1. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2009
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    I feel stupid for asking but....

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by sprirj, Apr 26, 2011.

    ... I have a bit of a paradox/loophole/plot hole. I don't expect you guys to write my story for me but maybe there is a stone unturned somewhere?

    So my MC lost his memory and gets caught up in doing something bad. He is an anti-hero anyway but the thing he does is terrible. This terrible thing brings back memories and he pieces back together his past. But why would the MC do something really terrible to begin with, not knowing it would have this effect?

    Are there any solutions? Why would you do something illegal?
  2. TheGreatNeechi

    TheGreatNeechi New Member

    Apr 18, 2011
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    Warminster, PA.
    Change of heart? Compelled by military command? An uncontrollable rage? Confronted with a perceived threat? Drug abuse? Alcohol abuse? Posession?

    I could go on.
  3. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

    Mar 12, 2011
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    New York
    Well I don't know how much of your story you've written so far, but...

    Reasons I would do something terrible:

    For my kids lives
    To keep a roof over my kids heads and food in their stomachs if I had no other option
    For my own life
    To prevent someone else from doing something more terrible
    If I was a drug addict (I'm not :p)
  4. katica

    katica New Member

    Jun 7, 2009
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    If he literally remembered nothing and was in the middle of doing this bad thing when he lost his memory and had a partner that kept asking him why he was stalling and not going through with it, he might keep going out of a confusion to understand what is happening around him. Hope that makes sense.
  5. Arathald

    Arathald New Member

    Mar 11, 2011
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    We can't answer this for your character. We don't know him, so we don't know why he would do anything. It sounds like you don't know your character well enough, either. You need to learn what his core motivations are, and understand that just about everything he does eventually comes back to those -- the other aspects of his personality determine *how* those motivations manifest themselves.

    Example: One of my characters, Benjamin, is very strongly motivated to protect those whom he loves. An incident early in the story makes him worry about his little brother, who tends to be kind of irresponsible. This is the basis of his actions. Benjamin has an anger problem, so these motivations manifest themselves as getting very mad at his brother when he comes home and finds a party going on. Was Benjamin right to get so mad? No, but his negative reaction doesn't make him a bad person and stems *directly* from his innermost motivations, being flavored by his other personality aspects.

    You need to really get to know your character to be able to analyze him like this. Interview him, talk to him, ask him what his motivations are, what is most dear to him. One technique that I learned is to keep asking him deeper and deeper "why" questions -- "Why did you do that?" "<answer>" "Why was that important to you?", and so on. When he finally just throws up his hands and can't give you an answer as to why something is important or significant ("It just is!"), then you've discovered a deep inner motivation.

    Another technique for getting to know your character is to write a short story about him in the first person; this will help you really get into his head. If you've ever acted, this is the exact same thing as getting into a character.
  6. psychotick

    psychotick Contributor Contributor

    Feb 10, 2011
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    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Amnesia is an interesting condition and there are several different varieties. The most common form is usually known as temporary amnesia, and one of its traits is that people remain fairly true to who they are. They may not remember that they like certain things but they do. They also retain skills and knowledge. For example they may not remember reading Shakespear but often enough they know the plays. So given this scenario why would your character do something bad? Because he is a bad person to begin with. (Of course remember that the human psyche is a very complex and little understood thing, and there are many different types of amnesia.)

    Alternatively if he wasn't, then you've introduced some sort of personality change, which can be associated with amnesia, possibly due to a physical head injury, in which case you once more have your answer.

    I'd recommend reading up a little on amnesia and also personality change associated with trauma. There's quite a lot of stuff on the net, and see if you can find a scenario that matches your MC.

  7. skinnydipper

    skinnydipper New Member

    Sep 2, 2010
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    If he has amnesia caused by a brain injury, anger and uncontrollable emotions can often accompany...
  8. popsicledeath

    popsicledeath Banned

    Nov 11, 2010
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    Having a character do anything, much less something 'bad', because they're 'crazy' or 'temporarily insane' or 'lost their memory' or anything like that is sort of a cop-out. What's your first reaction in real life when someone does something horrible and their defense is 'I couldn't help it!' or 'I was too drunk to even remember doing it'? Basically, it'll instantly bring up the 'yeah right' defenses of the reader.

    Yeah, these sort of things happen. People with amnesia or whatever can act out. But does that make for compelling fiction? How do you feel if you read a story where in the end you learn the character was just out of control and crazy the whole time? It's a fleeting, gimmicky sort of method.

    My advice would be that real people make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones, and them having to overcome such mistakes is often what makes drama dramatic and engaging. Why he did it, can only come from you, since it's your character and you know him best and anything any of us write will not be the same character or story.

    It all has to come from within your character, though, not from external advice or perspectives trying to explain or coerce your character into a position. Great fiction not only asks 'who would do such a thing' but answers it be giving us a character that is real and believable and can't be explained or answered any way other than understanding the inner workings of that character.

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