1. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Murderer seeking absolution

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lyrical, Oct 8, 2015.

    So a while ago I posted a thread asking people what they would do if someone they loved told them that they had killed someone. It was very helpful and got me through a major stall in my story. I've hit another one, so I thought I might bring it to you guys again.

    My MC has killed someone. A pregnant woman, to be exact. She was an innocent, nothing to do with anything going on other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't an accident, but the MC feels tremendously guilty about it and it basically alters her entire personality for the rest of the story. I want her to find absolution.
    This story has supernatural elements, so the way it is currently written is that she has an opportunity to speak to the soul of her victim (no ouiji board or anything like that, they are speaking more or less face to face.) The problem is...I'm at a loss for words. I don't know what she should say. "I'm sorry," sound so desperately feeble. And I'm not sure how the victim should react either, except that it isn't instant forgiveness.

    Any thoughts on this topic would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Well, the feebleness of the words actually sounds right. Language often fails to communicate the depth of a concept or emotion. Have your character acknowledge the ineptitude of the words, that they aren't enough to express their sorrow and regret.
    As for the victim, traditionally, ghosts are either pure emotion, unable to move on, or they have transcended to a place where they can see the big picture and leave their personal hurts behind.
     
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  3. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I just randomly had the idea to have the MC get pregnant and name the child in the victims honor.
     
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  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Also, if not a figment of the ailing mind, then certainly such a communication says volumes. If you were killed by someone, assuming contact is made by the spirit desiring communication, would not your contact be either to haunt an unrepentant killer or to console your killer who is desperately seeking absolution? This is not going to be some "hey, look I am a ghost wooooo!" or a petty conversation - merely appearing will completely warp the perspectives of the person.
     
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  5. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Thank you. This is actually quite helpful. I think I've been overthinking the ghost's reaction. The spirit might not feel all the complicated emotions of the brain vs heart that happens in the body, but be rather pure emotion. I like that a lot.

    Haha so, at first I kind of laughed at your comment because I don't intend for her to get pregnant in this book. Right now, it's a stand-alone novel but there is possibility for a sequel down the line, and in that one she very well could get pregnant. In my overall knowledge of this character, she will at some point bear a child. So actually, I really like that idea. And I like the idea of the promise. Like, "I can't give you back your life, but I can give you a legacy," kind of idea. Yes. This could work.
     
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  6. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Well yea I was thinking in terms of the pregnancy and an outlandish but heartfelt way to make amends for it
     
  7. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    My brother - and 15 other kids - happened to see a ghost when he was younger and in the change room for gym class. Glowing blue humanoid shape walked straight through the wall, into the showers and when they turned on the lights simply vanished. It was most likely the spirit of the construction worker who had died a terrible death due to an accident while the gym was being constructed.

    The construction worker spirit didn't suddenly possess a tail & horns and a couple wings. Nor did it start emotionally ranting about how life was unfair to anyone that would listen. He / it whatever you want to call it carried on "doing it's job" in a loop sort of setting. The hadn't moved on ghost - set in its job.


    What I am saying is don't put too much merit into a spirit / ghost acting human. Most spirits / ghosts happen to be seen in our world by the young - or like my grandfather's dog that welcomed him home [barked, stood up and wagged its tail like it had done for 12 years prior - as he had died 2 years before this event happened] by animals. So to me a spirit / ghost is very basic. Very primal. My grandmother dreamt of an old friend who she had lost touch with saying goodbye to her - 2 days later we learnt in the paper's obituary that the friend had died peacefully in her sleep as another example [it was not a special dream, rather it was pretty ordinary given the setting, etc.].

    I personally don't see the ghost as being something that is going to stand up and lecture with a world-altering speech. You say they are to speak face to face - about what? The weather? The murderer is sorry... what does the ghost care? Why would the ghost even feel an ounce of pity for that sorrow ... there is nothing worst in this world than a mother protecting her child and I can imagine a mother's spirit if you went emotional being very emotional if not borderline insane in intensity [particularly if you took a religious standpoint that the child would have had its own spirit/soul/ghost and wouldn't necessarily be with the mother during an encounter]. After all, her and her child's life was snuffed short because of the murderer's actions.

