1. Slackingdonut23
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    Slackingdonut23 New Member

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    Main character psychological progression

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Slackingdonut23, Mar 21, 2013.

    So I have this main character that suffers from mental distress and depression, but he doesn't express the pain he goes through mentally, so he acts normal, but he is lonely. This is because of sad tragedies that happened to him as a child. His 8 year old sister died when he was 2, and his parents separated 3 years later. Since he is the kind of person that doesn't settle for a simple explanation, he introverts into his tragedies, thus he is lonely.

    Something happens in his life that brings excitement of course, and he goes through my own little analogy, the
    "4 Stages of indelible pain".
    1. Depression
    2. Euphoria (happiness)
    3. Abortion (person realises that his happiness is just a distraction, and that he still has pain, so they try to get rid of the pain, and they fail)
    4. Beyond (acknowledgement of his pain, goes on to find happiness)

    So thoughts and critism?
     
  2. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    My only criticism would be that readers don't sympathize with protagonists who wallow in their sorrow. I have not read your story, but from what I read it seems that the tragedies he went through have an impact on who he is and therefore you want to focus on that aspect of his personality. Even then I wouldn't recommend doing too much exposition on his negative feelings for the sake of your audience.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    The death of his sister and divorce of his parents don't cause his mental distress and depression. His mental state is caused by the way he processes those events and deals with them.

    "Not settling for a simple explanation" doesn't cause him to "introvert into his tragedies." His personality does this.

    Your story will involve an examination of his personality and thought processes. Beyond that, I can't really comment, since you haven't written it yet (or if you have, I have not read it.)
     
  4. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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  5. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    That's like saying the hammer didn't cause the pain in your hand, it was Larry hitting you with it. But at the end of the day; you wouldn't be in pain if it wasn't for the hammer...

    ---------

    Your character sounds like a pretty normal person, just lonely. Unless this is a philosophical novel, written for the sole purpose of conveying this four stage concept of depression, I'm not really sure I'd find it appealing... If it is, however, and is based on a personal experience; I would be very interested.

    I have experienced (for nearly 10 years), as well as thoroughly researched depression, and to be perfectly honest I don't think this really rings true. But then again, depression is an extremely broad condition and your line: "suffers from mental stress" could apply to almost anything - Anxiety, dyslexia... missing the bus - What are the symptoms of his condition? If it's just that he feels lonely; I would look for a stronger hook.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't agree. For people who have certain mental health conditions or whose personalities are simply wired to anchor on the bad things, they would be in pain regardless. If it weren't these things, there'd be something else that were the focus of "why" he feels bad. Other characters (and real people) suffer through the death of a sibling (particularly one that occurred at an age where the character would have very little memory of the person or the event) and through a divorce (and even through worse) but are not fixated on the events, and are not depressed. They're able to process it and move on, and focus on other events.

    People handle and process things differently. That's actually what makes people interesting and why we have so many stories to tell.

    In your example with the hammer, there are very few people who would feel no physical pain after being hit in the head with a hammer. Physical damage caused by a hammer strike is the same whether it was "Larry" who hit you with the hammer or whether it was a machine. Whether the damage was caused by the hammer or Larry is a question of semantics, and both are true. Reactions to outside events, and the emotional, psychological, and physiological responses to those events are more complex and the discussion of those issues are not parallel, comparable, or analogous to the hammer strike example.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, most people go through the stages of grief; others get stuck at some point; still others don't need a cause at all to be depressed - it's just the way they're wired. You should learn about the stages of grief and how depression works (not always the same thing) and then decide where your character's mind is. But agree there needs to be more to the story than just the character going through this, or you're not going to have as many readers. (There have been novels focusing on mental health issues, of course, but they do target a specific audience.)
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    New events could make him feel like he is betraying his sister, or his pain for that matter. He could go through grief for loss of his pain. Stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. You can do a lot of different scenarios just with that.
    In this case, if he is still bitter, angry or depressed about loss of his sister and subsequent parental divorce, then he is experiencing a syndrome of complicated grief. It is a psychiatric condition in itself and can manifest with anything, from anger, substance abuse, denial, depression to even hallucinations and psychosis related to the deceased person. It arises from a difficult death but the person doesn't manage to process it in the usual time (12 months or so). So they remain stuck and condition develops. Really bad deaths often cause this condition, but also some people are vulnerable, such as those with pre-existing personality disorders, mood disorders and dementia.
     
  9. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I agree with Chicagoliz. people get over their past and pain because their personality has the capacity to change. There are many out there who wouldn't try to make their life better no matter what you tell them or how much help they receive. On the other hand, there are those who will think, analyse and try to improve on their conditions, even without help or guidance.
    I also suggest you don't write it so that your character dwells so much on his feelings and negativity as this will:
    1. Cause the reader to dislike the MC.
    2. Stop sympathizing with him/her.
    3. Find your story a bore and a negativity they do not need.

