if this quibble matters, but she actually had an extremely specific plan, one that she carried out.
     
  14. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    If she had a plan to escape, then the anger was already there.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm slightly confused as to why you apparently assume that she didn't feel any anger before?
     
  16. everett
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    everett Member

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    of course she had a plan! everyone has a plan. but what caused her to say, thats it! it needs to be a pivotal moment in her life, you see? she comes to a crossroads and she then sees, for the first time it really makes sense, its two roads. down one is the same, the pain, the up and down, down the other is freedom, and risk, a lot of risk, and that is why she hasnt left. she in compelled by an unusual event to examine the state of her life, and she sees the real cowardice isnt that she has allowed this man to beat her, the real cowardice is that she has been so afraid of the unknown that she has failed to confront it, and has opted instead for this untenable and unacceptable reality.
    the point is, people have these moments at times of shock. a heart attack patient, he might be a wall street shark, and embezzler, but then he almost dies, and then he becomes a philanthropic. For your character, what i believe most fits the archetype is protectiveness. she is able to bear the pain, but not able to see this spill over onto others. that compels her to stand up to the man, and then she and he sees just how strong she is, and that strength has become dormant. he really fears her now and is thus compelled to dominate her even more, and for her, she cant put the cat back in the bag. she is not cowering, she is courageous. courageous enough to brave the world. courageous enough to leave him behind. because he becomes like nothing to her.
    take what you want from all of that. you asked is this realistic. well, i know life. what deludes people into staying when they should go, and what shocks them into moving when there hearts seem all but dead.
     
  17. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like you understand that your character and her reactions and thinking process is realistic to me! It's probably good to make her sense of everything more complex if possible too. Not just anger, but guilt and confusion. She still has parts of her that think she deserved it, that love and abuse naturally go together, and she has issues with sleeping and eating. She knows this whole episode of her life was insane and she blames herself for staying with him, and she tries to go easy on herself but she can't. The anger fluctuates between red hot and violent and subdued and self-directed. Maybe she's even considered suicide. These are all realistic and complex, even contradictory ways that a person experiencing abuse can process things. Not sure how to incorporate all this into the story, but going beyond simple anger and want for revenge could be more enriching for a reader maybe.
     
  18. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    This is a good response with good points.

    Chelsea - do a little bit of research about a condition called "Stockholm Syndrome" (or perhaps you already know about it, but hey, extra research never hurts!). It's a psychological condition which develops in a lot of scenarios and relationships in which there are strong emotional bonds coupled with abuse, where the abused often "claims" the blame from their abuser and sometimes will even go so far as to defend said abuser. It's named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in which bank employees were taken hostage for six days and, for reasons unknown, developed a bond with their captors and refused assistance from police. The term has since been applied to all sorts of scenarios, and is very commonly used in abusive relationships like the one you describe.

    There's also a corresponding condition called "Lima Syndrome", which is the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome. With Lima Syndrome, it is the captor/abuser who feels sympathy toward their victim. (Named for the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis in Lima, Peru, in which the captors identified and sympathised with the hostages to the point that they practically gave up and let most of them go.)

    With this, may I suggest a couple of plot points, perhaps? Plot Point A could focus on your main character wanting to leave her relationship, but having to deal with and overcome her Stockholm Syndrome. Once she empowers herself enough to do so, she confronts her husband about all the wrongdoing he's thrown her way, and something she says actually gets through to him. Cue Plot Point B, where the husband falls into Lima Syndrome. Maybe a little bit of depression and a streak of "What have I done? Who am I?" and you've got yourself a momentous victory for your MC. Now it will be easier for her to leave.
    But let's face it, it's never that easy. Maybe he lets her go, and finds himself so lonely that he becomes angry at himself for it, and his "Lima Syndrome" quickly dissipates as he tries to pursue her and force her to come back - or, at least, try to ruin her chances with anyone else. He might lower himself to the point of trying to sabotage her dates, or physically harm men she meets.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  19. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I was only a kid, so the abuse was parent-child, but I was not angry the day I left.

    I was simply resolute that I would not be going back, no matter what.

    And incredibly emotional, crying all the way to school.

    So, FWIW, I don't think she would necessarily be angry. I think the anger comes later. For now the focus is entirely on escape, survive, find sanctuary elsewhere. Anger takes a lot of energy and I'm thinking that energy will take a while to accumulate, once she's safe and secure at her new locale.

    HTH.
     
  20. everett
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    everett Member

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    as far as the complexity you mention here, i agree completely. it is the resolution of the complexity that leads to her change.
     

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