    A better plot would be the murderer seeing the ghost in the corner of her vision - a haunting that is slowly driving her to distraction / insanity. The end - have the murderer stand in front of a mirror or some other reflective surface - see the ghost mother over the shoulder - apologize and then kill herself. This is a physical manifestation of guilt and far more potent than a chapter spouting feeble BS excuses as to why the mother was killed and how sorry the murderer is.
     
  8. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Sorry my BS plot isn't up to your high standards. No, my character is not going to kill herself.

    In my fiction, in my world, the souls of the dead are not stuck in a loop. They're not "ghosts" as we typically think of ghosts. They are almost exactly like their living selves, just disembodied.

    My character is accustomed to dealing with the spirits of the dead. Her people are sort of responsible for them. She has talked to them before, face to face. This time she seeks out the soul of her victim because she knows that, even though she can't make it right, she needs to do something and this feels like something. She isn't being haunted.
     
  9. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    One night, I was home alone, family out of town, when I hear something crashing around in the kitchen. I knew the doors were soundly locked, I just leaned out the bedroom door and yelled, "If you're a ghost or spirit, you need to chill the f*ck out. Same goes for mice and gravity. I've got finals, and I'm trying to sleep.".
    They shut up.
     
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  10. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    Man oh man talk about attitude. And rude at that.

    If you can't handle options there luv, then don't ask. I mean if you can't handle a basic thing like my response how on earth are you going to handle a publisher who will quite happily tear your story apart if they feel like it.


    So what is she supposed to do? Is saying she's sorry going to bring the ghost back to life - like that laughable corny Warm Bodies movie? Or is the idea more like Swayze in Ghost? Or like that TV show, can't remember the name, where angels helped disembodied spirits to move on.

    Now you just said you couldn't figure out how not to be feeble in an apology and yeah an apology would be feeble.

    I mean what does the ghost care if the MC is sorry? Why? What difference does it make? The ghost is dead - she couldn't careless if your MC painted her skin purple and shaved her head bald.

    In fact if the mother is quite like herself just without a physical body I wouldn't be surprised if said ghost would try to attack said murderer... ghost lady isn't going to be reasonable by any stretch of the imagination and have a nice long chat about how sorry the murderer is. I mean have you ever seen family members of murder victims - they can be simply savage; there was a guy who charged across the courtroom in one case and violently assaulted his daughter's murderer (took most of the bailiffs to pull him off & no one can deny the father would have killed the guy given half the chance).

    In the short run an apology won't change the fact that mother & child are dead.

    Now it'd be different if the MC had not been the murderer but couldn't stop the murder from happening. That is worth an apology. A murderer apologizing because she feels sorry for herself, and that is all it reads as the MC feels sorry for herself and to not feel guilty she has to apologize, is rather cliché. I can think of a good dozen books, a couple of movies, and TV shows where the murderer is always remorseful after murdering and does indeed "talk" to the ghost by apologizing to the victim's gravestone.
     
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  11. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I've read several of your posts across the forum now and you display a similiar superior and argumentative attitude in each one. It doesn't engender many warm and fuzzy feelings. When you call my idea, which you know approximately 1% about, BS, yeah, I'm gonna get defensive.

    A little advice for a beginner. When someone asks for some thoughts on how to approach a certain idea, it's not always a great idea to tell them their idea is crap in the first place and act like you know exactly how it should be done. Writing is art, not science. Your opinion is not fact, and there is no definitive science on ghosts or motherhood. I'm a mother. I base the spirit's reaction as a mother off of how I would feel. You will not tell me how that reaction should be.

    I don't feel the need to explain any further concept about my story to you. You gave your opinion, it wont be heeded. That is the end of it.
     
