1. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    Mental and emotional damage

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Shinn, Jun 18, 2010.

    I've got another question regarding my novel; how would I show the mental and emotional damage in the dialogue, when the main character finds that he is the only survivor from the suicide mission?
     
  2. Jobeykobra
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    Jobeykobra Member

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    If he is found to be in shock, I would suggest very minimalistic, almost whispered speech. Either that or he doesn't talk at all. I would think a person in that situation would be very hard to get a real response from.
     
  3. That Secret Ninja
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    That Secret Ninja Member

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    I think in this case, the less you tell through dialogue, the better.

    Mental and emotional damage usually causes a person to fall inward as they reel from what has happened to them.

    Show the damage by explaining what the character is thinking. Show their disconnect from those around them. Show that those around them are trying to get them to speak or whatever, and show how they notice the disconnection is in fact the result of that damage. Show the reader both the point of view of the character, and those around them for best effect. The reader will see that the character is reeling and horribly damaged, and the other characters will see only the outward signs shown by the character(limited dialogue), thus reinforcing the readers assumption that the character has been crippled emotionally.
     
  4. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Have you ever had a situation in your life where you got really really horrible news? If so think back to how you reacted to that.

    It really depends on the person as to how they react. Some people withdraw and say little or nothing. In my case when I found out I had a spinal cord tumor I pretty much lost it. I was totally inconsolable. I also said some very upsetting things I regret saying because it upset my mom so much.

    So again it's really determined by your character. I believe those are the two most common responses. Immediate anyways. Long term response is a whole other animal.
     
  5. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I think that character's mind would stand on many legs:
    - His feelings for those who didn't survive.
    - His feelings about having survived.
    - The reason he survived.
    - How much he abandoned his life for thinking he wouldn't survive.

    Any of those could become a reason for suicide.

    I'd reflect that by making his thoughts gravitate constantly to those topics, unable to leave them behind. I'd let his views always start from one or more of those bases. Subtly, to avoid tiring the reader.
     
  6. jeanne
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    jeanne Member

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    It depends on what you want your character to become. People react to tragic situation differently, some sucidally upset, some angry at the world, some starve for someone to rely on, while some fleet to themselves. You should decide which way you want your story to be and go that way.
     
  7. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    A lot of soldiers who experience front line action do suffer from some form of post traumatic stress syndrome.

    You might want to look into this.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Trying to imagine it, if you have never experienced it, is unlikely to give you a realistic portrayal.

    You need to observe people exjibiting the shock of comparable losses. You can get a farilly good idea from well-made fiction and cinema. You may get a good glimpse from news stories in which insensitive reporters shove cameras and microphones in the faces of loved ones after a tragedy (and introducing brand new trauma by doing so).

    You could even visit a hospital ER or trauma center and observe people. Just stay out of the way, and don't become part of the problem yourself, please.
     
  9. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Dostoevsky is the guy to go to when you're trying to depict mental and emotional trauma. I could say a lot, but I'm limited on time right now so I'll just point out whatever comes immediately to mind.

    When Ras in Crime and Punishment first kills he finds a lot of odd things happening to him that are described in an equally hard to understand way. This allows the reader to see the inner struggle, and perhaps more truthfully than had his mental state simply been described flatly. One of the things that struck me as poignant is when he notices that, for a long but unknown amount of time, he's been muttering and whispering things to himself. It strikes the reader hard because he'd been thinking in a pretty substantially crazy way and if even some of those thoughts were to be said aloud it could destroy him.

    But it's too early to get into books.

    Sole survivors of disasters and failed suicides often experience a renewal of faith, like their being alive was somehow divinely fated. You may want to play around with that.

    Additionally, if you've ever been in a situation where you've been forced to fight for your life, you will notice that it doesn't leave you ever. Flashbacks (not in the literary sense, that's a little cliche) manifest themselves as a rapid collection of mental images and videos and ways of doing things differently accompanied by a huge rush of adrenaline, and a feeling in your abdomen that's similar to a stabbing pain. One would not be able to focus during such an incident, but may snap out of it as fast as it comes on. Grappling with suppressing these thoughts is an excellent bit of tension for your character.
     
  10. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    The person with emotional/psychological damage, since it's a war story, would probably have been affected this way by something terrible that either he saw, he experienced, or he did himself. If you've ever seen something disturbing in a movie that stayed with you, that you kept thinking about, imagine that but exponentially worse. The soldier would be unable to put it out of his mind, unable to think about anything without associating it with what he saw/did/experienced, unable to perceive things the way he did before.

    You need to understand how it works before you can turn it into convincing dialogue. I'd guess that the character in question would keep coming back to this experience (or experiences). At first he might just bring them up constantly in a fearful, miserable way, dwelling on them openly. Eventually, he might accept it and just live with it, but always comparing things to the experience(s). Maybe it gets on people's nerves, maybe he can't function normally because he thinks so differently now. It's your call, but you can't let other people dictate the way these people act; it's your story, so take charge, don't sit there and wait for people to give you the answers.
     
  11. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    A fact here in my country: the percentage of army and paramilitary forces suffering from psychiatric disorder are much higher than the country's average. And the suicide rate is much higher amongst them. This I came to know because I know a person who works for the military as a psychiatrist. So, it will be helpful if you could speak with such a psychiatrist.

    On the original question now...

    It all depends on what kind of a person you want to paint him as. No doubt there will be mental and psychological repercussions, but how he deal with it will depend on his personality.

    1) maintain a tough exterior, yet giving us glimpses of his inner turmoil through unusual/extreme behaviour...... moody, reacting extremely to patty incidents (you can show this through dialogue), neglecting relationships etc... culminating finally into his suicide or whatever you plan as a climax

    2) Complete breakdown as in the case of Crime and Punishment.... the MC becoming extremely self concious because of his guilt. In your case, the MC can be obsessively thinking about the mission..... always reliving the moment, suspicious of any uniformed policemen thinking he will be arrested. As for dialogue, he will be absent-minded because of all the thoughts that is tormenting inside his mind.

    Read it when I was in school and was fascinated by the revelation of the human mind in such a unique way.
     
  12. Shinn
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    Cheers for that info Manav - you've put me on the right track :)
     
  13. Jenni
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    Jenni New Member

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    There was an old man I knew when I was a kid (well, I didn't know him as such. He was on the same psychiatric ward as my mum) who used to carry a pool cue around with him. He thought it was a rifle and would sometimes aim with it because his mind was still stuck to when he was fighting in the war.
     

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