1. angeleaf
    Offline

    angeleaf New Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2013
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Victoria, Australia

    Making a character seem mentally unstable

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by angeleaf, May 13, 2013.

    I'm at a point in my plot where in order for my character's relationship to come to an end, she needs to appear mentally unstable.
    A number of events have lead to this point in the story, and I suppose you could consider it a kind of "breakdown", but I want it to look like her love interest is being completely unreasonable by leaving her. I'm writing in TPL, and am wanting to write the chapter from her "love interest's" point of view, but am just unsure how to go about it.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated, or if you want more detail just let me know.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Youniquee
    Offline

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Under your bed.
    I suggest you research some mental disorders like depression ect? Research it thoroughly, understand the symptoms and how this will affect the character. And think about how the love interest's personality will affect how he reacts to this. Also, maybe you should read some books that involve a character having a mental break down?

    Just some suggestions but I hope this helped :)
     
  3. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    On one hand "showing" the char's slow mental breakdown from some other (the love interest's in this case) char's viewpoint is certainly preferable, personally speaking, but on the other hand using the love interest's thoughts, actions etc. and showing himself as "unreasonable in leaving her" may be bit difficult. Try using both the mentally unstable char's and her love interest's viewpoints, of course, in a clear scene wise or chapter wise manner for each viewpoints.

    Yes, research is fine, but I am thinking you don't necessarily need to make the char a full blown mental case. Psychologically, human exhibit different ways to cop with situation varying from person to person. Some take the cover of alcohol, drugs etc, some may just start pushing people around them away, some exhibit subtle changes in their mannerism like speaking less and less or, on the other end of the scale some become overly outspoken/outgoing just to hide some deep feelings. These are usually temporary changes but their effects are usually felt for a life time. Your char losing her love interest could be one example.
     
  4. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    When you say "mentally unstable", the only people who become mentally unstable from an ordinary life situation (that you described) have dormant psychiatric illness. However, if your character isn't ill, but rather, had a horrible time when she was cruelly dumped, and acts out or grieves for a while, than that isn't psychiatric illness, it is normal human behaviour, worts and all.

    I am a great believer of "writing what you know", so connect with your own experience of being betrayed or rejected by someone, of having a cruel joke played on you etc, and put yourself in the shoes of your characters, both the dumper an the dumpee. Knowledge of psychiatric illness will not be of much use to you, what you need is to be able to describe normal human behaviour, even if it's undesirable, cruel, in case of the dumper or in case of the dumpee- betrayal, anger, hopelessness, low self-esteem etc

    If you have absolutely no personal experience of any of these things, I don't think it is possible to authentically write about it. It's gotta come from within to make it significant and real.
     
  5. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    This is what I was thinking.
     
  6. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    You're asking how to make her "seem" mentally unstable, yet you are writing it not from her POV, but rather that of her SO. Well, for many folks, from their perspective, every single person they've ever dated and broken up with is mentally unstable. So, I'm not certain this is the best perspective -- you indicate that this chapter is written from the SO's viewpoint. Is the whole story from his POV? Is part of it from her's? Are there other POV's as well? It seems to me, that if she's "mentally unstable" (however you mean that), that will also come across from other POVs, and not just at the time of the break-up.
     
  7. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I think you have to decide whether or not the character seems mentally unstable or actually has a mental illness. As others have said, there's a difference between acting "irrationally" due to stressful "I'm at the end of my rope!" situations and actually being mentally ill. Once you decide, either thoroughly research the MI or look to experience/example for the "I've had it!" scenario.
     
  8. heal41hp
    Offline

    heal41hp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Oklahoma, USA
    While I understand and appreciate the "write what you know" thing, I think we're perfectly capable of writing about things we haven't experienced. It lends a lot of credibility to details and is good for interviews. However, an intimate understanding of characters and a basic understanding of psychology can make up for a lot where experience is lacking. I've never been an assassin or spy but I can still write one (though I'm not going to produce Burn Notice quality stories and details). I guess I'm not sure whose side I'm on at this point so I will move on!

    Honestly, I am really leery of your idea to show the love interest as unreasonable through his own PoV. There is one fact that needs to be uncovered before a proper weigh-in can be provided, though, I think. Is the love interest already portrayed as an irrational/unreasonable jerk? If so, this setup makes far more sense and we can move on. If not, this may be a poor plan. Either way, I look forward to an answer and a continuation of work on this quandary. :)
     
  9. ketamineman
    Offline

    ketamineman Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    the best way i have seen it done is in first person and in the books
    American Psycho by bret easton ellis
    and
    the haunting of hill house by shirley jackson (as well as some of her short stories)
     
  10. BritInFrance
    Offline

    BritInFrance Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Messages:
    364
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Central France
    Have you seen the french film He loves me, he loves me not staring Audrey Tautou? This film is very clever how it makes you believe one thing, and then twists it, to reveal another side. Great ending too.
     
  11. Haliburton
    Offline

    Haliburton Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2013
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Calgary Alberta
    The most common forms of distress that might be interpreted as mentally unstable are crying jags, depression which reveals itself as very quiet and downcast and negative thoughts coming out. Cynical, angry and withdrawn are more reactions that would sometimes make people think, "there's something really wrong with her"
    Haliburton
     
  12. jennym123
    Offline

    jennym123 Member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2013
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    1
    This depends on how "unstable" the character is going to be.
    From real life experience, most people don't leave a partner if they've had a single, uncontrollable crying fit- unless that's this guy.
    In my own experience: I was living with my best friend and her boyfriend who's personality was becoming more and more erratic. At first it was little things. He'd suddenly grab his head and take deep breaths or make comments that don't make sense. Something that I remember the day before he went into the hospital was when he told me that the way to get our cat to shut up (it meowed a lot) was to stare at it with judging eyes. He also looked tired most of the time and had troubles focusing.

    One day, I got a text from my friend telling me to get to the hospital. When I saw him he was... Gone. He was sitting on a cot in the hospital, driving an imaginary school bus. He kept muttering to himself and when he did make a coherent sentience he would speak as if he was relaying a message from his imaginary kids. His movements were twitchy and he kept repeating hand movements and repeating certain sentences. It was impossible for him to remember something for more than a few seconds and he had troubles respecting personal space.

    The entire experience was nightmarish, that's something to keep in mind. Watching someone you knew turn into a gibbering mess will completely tear apart your world. I had a panic attack the next day at work and I needed to sit in the bathroom to calm myself down. Even a year later, talking about that night is hard. My hands are shaking as a write this.
     
  13. W.A HAWK
    Offline

    W.A HAWK Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2013
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    I thought all you girls knew about this topic, JK. If you will PM me with the part leading up to where she becomes unhinged I can help you with this. Trust me, I'm the guy you want to help with this, I have known enough crazy girls in my time.
     
  14. badgerjelly
    Offline

    badgerjelly Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2013
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Earth
    Everyone is mentally unstable. Just explore your own past. If you cannot find anything then you really must be completely nuts! :p
     
  15. Sheriff Woody
    Offline

    Sheriff Woody Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2012
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Watch the film TAKE SHELTER. Not only does it deal with a mentally-unstable protagonist, but it's one of the greatest works of art the medium has ever produced. Literally stop reading this and go hunt down a copy right now. It's that good.
     

Share This Page