1. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    Giving a character depression

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Andi. Just Andi., Jul 12, 2018.

    Like the title states, I've thought of giving my main protagonist depression. The reason for this is because it would explain why he is very emotionally-repressed as he is very determined to hide his depression from those around him. This is because people with mental health issues are stigmatized, shunned, and dehumanized by the other people in his town.

    However, I'm hesitant because I feel like I'm really only giving my character depression because I'm trying to give him character flaws and his depression would help to create and explain some of those flaws. Additionally, I don't want to represent depression as a character flaw.

    Overall, what do you think?
     
  2. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    I think you need to research depression, because it's not as simple as you're trying to make it sound. It's not just about emotional suppression - you can go from not caring whether you live or die, to crying your eyes out over the slightest little thing, to suicidal within the space of five minutes. Just getting up out of bed and getting washed takes a huge amount of willpower - and some days you just don't have that.

    "My friends and family would be better off without me"
    "I'm a useless waste of space"
    "What's the point of carrying on living? No one would miss me if I just suddenly died anyway!"
    "Life's not fun anymore"
    "I should just throw myself off the nearest/tallest bridge and be done with it"

    You may spend a lot of time asleep, because that's the only thing that stops the self-destructive thoughts.

    All of these thoughts are characteristics of depression. Hobbies and interests are the first things to go, so life becomes a chore, which just helps feed the feeling of uselessness, and life not being fun.

    I know this is anecdotal evidence, but from my own experience, if you want a condition to explain emotional suppression, I'd go for asthma. Stress, excitement, angry outbursts, happiness - hell, even laughing too hard can bring on an attack if the condition isn't under control.

    And it gives you a legitimate character flaw - a character who knows he has to take his meds or become seriously, dangerously ill - just doesn't. He's blase about his condition because say, he's had it all his life and anyway, his ventolin inhaler always eases the attack so he feels the preventative inhaler is therefore useless - doesn't realise/care that taking the preventative inhaler will ... err ... stop the attacks from happening in the first place.

    And I'm talking from experience there, because I have asthma and through my teens, I used to do exactly the same.
     
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  3. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    You could make part of the story how he overcomes his depression? We often say that in every chapter of a story there needs to be a conflict and a resolution. The conflict here is his depression and the resolution is overcoming it. He might not cure his depression (I don't think it is that easy) but he can overcome them and still do what he has to do to resolve the ultimate conflict of the story,
     
  4. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    Completely agree.

    Depression isn't "I am soooo sad" that a lot of people think it is.

    As someone who suffers from moderate depression I will give you an idea of what kind of things I go through all in the space of a work day:

    7am - should have woken up at 6:45 at the latest to get to work at a reasonable time. press snooze on my alarm
    7:30am - still not awake press snooze again
    7:45 - An hour after I was due to awaken I finally swing my legs out of bed and arise like Lazarus. Trying to wake up my wife and get her out of bed is like trying to raise the dead.
    8:00 - Should be half way to work by now, but my wife has just got out of the shower. It is now my turn.
    8:10 - come out of shower and get dress, take my meds, I am on sertraline.
    8:35am - finally make it out of the door for my dreaded commute to work.
    9:05am - finally get to work. Get my computer out and stare at my screen for the next 7 hours feeling I should be doing something, but neither knowing what I need to do, n'or can be bothered to do it.
    All I can think of is can't wait for the weekend... not sure why, I don't have anything planned. Feel demotivated, work is a chore. I feel like my career isn't going anywhere. I procrastinate on my wife and my pipe dream of owning a farm in the middle of the countryside.
    17:00 - I leave work, dreading my commute home. Having not had a very productive day, I feel very guilty and worried that my boss will know.
    18:00 - I get home and all I want to do is watch tv and order a takeaway, I used to love cooking, I used to love doing stuff in the evening, but at the moment the evening seems to go so quickly and before I know it, it is bed time. Was hoping to write more of my novel, but although I have ideas, I CBA. Ate a whole tub of ice-cream between me and my wife.
    21:00 - Should turn my phone off as blue light before bed is bad for sleep. But regardless I continue to check facebook and look for crap I don't need on ebay.
    21:30 - I am tired, the kitchen is a mess, I have done sweet FA with my evening, my wife and I just knackered and sit on the sofa staring at either the tv or our mobile devices.
    22:00 should be heading in bed, but can't be bothered walking up the stairs I am a 33 years old man whats the bloody matter with me? I think that if I go to bed now the sooner I have to go to work in the morning
    22:30 - My eyes are locking together, oh crap I haven't watered the plants, tidied the kitchen, decorated the dining room, ironed my shirt for the morning, made my lunch. I think to myself.
    23:00 - wife and I agree to go to bed. Rather than read to get us to sleep despite being so tired, we play scrabble on our phones against one another. My wife is feeling shall we say a little horny. And starts to touch me expectantly. But I don't like the attention she is giving me. I feel guilty, what is wrong with me, I am a bloke I should be gagging for it. My internal monologue says. Please don't leave me... for another more sexual man.... I love you soooo much. "Night night" I say to my wife. I turn over and finally fall asleep, ready to repeat the unproductive day.
     
