1. 33percent

    33percent Active Member

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    How can you show a character change after being he/she forced to kill someone?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by 33percent, Nov 25, 2017.

    In the story, the MC is forced into multiple pvp combat in an arena, kill or be killed situation for example; gladiator type of fights. Which is far different from in modern wartime shooting the enemy miles away versus during ancient times face to face brutal combat. I've been doing brainstorming how I can show the psychological side effects of the MC after killing someone. I'm not talking about PTSD, but a transition from personality change as well, since being forced under such extreme measures of survival. Just seems nowadays, with movies(hunger games), GoT, books, video games MC killing some other expendable character is more streamlined. As if it's normal everyday activity as getting a coffee. It's that crossing that line of innocents to the unknown darkness of never be able to return I want to show. Does anyone have ideas?

    The best way I show the character change. Where before MC at the beginning of the story he wasn't confident but timid, having more anxiety. As the story progresses, after killing someone his personality changes somewhat opposite where he is more bold, daring, angry, chaotic and risk-taking. The MC emotions are all over the place being pushed to the extreme. One moment he is angry, bold, eager to kill as if its becoming normal then the next wanting to kill himself, not wanting to live. I don't know if anyone has shown a change in their MC after killing another character in their book?
     
  2. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    I actually cover the same idea in my story, although my MC is quite the opposite in terms of personality at both points you described (before and after killing). In the beginning, she is more reckless and outgoing, however she doesn't really understand the concept of killing someone else, having come from an isolated culture with low population and no recent history of war or violence. She is backed into a corner in a hopeless situation, and she is forced to kill not just one, but several people in succession. Rather than becoming more reckless, she actually becomes very timid and withdrawn, avoiding contact with most other people including even her brother, and goes out of her way to avoid confronting her decisions. Her brother, who used to be the "weaker" and less assertive of the two, sees his sister's declining mental state, and gains the strength to support her and help her back to her feet.

    In all honesty, since I don't know what it means to kill someone or the effects of committing such an act, it's really hard to say what the exact process is for coping with it or how the mind changes during the process. I'd like to think that, with just about everything else, it's different for everyone. Some might never be able to live with themselves, while others might lose their touch with that innocence they had before the killing. Maybe others don't seem to change at all, and cling on to their beliefs and ideals from before, until the consequences of their choice become too great to tuck away in the back of their mind.

    In terms of your portrayal, I personally think the best way to show any major change in a character's mental state, is through their interactions with other characters, especially those close to that character, because the will be impacted the most by those changes. I can imagine the magnitude of taking another life for the first time would be pretty significant on both the mc and their closest friends and loved ones.
     
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.

    Thomas De Quincy
     
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  4. Antaus

    Antaus Active Member

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    To be honest it all really depends on the type of person the MC was before the change. The same thing can affect different people in different ways. As what what you were saying about shows like GoT and so on killing people like getting a cup of coffee. It's not really intended to make the act of killing someone seem like it has no effect. The thing is you have to understand the world and culture that these people come from. In GoT it's very much a kill or be killed world and many of the characters have grown up seeing people killed around them. Then they had to do the same at some point. They likely were different people before they started killing, but they're physiologically conditioned to accept this as a part of life. That's not to say it can't still affect them though, because being forced to kill a friend or loved one can still haunt them. Killing strangers is easier however because you have no personal connection to them.

    Now as to the effects a character can go through after being forced to kill, a lot of people don't know how to deal with it at first and will often ignore it, not think about it, try to distract themselves. I have a character that was forced into a situation where he had to kill two soldiers in order to survive, his first two kills, and he was haunted by it for a good while. Later on he, as a soldier himself, was ordered by the king to lead a troop of soldiers and massacre an entire village in a neighboring kingdom, as retaliation for an attack against a member of the royal house that nearly killed them. He was so angry over the attack at the time he carried out the order, but later on it nearly broke him because he helped slaughter everyone, men, women, even children. The slaughter of the village was something he never truly recovered from, but later on he learned to accept it and move on. Part of the reason behind this was because of the kingdom he came from.

    They are very militant and aggressive in nature, and have had a long standing policy that war is par for the course. However, attacking a member of the royal house, there can only be one response to that and it must come in blood, so that others know assaulting the royal house directly will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The king explained to the MC that it was meant to teach others, to instill fear in them so they royals wouldn't be attacked like that again. So by his actions he helped keep the royal house secure, and by extension served both the people and the kingdom by maintaining stability. That's not an exact quote, but you get the point. As I stated earlier the MC was able to move past the event, and the pain faded in later years, it he never entirely got over what happened.
     
  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I think you absolutely could be: being forced to kill is every bit as traumatizing to a normal person as almost being killed is.

    PTSD doesn't stem from the exact trauma itself as much as how powerless the person felt during and continues to feel after the trauma, and a large part of that powerlessness is about whether or not the person feels that they can count on others to take care of them when they need support.
     
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  6. ddavidv

    ddavidv Senior Member

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    If you watch the first few season of The Walking Dead you will see multiple different personality types react differently to the stresses of what is essentially civilians in a war environment. For me, this character development over time is what has made it worth watching.

    There certainly is not one answer to the question posed by the OP.

    One of my books is about a female MC who has to kill or be killed. The first two guys she 'offs' happen quickly and she really doesn't have time to reflect about it. When she takes out her nemesis she enters a dreamy, trance-like state. A small part of her delights in ridding the world of someone evil.

    Subsequently she struggles with the morality of it as she is not a sociopath. That sliver of herself that cheered when she killed the bad guy frightens her. In the sequel I actually have her seeking help from a therapist.

    My MC sort of flip-flops from fearing that part of her that can kill so readily to embracing it (and ultimately being hired as a sort-of reluctant assassin). Any character that struggles with it but does the job when necessary is an interesting conflict. A character that can just kill indiscriminately isn't going to be likable--and would probably be a sociopath.
     
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  7. 33percent

    33percent Active Member

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    You do have a good point with walking dead, showing the transition of the characters of becoming darker, sinister throughout the seasons just to survive. I guess it would be PTSD but on a different level than what I was talking about. I do like how other people showed their MC development after war/military situations. Just wanted to show the character changes after killing someone and I guess dark side takes over. Yeah, just little things that MC does, normally he would not do before actually killing someone. Regarding their personality changes over time as for their actions. As if MC killing a human is no from different killing a deer, the humanity gutted from him.
     
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  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

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    You might find some insights in David Grossman's book On Killing,
     
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  9. WhiteKnight75

    WhiteKnight75 Member

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    I do think you could very well be looking at mild PTSD here. Being forced to kill someone definitly qualifies as trauma.
    I can only speak from my own experiences but I do think, that changes is personality after a traumatic event are very plausible.
     
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  10. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Okay, this is kind of morbid. But I wrote the same themes. And what I did to get the character right after killing someone is seriously watch a documentary where they interviewed Russian prisoners serving life sentences for murder. It was a very haunting and fascinating watch.

    It might seem like a boring thing to watch, but if you pay attention to it, it will be a very scary reveal on how killing effects a person.

     
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