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  1. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Some help with Identity Confused Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Donal, Jul 23, 2010.

    Hi everyone.

    My protagonist in my novel is a young man who learns that his father isn't his real father. He is based on a lad I know who learnt as a child that he was adopted and acted very strangely from there on. He (real life character) was terrified of being alone, would like to hang out with a big group even if he was the butt of the jokes. As we got older he started making up a lot of tall tales pretending he met celebrities, detailing elaborately entertaining stories that never happened. He was living in a dreamworld where he was the star of it and I am sure he was able to convince himself that many of these things actually happened. He is 23 now and stocks up vending machines for a living. However when he isn't doing that he wears a pin striped suit, smokes cigars and tells strangers in bars that he is a physio or a young lawyer or a sports agent.

    Basically he has inspired my novel. He isn't going to talk to me about how he felt learning this wasn't his real family etc but it is important for me to know for the book. Are there any books you could recommend that would deal with somebody who doesn't know who they are and need to try find themselves, all the while convincing themselves they are something they are not. I've read up on the Parker-Hulme Heavenly Creatures girls but this is my main character and I want him to be convincing and believable.

    Thanks for all your help.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I think you have already spelled it out.

    Your real life friend had his personal definition take a serious blow and thereafter took on a pathology of creating definitions for himself that are fictitious. He learned that who he thought he was did not exactly match up with reality (from his perspective) and thus is no longer confident in what defines him.

    Your mention of his need to be "included" even when this inclusion is of a negative nature goes hand in hand with his now damaged sense of self. He needs a plentitude of others around him to define him from the outside instead of from within.

    I would focus your personal thought process as the writer on the idea of self definition. What are the things that define you to you yourself. And imagine then that this paradigm takes a smack to the gob.

    Interesting character, BTW. :)

    EDIT ~ Read or watch The Talented Mr. Ripley for some research in how this idea has been handled in literature.
     
  3. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Wreybies that is a helpful post. My plan that this character in the novel is defined by his relationship to his father. He works in his father's business, his dad is a well liked fellow in the community and the good traits that my protagonist has are all shared by his father. I do plan for that to be the case. Rather than making him adopted I intend to have it that his father passes away (possibly attempting something like a heroic rescue or sacrifice) and protagonist learns he isn't his real father. I reckon the outcome would be similar but it allows me to pursue a secondary storyling involving the mother. I'm sorry, I digress.
     
  4. constant scribbler
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    constant scribbler Member

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    If it is in first person it is vital to be able to get inside that character's head. Think long and hard about how you would feel if that same thing happened to you. As you described the boy you knew it is obvious he is insucure. There are more people then just him who are insecure or adopted. Talk to others who have gone through similar situations and ask them if you can't ask the boy you knew. You could also try talking to a phyciatrist because their job is to understand how people feel going through insecurity.
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    It's not going to be just the knowledge that he is adopted that will explain his insecure behaviour. His behaviour will be influence a lot by his adopted parents' behaviour (parents who is loved by everybody else is not enough). Slightest mistake on the parents' part could jeopardised the child's behaviour. I have seen adopted children living a secure life and having more attachment towards his adopted parents despite knowing his/her biological parents. In such cases adopted parents are extra careful not to make their child insecure till the child pass adolescent. In your friend's case, most probably he saw signs of his parents' disappointment in him in some way (can be even imaginary). It can strain relationship between parents and child, and very well can aggravate into insecure behaviour for life in case of adopted child.

    Let's elaborate on his imagination that his parents were disappointed in him. He came to know his biological parents were lowlifes and he felt that his parents adopted him in the form of charity. No matter what he does he find himself not good enough to show his gratitude.... may be he knows his parents secretly wanted him to be a doctor(or any profession) and he knows he just doesn't have the ability to become one.

    Also, his adopted parents were not well off and he was insecure even before he knew he was adopted..... so, when he knew he was adopted he just couldn't face it and making tall claims was his way of escaping the truth.

    Really, there are endless possibilities. You just have to think a little harder.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton comes to mind, its a bit girly but is about the story of a woman who discovers she was adopted and how she changed overnight. I find with my characters just writing helps too they almost tell me how they feel/
     
  7. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Manav, to be honest I'm not looking for any storylines. I appreciate your ideas about adopting a charity case or having lowlife parents and things like that. I have a plot in mind and am looking for help with the character. I have several years of observing behaviour that most of shows me as someone not being comfortable in his identity. I will be changing lots of elements of the real life character to fit the story but his behaviour isn't a problem. What is difficult is the mentality. I know for a fact that he wouldn't discuss that with me. I just am interested in the mentality. There has been some great advice so far anyway.
     
  8. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I am sorry if I was giving you unwanted storylines :) It's just that I am convinced that his finding out that he is adopted alone doesn't explain his behaviour (btw I think behaviour is a true reflection of ones mentality)... and I guess I was trying to find some explanation of how some situation (related to his knowledge of his adoption) might have affected his mentality and behaviour. Without such an explanation it may well be that his behaviour is not related at all with his adoption.... after all escaping from reality/insecurity can happen to anybody in varying degrees. I apologise in advance if I am once again using too many words to explain my views.
     
  9. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Firstly NEVER apologies for giving ideas :) I hadn't planned on giving out so many details in this thread about my protagonist but there are certain differences between the real life character and protagonist in the novel. He is only an inspiration not a biographical account. Anyway this is a description of the main character and the conflicts he faces.

    James Hagan is the character in the novel. He is a well liked individual by most though can be a bit stupid at times. He works for his father's printing company and holds a high enough position due to being the son and heir.
    People tell him all the time that his dad (Austin) is a great fella, he shares the qualities of his father and is a good man as a result etc. When his father dies he later learns while in hospital that the man was not his real father. He finds this news difficult to accept and begins to wonder about his real father.
    His mother can provide no details - the man was a stranger she never met since. He begins to imagine about his real father and who he really is. A big thing for him is that being Austin Hagan's son defined who he was. He begins to question whether he still has these qualities and indeed question his whole identity. He discusses these problems with a friend (Dean) in the printing company who begins to use this internal conflict to confuse James further (I'm not going to go into this but there is another element of the plot there (Cain v Abel etc)).
    He finds little real support from his mother. She can understand that he is upset but she can't really grasp why he feels this strongly about it. In her mind Austin was the boys father, he raised him, provided love and security in their lives. She never really loved her husband and now he has died begins to pursue lesbian feelings which leads to conflict between her and James. Dean uses this information to drive a wedge even further into the Hagans and all the while convince James that he is helping him.

    Hope the background details weren't too much but I wanted you to understand where I'm coming from.
     

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