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    He farts until 3.30am. And his backside reverberates against my spine. Maybe I shouldn't have worn the marigolds to bed, but y'know I was gardening and watering his cactus. Such irony, I'm sure the cactus might enjoy my beautiful body. Throbbing cactus with your needles. I'm dribbling now, impossible lusty dreams with that weighty cactus strapped to Mario's chest. Yes, yes, Mario the olive farmer/the scrabble champion. Not the cactus, Mario, try the other one, that's more like it, tickle me with your daffodil stem. God dammit, every erotic dream turns to Gardener's Question Time. Really this affliction is unbearable. Perhaps a sunflower? That's better, sunflowers and the tulips of my allotment. Tulips, golly, delicious tulips. I need the watering can, turn on the bedside light, don't want to wake him up. I'll rush outside, I'll be quick.
     
  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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  7. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    I would go with your suggestion, however, the problem is that the technology in the world I will feature my story in isn't nearly as advanced as the real world. Therefore, I wouldn't know what kind of medication to give my character.
     
  8. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    That could be possible, despite it being very difficult.

    You see, throughout the story many tragic events occur such as the death of his mother, him being seperated from his family, and him not even knowing if they're alive in the end. None of this would make his struggle with depression any easier, yet I can see him getting through it in order to get to the end goal.
     
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not getting the vibe that your idea of depression is one that really works. I think this may be unwise.

    Can you explain the character flaws that you actually want, the ones that you felt would be explained by depression?
     
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  10. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    When is this set then? Because the treatment for memtal health is different depending on era! In many cases it would be dismissed depending on the manifestation. In some severe cases an exorcism might have been prescribed or even trepanning. But generally the treatment might just have been seclusion and in some mild cases herbal treatment might have been used by an apothecary.

    However i would be cautious how you use depression.
     
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  11. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    Of course.

    I'm still having trouble coming up with flaws for him, but one flaw that I think would suit him is his tendency to become obsessed with a single idea or thought. One of these ideas is his belief that he isn't really an individual and is instead a tool for his family to use in order to maintain their wealth and social status. This starts to make his views of the world and his family more depressive as he starts to wonder if he actually loves his family, if anyone see's him as an actual human rather than a tool, and so on.

    The idea is still kind of difficult for me to put into words, so if you need any clarification, feel free to ask.
     
  12. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    Regarding specifically the technology, I would say that is similar to the Dark Ages. Therefore, prescriptions would include a healthy dose of exorcism, herbal treatments, isolation, and if you are unfortunate enough, trephination.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Can you explain why you're trying to come up with flaws for him? This feels like it may be a dangerously rule-based character development process. I think it's better when flaws come up naturally.

    Can you give a brief description of him, as you imagined him before you got to the "add some flaws" phase?

    Is that a flaw or false idea, or is it just plain true?

    I think that you are misusing the concept of depression. I would rephrase that as "...make his views of the world and his family more negative...."

    Maybe he truly doesn't love his family. Maybe his family truly doesn't love him. Maybe no one does see him as an actual human. That happens--the world is packed with dysfunctional families and I'm sure it always has been. So I don't see this as requiring depression, and I don't see it as a flaw, and I don't see it as mental illness. It may be an entirely accurate perception of his reality.

    There's a fairly famous quote here (let's see if it shows as a link or an image...):

     
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  14. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    To answer your first question, in all honesty, I feel that adding flaws is just part of checklist that I MUST follow or people won't like my story. Before the "add some flaws" phase, I imagined him as quiet, but pretty friendly. He keeps mainly to himself, if you don't include the fact that his little sister follows him almost everywhere. People outside of the small group of people he associates with may ee him as a little weird, but he doesn't mind all that much.

    To add in the belief that his family see's him as a tool, he did still feel that way sometimes, but he did understand that they just have expectations for him like any other family. That, and they live in a pretty isolated town, so it's not like they would expect him to just go off to some unfamiliar city somewhere far away.

    Now, that I think about, giving him depression probably wouldn't be a good idea. Maybe instead he's just like everyone else who sometimes feel hopeless and weary of the future.

    Actually, just writing about this makes feel a lot better about the whole mess :)
     
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  15. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But is he a totally, shining, flawlessly perfect paragon? I've never really accepted the idea that it's necessary to add some checkbox flaws to a character, or that a character's flaws have to be things that you can describe in a brief phrase. Is he brilliant, handsome, strong, the best scholar in a century and the best swordsman in a century, with women pounding at his door begging him to marry them? Or is he pretty much a reasonably nice ordinary guy?

    You say "he did still feel that way". But DO they see him as a tool? Is he right? I'm not talking purely about his feelings; his family exists, in this fictional world. What are they like? I think that you, as the author, have to decide that.

    I'm getting the vibe that you feel that of course they're good people, all families are, and any negative feelings must be some mistake on his part. But maybe they're not such good people?
     
  17. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    I don't want to make him a shining paragon or the best scholar/warrior ever. However, I do want to give him flaws that make sense for his character instead of some random flaw that has no significance to the story.