    Make his mental improvement inspiring and you'll have an MC that is rooted for.
     
  10. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Pretty bleak opinion of the human spirit you have there. You are comparing apples to oranges. While I'm not denying the people you have described exist, depression is not as simple as that, and in my opinion shows you don't quite understand the illness. People with inherent mental illness are very different to those who have developed a chemical imbalance.

    It is a pretty classic opinion of people who have never suffered depression that it can simply be rationalized away. "Have a beer and get on with it," people say. But you are not considering that a person with depression has a physical condition that is inhibiting their rational mind. A physical condition that can be developed due to environmental influences.

    The key word here, I believe, is "personalities." It insinuates that people with depression were built that way, which is not true (outside of people with inherent mental illness). Saying depressed people are "simply wired to anchor on bad things," is a shallow statement. If it was the case, every psychologist would be out of a job, and the depressed folk could just go ahead and blow their brains out. I'd be inclined to say that the people who are born with a mind built to focus on negativity are as rare as those who would feel no pain from the hammer... I've never met one of either.
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depression is an illness. It has a physiological component. It is something that needs to be treated by a psychiatrist and one that is often treatable with pharmaceutical interventions. "Depression" can be a difficult concept to understand, because the word is thrown around a lot and has a common meaning that is used for people who may be feeling sad, without actually meaning that the person has the physiological components of clinical depression.

    Personalities are also very complex things. There are people whose personalities will fixate on negative things who do not have depression. Science is now discovering so many things about the brain and how it works, and how different parts of the brain interplay with various personality traits. In many ways, neurology could be considered closer to psychiatry than could psychology. It has been established for quite some time that a person's basic personality is pretty much set by age 3. Some believe that it's actually set before then. In observing my own children, I've seen personality traits emerge from a very young age, and I can see that they both process things very differently from each other.

    There have been discoveries that many mental health conditions have genetic components. There have also been discoveries that mental processes can be changed via epigentics, which are genetic changes that occur through the gestational environment (including such things as the presence of stress hormones), and that can even occur when relatives as distant as grandparents or great grandparents experienced certain conditions (such as famine) at the time they were producing either eggs or sperm.

    In addition, the brain is making a huge number of neurological connections in the first few months after birth, so certain traumas can affect those pathways, and become a part of the make up of someone's personality.

    Clinical depression is characterized as a type of mental illness, so you can't say people with depression were not built that way, excluding people with mental illness. The statement makes no sense. Given that there are physiological components to depression -- that is it has a physical, biological cause, they are, in a way, 'built that way.' That's precisely why you can't tell someone who has this condition to just buck up and get over it. They can't, especially on their own.

    There also exist psychological issues, which sometimes stem from some sort of trauma, and can be dealt with through talk-therapy, and some types of pharmaceuticals. People with these conditions might suffer from other underlying psychiatric issues OR from other physio-biologically based issues that might affect the way they think about or process things.

    The fact is that some people are inherently wired to focus on bad things. That does not mean that they should commit suicide, or that they should not seek help, or that psychologists do not perform a valid service in society. The ability to focus on events and to think through them is very important, and some people benefit greatly from assistance in doing this.

    I'm actually very surprised to hear that you've never met someone inclined to focus on negativity. I've met several of them. For some of them, this could be due to an underlying mental illness. For others it could be an aspect of their personality. And for those in the latter category, there still exists a real possibility that that aspect does have some underlying physical/biological cause that we just haven't discovered yet.

    You very frequently hear of people overcoming horrible traumas -- things like genocide or some sort of mass death event. Some of these people experience thing so horrible that you wouldn't blame them for curling up in a ball in the corner of a room and crying for the rest of their lives. But still, some of them go on to rebuild their lives and make the most of the time they have left on this planet. There are many such stories of people who survived the holocaust. There are current stories of people who survived genocides in parts of Africa or in Bosnia. There's currently a memoir out by a woman who survived the 2004 tsunami, but her parents, husband and children were all killed. But as horrible as the were, the people are able to enjoy new things - pursue new projects, become active in some cause, sometimes start new families -- but they often connect with other people and are able to forge new relationships. Are they traumatized and saddened by the horrors they experience? Of course. But they're able to live again. There are, of course, other people, who experienced these same things, (and sometimes even lesser horrors, but of course horrors nonetheless) who are unable to live again at all. The difference is in both their mental state (which can include the presence or absence of certain mental illnesses and brain chemistry) and also in their general personality, which I believe has a much bigger biological component than many realize.
     