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  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    *pokes you on the shoulder*

    Um... This may just be me saying this, but if someone says my idea is BS and lists out why, I heed it! Were this my story, I'd give it some thought and wonder if maybe ADreamer was on to something. Granted you don't have to listen to that advice, but, um, being hostile about it isn't gonna serve you well. What I'd do here is just thank ADreamer and move on. Just a friendly tip. :D

    Plus, you kind of didn't specify how ghosts and hauntings worked in the OP, so for all ADreamer knew, it worked exactly as we understand hauntings work with residual looping (called residual hauntings) and what not. Heck, that's what I assumed from the OP: your character sees the ghost of the woman she murdered and begins to talk to her. Nothing about how the ghost can actually interact with her, that ghosts are pretty much the same sans a mortal body, or that your MC has experience with talking with departed souls, etc. I literally had an image in my head of her moseying up to the crime scene to see the ghost floating a few inches from the asphalt where she died and that's when they begin talking. And the ghost is there because she's unable to move on for obvious reasons, and all she can dwell on is the life she once had that was taken from her by this insufferable little weasel that now stood before her begging for forgiveness.

    ETA: Personally, with this story, it's really up to what Ghost!Mother would do. If she's the type to console a murderer who is clearly torturing herself over what she did, then that's what she'll do. Me? It'd be full-blown The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror for that lady if my ghost came back to haunt her. The climax would be her, armed with a crucifix and holy water, screaming at my demonic visage to return to the shadows from whence I came while I'm currently trying to devour the souls of her loved ones. :twisted: Um, *ahem* but yeah, it's up to Ghost!Mother what she'd do. And like TheDreamer said, maybe the first thing Ghost!Mother tries to do is to kill the murderer for what she did.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
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  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can see why you're struggling with this... How do you apologize for killing someone? Off the top of my head, I'm imagining a conversation like this:

    MC: - How are you?
    Soul: - I'm dead.
    - Yeah, uh... Sorry about that.
    *the soul looks around in disbelief* - Really?
    - I mean... I never meant... You know, I'm the one who has to live with this! It's been killing me all these years!
    *soul raises eyebrows*
    - Sorry, a poor choice of words...
    - No shit.
    - I just want to... Seek forgiveness.
    - You know, I was kinda in the middle of something... Don't call me again.
    - Please! I, I... I'm so sorry! I was a different person back then. I didn't see any other way around it. I had no choice.
    - You think my baby had a choice?

    And so on. Of course it's possible the soul is at peace already, in a better place, and holds no grudge towards your MC, but right now I'm kind of picturing a situation where the MC doesn't get the absolution she seeks. Can anyone come to terms with something like this (a murder, in essence) without being sociopathic...? But if she was, why would she seek absolution in the first place?

    I'm sorry I couldn't offer anything useful. I'm wondering if you could use this as an opportunity to develop your character. Maybe she realizes she deserves no forgiveness and decides to dedicate the rest of her life to making amends, like to charity work and whatnot.
     
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  14. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    So a soldier is sociopathic then? The father who murders the rapist of his 6 year old daughter because "justice" falls flat - as it often does - is sociopathic? Is a drunk driver sociopathic? Is someone infected with the flu, who gives it to a sickly senior that then dies - sociopathic? How about someone who kills by accident - in Canada here three girls died because they were bouncing on the back of a truck loaded with seed... does the ignorance of the kids' parents make the parents sociopathic?

    There's many more factors than just "murder" that makes a sociopath.
     
  15. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    It sounds like a very interesting story, however, I have a few questions.

    You say the mother / child are killed by accident. But you never really clarified if it was the woman's intent to murder / cause harm to someone else. Was this sort of like a hit & run or something?

    The reason why I am asking is quite simple. If she intended to harm someone else - then her remorse won't be absolute regardless of what she says to the ghost(s). It isn't in a murderer's nature to be remorseful in general - oh they play at it, when they are caught.