    As for your second question, I was planning to have maybe some of his family like that. Yet, I do wonder what would happen if I instead made most of his family this way, including his immediate family.

    Let me know your thoughts on this: One very significant relationship in Solja's (the main character) life is his relationship with his mother. His mother wasn't born into the middle-class unlike this father, therefore, maybe she doesn't want for Solja to be used as a tool. However, she knows that it is needed if she wants to not have to struggle financially like she did before getting married to Solja's father. As a result, she allows the rest of the family to treat him like a tool rather than a human. Furthermore, not only does this obviously have a negative impact on the mother-son relationship, but it confirms that Solja's thoughts are true.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think I need more details on how they treat him like a tool, and how she enables that.
     
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  19. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    By that, I mean they just see him as a means of maintaining their wealth and status rather than an individual. Additionally, if he has any hopes and dreams aside from the expectations set for him, they must be destroyed immediately.
     
  20. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    Sounds a bit like my female MC's family, except for Tracey, it's the other way round - her mother sees her as an object and father and bro have no idea until later in the story. Don't know about Solja, but Tracey doesn't put up with that BS and gives her mother the Middle finger and runs off with the protag instead. :-D :bigtongue:

    I agree with @ChickenFreak that it sounds more like Solja's family is the problem, rather than a common, but often misunderstood mental health problem, but if you do wish to pursue asthma as a reason for emotional suppression, it only takes a Google search to get these links:
    https://www.quora.com/How-was-asthma-treated-in-the-Middle-Ages

    This one gives a much more detailed history of asthma and allergy treatment from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance (possibly even further, but I stopped reading at that point because I knew it wasn't particularly relevant):
    https://www.achooallergy.com/learning/a-history-of-allergies-and-asthma-part-two-the-middle-ages-and-the-renaissance/

    Apparently, some doctors thought that eating young frogs would help o_O :
    https://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Woman/Your-life/Monstrous-medieval-medicines-20130812

    And here's a link to Asthma UK which proves that emotion (although more common in women, kids and teens) is an asthma trigger:
    https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/emotions/

    Nowt quite like knowing that laughter/anger/stress can and will cause major breathing difficulties to temper those emotions. :bigwink:

    Again, if those treatments/meals are considered to work, Solja could refuse to eat them, or choose to eat what he knows is considered to bring on an asthma attack.

    Oh! I've just remembered a treatment that actually does work and was most definitely available in the Dark Ages - steam! Breathing in the vapours of boiling water relaxes the airway (as well as easing nasal and chest congestion).

    Of course, given his family consider him as a tool, it could be that they consider emotional outbursts as something to be frowned upon, and therefore Solja doesn't need a condition at all to explain his emotional suppression - but I imagine that, whatever other hold they have on him, he'd simply rebel and permit himself to feel those emotions - simply because he'd instinctively know his family are in the wrong.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  21. DeeDee

    DeeDee Senior Member

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    I bet 9o % of the recently submitted books written by first time writers these days have a character with depression in them. I think that starts to get a bit repetitive after a short while :sleepy:
     
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  22. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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  23. Andi. Just Andi.

    Andi. Just Andi. Active Member

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    Giving Solja asthma would give a medical reason as to why he has to surpress his emotions. However, I think I will instead simply have strong emotional outbursts be taboo within the family.

    Yet, I am debating whether or not he would rebel. Maybe he did rebel against that taboo when he was younger, but he learned that it was better to just go along with his family's expectations. . .for now, at least. :bigwink:
     
  24. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale hostis humani generis Contributor

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    Giving a character depression as a "flaw" is going to change every little bit of your story, it's not some minor little "oh, and another thing" kjnd of character trait like hair color or a crooked pinky. When nonexistence (not necessarily suicide, just a desire not to be) seems like as valid an option as chicken or fish when the flight attendant tells you your seatmate got the last chicken, it puts a whole different spin on a travel story.
     
  25. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    I'm very much in agreement with @ChickenFreak that adding flaws as a separate part of the character creation process is not the most effective way to get a well-rounded character. You say you want a character whose traits makes sense together, so consider this: every positive trait a character has potentially has a dark side. For example, a character who's funny probably hurts people's feelings sometimes. A character who's ambitious can probably be ruthless, while a character who's easy-going might be lazy or always in a rut. A character who's cheerful will grate on people in a bad mood. A character who works and studies hard might not know how to relax. And so on.

    Try looking at your character from the perspective of people who aren't him. He's quiet but friendly; however, quiet people are often perceived as unfriendly even if they don't mean to come off that way. You say people see him as weird, but that it doesn't bother him--alright, so to someone who's a traditionalist and expects people to behave normally, he's going to look like a delinquent who only cares about his own opinion.

    Negative traits usually have a positive flip side, too. Sounds like he's obsessive, which obviously can be destructive... but obsessive people can also be passionate and determined.

    My point is, there is no need to think of a character in terms of their "good traits" and their "bad traits." If you've gone to the effort of making them feel realistic, they should naturally be multifaceted.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018

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