1. fishpaste

    fishpaste New Member

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    Advice on a character for a psychological thriller?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by fishpaste, Jan 19, 2017.

    I've had this story on the backburner for a while, mostly because I'm having a hard time pegging down this character. Its in the fantasy/psychological horror genre, so it doesn't need to be perfectly realistic. But I would like this character to be as believable as it can.

    One of my protagonists is a wendigo (though she looks completely human), a trait she inherited from her mother (she was suffering from wendigo psychosis, and was in the process of becoming one after encountering it), who died in childbirth. She was raised in an isolated lodge by friends of her mother, up until the age of about 12-15. At this point, the husband begins to show signs of the psychosis and is ultimately shot by his wife. The wife begins to suspect that the protagonist is also under control of the wendigo, so she drives to the nearest town for "groceries" and never comes back. So the protagonist lives on her own up until adulthood. She's not completely isolated, as she's friends with a woman who works at a gas station on the edge of the woods, and she occasionally interacts with campers and hunters and the like. Plus theres the actual original wendigo lurking around, but that's a whole different issue. For the most part, she's lived on her own, supporting herself for over ten years. The main story takes place in the 1960s, so she would have been born in the late 1940's.

    What would be a believable age for a child/pre-teen to be able to live on their own without significant psychological trouble?

    And by significant, I just mean nothing horribly debilitating. I still want her to be able to function at least semi-normally in society. Obviously she has to deal with the trauma of seeing one parent shot, and being abandoned by the other. Though she wasn't particularly close to either, it still has a profound effect. I'd love to have any suggestions for traits that would make her seem more believable. Thanks!
     
  2. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    I think a real problem with this is that you've chopped off your ability for your character to have memories. Her entire life has been a cabin with two people (and some allusions to others around her) and then those two people are shattered, and then her life is trees and... a cabin for ten years.

    It's not going to be fun to write without being able to write any memories other than those. You can't write any surprises for your readers from the character's past within this bubble.

    Plus, I think any person in this environment would feel a sense of emptiness and not only a 'longing' to experience more, but a very angry demand. Like a child screaming at their parents to take them to a theme park.

    I grew up in a town where nothing happened, ever, the end results was that all the children there set the countryside around the town on fire systematically, just for something to do, or stole cars and crashed them into other things, every weekend, just for something to do.

    These people were almost HOPING for their family to die so that they could leave earlier than they were allowed. No joke. Even from as young as nine. Everyone was so sick of each other. Even the people they were related to. Especially the people they were related to. When we were all old enough, we all left. Everyone. As soon as we could get away from our parents. We all left. None of us even speak to each other any more.

    If the two anchors holding her in this world of isolation are gone. She would go. She'd walk out into the world, and try to find something to fill her deep sense of emptiness.

    I think, if your character is volunteering to stay, even when the anchors are gone, it would have to be for a pretty ALL CONSUMING reason. More than just waiting for a wendigo to show up. The connection to the concept of 'home' doesn't exist when your home feels like a prison.

    I mean, if there was a wendigo that I was related to walking around my home town... I would be like 'WHO CARES, I AIN"T GOING BACK TO THAT HOLE!'

    If she's raised in a different place by these two people and then travels to the cabin in order to find the wendigo after they die, and chooses to set up home there, then you get around this problem.

    My point is this - - in regards to your question:

    What would be a believable age for a child/pre-teen to be able to live on their own without significant psychological trouble?

    No age.

    The only reason she would live on her own, at any age, would have to be BECAUSE of significant psychological trouble.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
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  3. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like this post is writhing with projection. It's impossible to reject out of hand that a character would stay because the character is invented.

    I dont have too much to add, I know very little about child development, but I'm of the camp that thinks it's totally believable that she a) stay if so inclined and b) could live alone from her teens, depending on her upbringing.
     
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  4. amerrigan

    amerrigan Active Member

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    I know it seems that way... I was questioning posting it. But I was really just trying to give real life evidence to support my argument rather than, you know... be a narcissist.

    If you write about isolation, you have to deal with what happens to the human mind in isolation. If you make the character a teenager, you will have to deal with a lot more going on.

    The things I mentioned above were just extreme examples of the combination of the immaturity of people that age and the isolation they were in. I was trying to give examples of what teenagers growing up in 'cabins' really do with themselves. They want out, and they lash out.

    Add to the mix a lack of formal education, and your protagonist also doesn't have the resources to deal with these situations in a sophisticated way.

    And I was also just ranting because it annoys me when people write 'oh she grew up alone and she's fine'.

    I'm not saying you need to write about these things, I'm recommending you find a way to get around it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2017
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  5. fishpaste

    fishpaste New Member

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    You've given me some really good points to think about! The whole reason I sort of scrapped the story for a while was because I didn't like the whole "kid grows up in the woods, teaches himself how to survive cliche." I didn't really have an excuse so the character was shelved. I haven't touched it in a long time. But I like the rest of the story in general, so I would like to find away to make it work believably.

    I'll definitely try to do a little more research on teen mental health in small towns.
    I'm also going to try brainstorming ideas for her to live elsewhere for most of her childhood, but being drawn back to the lodge where she was born. What you said about kids being desperate to leave and wanting their families gone actually works really well for this story, because I wasn't sure how to deal with her not being terribly affected by their absence. It should come as more of a relief.

    Thanks a lot for the advice!
     
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  6. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    Honestly, going down the vein that @amerrigan opened... why not set the story soon after the mother leaves? You could writing from the perspective of a child who's searching for their mom, or maybe just someplace to fit in life.

    Further, if what I read about Windigo Psychosis is accurate--who can say i mean i just pulled something off of wikiwikiwiki--then couldn't the development of this young girl suffering with the urge to eat people without any real guardian to tell her what or what not to do be a pretty driving story?

    then again that might just be my general bias towards coming of age stories bleeding out >w<
     

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