1. JohnKPatterson
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    JohnKPatterson Member

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    Princess Mourning the Loss of Her Mother

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JohnKPatterson, Sep 15, 2011.

    I am still trying to find a balance for one of my novel's viewpoint characters, a balance between realistic grief and keeping the reader from shouting "Stop weeping and get on with it!"

    The character in question is a princess, nineteen years old, who watched her mother commit suicide in what appeared to be a fit of insanity (emphasis on appeared, but that's for another time). She not only feels responsible, having stood there and watched while it happened, but is pressured by her own sensibilities to get rid of the grief and form a new mode of life as quickly as possible. No one has really told her that you never quite "get over" the loss of a loved one, but you learn to accept it. The princess and her adopted sister are completely bewildered, since they have no idea why Mother would kill herself.

    It might also be worthwhile to mention that she has only been a princess for four years; the previous king was assassinated, and her politician father was elected to take his place. She is used to the formality and pomp of life for a leader's daughter, but she hasn't been in the royal life for too long. But both forms of life are forming her attitude towards grief. She finds herself caught between missing her mother, and trying to dry her eyes and go back to as much of her previous life as possible.

    So, my question is, where do you think a good balance would lie for her to grieve like a real woman would? As opposed to forgetting the importance of her mother's loss, or becoming so obsessed with it that the suicide gets mentioned in every paragraph. How long should she go until she's not thinking about Mother all of the time?

    Thank you all for your time.
     
  2. AMasonCarpenter
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    AMasonCarpenter Member

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    Women are tough cookies (the ones I know, anyway) and they have big hearts. She can get on with her life and still think often of her mother. You know, action packing, snappy dialog, suddenly that squirrel over there reminds me of mom. That is realistic and fun to write. I guess in answer to you question, not long to get back to her life, but a long time to stop focusing on her mother.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Show not tell. Show her emotions through her dialogue and actions. Also, syntax, punctuation and sentence structure can work to play a HUGE role in setting tones. These are called rhetorical devices: look up the terms "asyndeton," "polysyndeton," the effects of passive/active voice, and parallel construction (breaking the pattern creates impact). Basically, the English mechanics of how you write can convey a certain tone to readers, solely by the way you set up sentences. It's really cool.

    Whatever you do, don't go on infodumps about how she feels. If you find yourself writing "She felt" or any other variation, and especially if it's frequent, then you're doing it wrong.

    Also, this all depends on the type of relationship she had with her mother, how her life will change without her mother gone, etc.
     
  4. Hawwyboo
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    Hawwyboo Member

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    Try to use the mother's death as a turning point in the princess's character development. For example, if it is the first time one of her loved ones has died she could become more aware of her own mortality, which could have a range of effects such as producing a more melancholy disposition; alternatively a 'hakuna matata,' 'oblah-di-oblah-da' sort of attitude could work as she just gets on with life (and represses her emotions, so that they bottle up ready to explode when she least expects it...); the change doesn't have to be sudden, dramatic and 'told,' it should simply alter the tone of the princess's dialogue, thought processes and behaviour in a subtle but gradually noticeable way. Also as the princess is quite young she may continue to feel the need to have a mother figure in her life, so it's a good opportunity to introduce an older female character who could act as a mentor of sorts from which the princess could learn new skills, outlooks on life, etc (I'm just speculating, I don't know enough about the plot to know if that would be a good idea or not).

    One more thing, take the time to give the mother a funeral. Just like in real life, this would give the princess and the rest of her family the opportunity to let out her grief and move on.
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. Also, if she was close to her mother and her life is a struggle (due to other factors) after her mother's death, she would feel her lost more.

    I don't think you have to mention her mother in every paragraph to show her grief. You just have to go for it at the right moment, like when she felt helpless due to some other reasons and missed her moral support.
     
  6. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    You lost me here.

    As a point of background research, Royals historically come in one of two packages. Firstly, either you are born of Royal blood, or you aren't (Which makes a 19 year old who has only been a princess for 4 years a bit unlikely). Secondly, a great war leader who successfully raises an army, rises up against the ruling power, conquers the existing regime and founds his/her own new throne becomes the first King/Queen of a new Royal bloodline (because in ancient times it was believed that a King could only be a King by divine right (Divine Right = The almighty wills it) and if a new warlord dethroned an existing king it was because the almighty willed it, thus making the usurper the new king by divine right).

    To my knowledge, no King has ever been elected. All royal dynasties were taken by sword in one way or another.

    If you are writing a historical drama, you may encounter some problems with this. Of course, if you writing a fantasy piece, it doesn't matter.
     
  7. JohnKPatterson
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    JohnKPatterson Member

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    It's fantasy, Lothgar. I'm fully aware that the traditional king has a hereditary office, but that wasn't the kind of fantasy king I wanted to posit. Partly because inherited royalty are cliched in the genre, and partly because I was more interested in what kind of story could develop in the king not having absolute power.

    Even then, the kings in this country were once hereditary, but their governmental power is gradually being transferred to the noble class under him. At this point, King is almost a title, but he still wields more authority than any one man in the country. He's somewhat analogous to a president at this time in his nation's history, neither the medieval England king who ruled by divine right, nor the modern figureheads, the in-name-only royalty, of the United Kingdom.
     
  8. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
    Some people can pick up the peices quickly, some might take longer, some might not recover at all. Some might suppress the emotions, trying to live up to being the aristocratic Princess that is unbreakable. (Not realizing the unbreakable have to bend, rather then stand rigid.)

    Look at real remorse stories, they run the gambit.

    berkeley.edu/death-response/griefandloss (links are discouraged)
    I liked this sight, it deals with death and even suicide. It might give you an idea of what to do with your characters.
    As was said, your form of royalty is not the usual(which can be good), so I do not know if the princess will take over power or does she return to being a normal citizen. People are very impatient with leaders that are grieving "to long." Citizens are selfish when they aren't getting what they want when they want it. If they want a leader and the person isn't "bouncing back", people tend to look for someone to take over, or someone sees the weakness and looks to exploit it.

    And yes the stupidest little things can remind a person of the loved one. Perfume, a smell of food, a flower bed, golf carts (like I said stupidest things).

    Golf carts bothered my Mom, "frivilous junk" is what she called them, so I think of her when I see golf carts. :)
     
  9. JohnKPatterson
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    JohnKPatterson Member

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    That was extremely helpful, SeverinR! :D Thank you very much for the link, and the observations. I will have to think about that more.
     
  10. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I found if I want to know about an illness, addiction, or dealing with emotions, its best to go to the source.
    I was impressed with the parts I read, and it is not something I needed to research for a book.

    Glad I could help.
     
  11. Cordoma
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    Cordoma Member

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    You're thinking this is modern times. It's not. In the middle ages the daughter better step up to plate once the mother kicks the bucket or she'll be next in line. If she's not a strong leader, she'll be wed to some ambitious duke. Or, she'll be invaded by some ambitious conquerer.

    People don't grieve in the years of the king. They fight for their lives. And if they fight long and hard, maybe life'll take a quick look and say, "hold on. This guy's serious. Let'em through.

    Really, it's not realistic. Yeah, she'll grieve, but she won't show it. It'll all be on the inside. For her people, it will appear like she is being strong. But on the inside she'll be torn to shreds. An example'll be queen 'lizzybeth, darlin. *kisses* ;)
     

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