    Now you said to another poster she isn't haunted - so what is the motivation to apologize? I mean you may not have ever read it but there was a woman a few years ago who hit a guy [homeless if I remember correctly], he got stuck in her windshield, she then drove home, parked in the garage and left him there for a number of days. I can't remember if she suffered mental disabilities or not but her mind was not remorseful her mind was "how can I save my own ass".

    So where does the goal to apologize come from here? The ghost isn't doing anything to motivate it?

    You say that any apology is feeble, and in a way it is. KaTrain summarizes the "conservation" very well. There's not much that can be done for a spirit that is dead - unless you add a twist and the spirit can't "pass on" until the apology is delivered maybe.
     
  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    No, I meant if it's a person with problems with understanding, caring about, or experiencing feelings, one example being a sociopath, I'm wondering why they would care about foregiveness or whether they'd even feel guilt. I'm not saying this character is one, just that they could be.

    As for your examples. Let's put this way: a drunk driver can be a sociopath, but not all drunk drivers are sociopaths.
     
  17. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    True - a habitual drunk that willingly drinks & drives knowing that he/she is putting everyone at risk is in a way rather sociopathic [or an absolute idiot]. A driver that has had a few too many at a wedding for example and gets behind the wheel - foolish but not quite sociopathic.

    I think you & I are on the same mindset for this... why would the person apologize and more importantly why would the ghost care. The mother is dead - her child is dead - an apology isn't going to bring them back to life.

    It puts the murderer's mind at ease - yes but if the woman was intending to harm someone else and the mother got "caught in the crossfire" just how much remorse would she have. Murderers generally don't have much in the way of remorse.
     
  18. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I read your post yesterday and decided to think about it for a while instead of responding right away. I've come to the conclusion that you more or less have the right of it. Normally, I do fine with constructive criticism and welcome opportunities to look at my story from a different perspective. With this case, I did not do that. I think it was born of having read ADreamer's posts around the sight and interpreted a proud know-it-all attitude which really annoyed. It made me ill prepared to read her post with anything but irritated bias when it showed up in response to my question. Then when she suggested that my character kill herself out of grief, I heard melodramatic music and saw in my mind's eye a cheesy silent film version of these events.

    I got defensive. You're right. It would have been better for me not to respond at all. Obviously not everyone's advice is going to be applicable, but most of the time I tend to just silently ignore those bits and pick out the ones that are helpful. In this case, I let my bias get the best of me.

    I will go back and read her original post with a fresh look and see if I can get anything from it. Thanks for the reminder.

    Haha you have it exactly right. The first time I attempted this scene, it went a lot like your scenario. It was terribly inadequate.

    I think you may be onto something with the notion that maybe she doesn't quite get the absolution she seeks. Even if the ghost mother is in a place of peace and is willing to forgive, I don't think that would ever soothe the guilt inside. I think that would stay with her for the rest of her life. I'm going to ponder this a bit more. There is some interesting potential here.

    So, in answer to your question: It's complicated.
    It wasn't an accident.

    This isn't a gang story, but let's use the gang example since it's the closest thing to what really happens. The MC let herself be sucked in to a really dark, rough world and began going through the initiation steps as part of this gang. At first it seemed fine, but soon she found herself way out of her depth and could see no way back. The last test of the gang was to kill someone. It didn't matter who. She did not want to kill someone, and the first time they put her through the test it got ruined by another member and she thought she was off the hook. She wasn't, and they made her repeat the test a week later.

    At the time, she saw no other option, so she did it. This pregnant woman was the first one she saw in an isolated area, and she killed her. The moment she did it, she knew she had crossed a serious line she could not come back from. It changed her, it made her lose interest in everything in her life. At some point, she gets herself out of this gang and has to spend a period of her life on the run from them.

    Things happen and when she does find herself back in the town where she murdered that woman, she knows she needs to do something. She does not want to talk to this soul, because she does not know what she could say. But she also knows that this soul likely can't move on, and so she sets out to find her.

    Does all that make sense? She isn't a sociopath, just someone who got tangled up in some really bad things and made some really terrible decisions.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2015

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