  12. SomeWannabe
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    SomeWannabe New Member

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    From a PSYCH 101 course I took from a prof who used to be a clinical psychiatrist:

    Depression (i.e. the mental illness) affects people in different ways. For some people, it's one long nightmare that never ends. For others, it happens once, and after a period of 6 months to a year, it goes away for good.

    In some instances, however, the person would experience depression for a period of time. The symptoms would subsequently subside for a while, only to come back in a few months. In other words, they are trapped in a cycle where they get depression, get better, and have a relapse. This sounds kind of like what you are describing.

    It doesn't have to result from a trauma. The prof who taught me said that he'd had patients with perfect lives (successful, beautiful wife, lovely children, etc.) Then depression hit and they couldn't get out of bed, literally. The psychiatrists had to CONVINCE him: "yes you can get out of bed, you can do it." and the guy would be like "no I can't"...

    If its not debilitating (i.e. if he could still function), then he doesn't have to be sad all the time. Even when someone has depression, he would still smile and laugh. It's just that the good mood doesn't last.

    It's not much but hope that helps.
     
  13. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Unless there has been a new study refuting this (which is more than possible), last I knew; a person can be chemically fine, but things like poor diet, lack of exorcise, stress, drug and alcohol abuse can cause a hormonal imbalance, which in turn alters their personality and can potentially result in what we consider depression. I would disagree that this person was born, destined to be depressed... Now you'll say that if their personality didn't make them want another slice of pizza, they wouldn't be depressed, and maybe your right.
     
  14. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I am not sure where you missed reading the 'there are', this basically means 'some'. I wasn't generalizing, was pretty much talking about THOSE people that DO the things I mentioned. I have had inherent depression, It's still there but I keep it in check because I want to, Will is something that people misuse sometimes. Just because your experiences differ from mine doesn't mean I am so dis-opinionated.
    True the people you describe do exist, they can't get over their illness even with chemicals and medicines but there are a thousand experiences people out there have that you or me might not know about and sure don't. Just because we disagree with them doesn't mean their opinion is bleak.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Totally agree with Shadowwalker here. You may have created a character with a 'background', but you do not have a story, yet.

    What you need to do is come up with a whopper of a plot - preferably one that doesn't focus on the mental state of the character - and throw him into the middle of it. Give him lots of big problems to solve, that don't focus on his mental state either. His mental state will be a factor in how he deals with these problems, and maybe in how other characters see him. But he's only going to grow by grappling with life, not sitting in a corner wallowing in misery.

    This isn't 'real life.' It's storytelling. As such, you've got to come up with a story. Watching somebody cope with depression isn't really a story, in itself.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    (double post, sorry)
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You guys are having a debate that medical community has had for decades. But every illness has the so called bio-psycho-social model, depression included. What I have concluded from all that I've seen and read, there are events, such as heart attacks, strokes, anything cardiovascular, that will always cause at least 3-6 months of low or labile mood, weakness, lethargy, hopelessness. There are many more conditions (kidney and liver problems, anything requiring certain medications such as antimalarials or corticosteroids etc etc) that will cause significant mood disturbance. And there is a ton of physical stuff that will directly cause a vast array of psychiatric conditions which are completely resolved the moment physical cause is removed.

    There are also life events which are severe enough, such as torture. I once knew a 50 yo woman who was a military doctor, caught at the beginning of a Yugoslavian civil war. She and twelve soldiers were captured by rebels and in front of her, all 12 were executed. None older than 21. She walked 50 miles for a week and eventually stumbled back to her city. She barely spoke five sentences to anyone and never told what the rebels did to her.
    Her family was terrorised for 2 years after, their jobs were taken, children were excluded from school, they couldn't find work, get medical care, they couldn't even go out for the fear of a neighbour simply taking their flat while they were out. Not to mention being attacked in the street, spat on etc. All because of their nationality. Eventually, they managed to get asylum in New Zealand and three years later they joined other family in Australia.

    When I met her, she was profoundly psychotic. She was persecuted, kept seeing the rebels everywhere, in the shower, in the shops. She was terrified that they have come for her. Also, she believed the rebels were sending her messages through the tv. Classic stuff. So is she primarily psychotic or does she have psychotic depression? What is the cause? What's the best treatment? What's the prognosis? Is she actually schizophrenic/paraphrenic or is this an effect of the extreme event she suffered?

    Eventually, evidence of schizoid/paranoid pre-existing personality emerged, and the fact that her family secret referred to a "mad uncle". All this time, her son was developing schizophrenia and eventually it became clear that all three, the genetic, environmental and psychological have conspired in both her and her son to cause a debilitating psychiatric illness.Would it all have happened without the civil war in Yugoslavia? Nobody knows. How many people never develop a mental illness purely because they don't face environmental challenges strong enough? A $64k question.
     
  18. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    I started writing a response to this, but it wound up being a list of questions to try to better understand what you're trying to say. But then Jazzabel thankfully made me realize this discussion is as pointless as debating the existence of god, so I'm out... But for future reference "some" is in its very nature a general term as it used in place of specificities. If you are going to be impudent, at least get it right.

    Sums it up perfectly. Wonderful post though, Jazzabel. If this goes on much longer Gowdin's Law will no doubt take effect.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Impudent? Huh?

    At any rate, here's some of what I've learned about depression over the last 30 some years of coping with it:

    1. Some depression is caused by life events and is normal. People get over it.

    2. Some depression is caused by chemical imbalances and needs medication/counseling to cope with it.

    3. Obviously, some depression is a combination of both - the life event can trigger a major depression.

    4. Clinical depression (#2 or #3) is not something you control by will. If you're lucky, you control it with medication and coping mechanisms.

    5. There are people who do not actually go into remission, but rather live with a 'low level' depression most of the time. It can 'spike' into a major depressive episode at any time, for any reason - or for no reason at all.
     
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  20. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I don't think you really know what 'impudent' means. Maybe look it up?

    I didn't force you to read my post or my opinion which I am completely entitled to have, I hope.
     
  21. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Well, I think I do, and I perceived the beginning of your last post to be very cheeky. Maybe even rude. One of the many reasons I gave up on a proper response.

    That is my opinion, and nobody is forcing you to read it.
     
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  22. nanobelle
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    nanobelle New Member

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    I'm having these issues with my character and what I've concluded is that in order for the story to progress some progress has to come from the character. He is the demon he wrestles with- as we all can relate to. Whether it is a personality issue or a medical condition, in the realm of story telling it doesn't matter. Read Silas Marner or The accidental Tourist for reference. These characters don't change personality from their journey but discover how to overcome their problems by taking action and action causes development in the plot. We won't get anywhere without some change no matter how little. Ask Godot.
     
  23. Slackingdonut23
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    Slackingdonut23 New Member

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    Well it seems like I have started some controversy :)
     
  24. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My prof used to say that the psychological plausibility in a character is super important for a story to be credible, and the writer has to be very sensitive with it to get it right. Yes, there are personality differences, but reading enough case studies will give you a pretty good idea how to make the character's psychological progression consistent and credible. I do agree with some of the others that the story requires some other hook, or your prose has to be friggin' hilarious to keep the reader interested.

    There are different kinds of grief as well, and denying grief is a very, very bad idea (yeah, sob, that's my story). You will be able to write a lot of interesting things out of this subject matter, but you will have to add something more to the story too, I think. A goal. A journey from A to B.

    As for the depression discussion, jazzabel put it pretty well. To put it bluntly, many people do seem to think that one can ward off depression with happy thoughts. God knows I've talked with people like that, talked and talked talked, and unsurprisingly they've never been diagnosed with depression and think the reason for that is that they have such superior, strong minds (well, maybe they have). Anyway, it takes big balls (or ovaries) from the writer to discuss and depict mental disorders and problems in a novel, but I'm always intrigued to read about different views on, eg. depression. I'm sure there are as many stories as there are sufferers.
     
  25. Slackingdonut23
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    Slackingdonut23 New Member

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    My take

    Well obviously I'm going to have a plot and defiantly gonna add some humor. But this is the main character, and his problem does affect his performance at his role in the plot, so i have to emphasize on his psychological development, i don't want people to feel sorry for him, but for them to diagnose him in a way and to be curious as how he will manage his pain. He is pretty normal and does not reflect his suffering. Keeps all his emotions inside himself, as most of us do. So we'd look mainly at him from an introverted perspective, but starts to see his pain affect him on the outside around the 3rd stage.
    As to the hole psychological warfare were having, I think of depression as pain, it can be indelible or not. Im actually using my story through the main character, which isn't that healthy personalty but i already accepted my pain and i guess i want to express my story for some reason. I was basically born with pain, it took me just until last year to get through all the stages and accept that my pain is indelible and that all i can do is manage it. Through what i went through i developed a little theory that you start with depression, a hopeless stage, then something changes in your life, you start to feel emotions and happiness. You think the pain has been killed and fall into euphoria. Then you realize that your happiness is just a pain killer, that your pain is still there but its just relieved. Then you fall into anger a tie yourself to that past, thinking that you can kill that pain. When really you are opening your wound and letting it bleed. After loosing so much blood, after suffering that first stage again, you realize and accept that your pain is indelible and can manage it through friends and distractions. Thats just my opinion, because thats what i went through. I think depression has different perspectives, therefore different opinions on the topic
     

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