1. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    Little things that indicate my MC’s emotional development?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Marius Av, Mar 17, 2020.

    I’m writing in first-person. My MC (21) lost her emotions in her childhood. In the main story, she tries to get them back in various ways. However, I don’t want it to feel rushed, like she got them all of a sudden in three or four chapters, but slow and steady throughout the book.

    What little things could make her character evolution be natural? I’m talking gestures, involuntary reactions, different responses in normal conversations, the way she treats people etc. She spends most of her time with only her mother and her two best friends, one which she will later fall in love with.

    Some background: she murdered two people before. Even after she recovers her feelings, she won't tell anyone. Her boyfriend finds out on his own. She is a bit secretive even after that. Her true personality that will unfold later? Caring, a kind person to be around with. She understands people better than before and can relate to them (as a psychology student).

    I still think I did a good enough job with my MC so far, but good enough will never be enough for me. :)
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Since your MC is also your POV character, as you're writing in First Person, your strongest weapon will be what's inside her head ...not her gestures or what she says. Make use of what she thinks as events are unfolding.

    What is the framework here? Is the story about her being able to gain (or regain) the ability to empathise with people? Or to feel hurt, excitement, disappointment, anger, love? Does she remember how she used to feel about things?

    As I was writing that, something occurred to me. What if she were to be confronted with something FROM her childhood ...something from back when her emotions weren't frozen? If that 'something' appeared unexpectedly? Sometimes a blast from the past can trigger emotions. I know that can happen with me. I hear a particular song, or experience a particular odor ...and bang, I'm right back there again. Odor is a particularly strong one, because it is almost totally subjective. It's fairly easy to block feelings about objective things ...thinking about certain people, consciously remembering certain events, etc. Your head has control over that kind of remembering. But suddenly ...that smell ... and you're right back where it all happened.
     
  3. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    The story is about her being able to feel emotions again (like the ones you listed). She remembers too little about her early years when she knew what emotions were like. I like what you said in the last paragraph! Turns out I've developed an idea like this, but failed to mention it.

    Daria (MC) lives in Orlando, but she did occasionally visit Romania waay back then, where her best friend lived his life. She had true feelings at that time. Something happened (Daria doesn't know what), but they were separated. They only talked online since then. With good reasons, he tells her that he will move to Orlando to study there. My point is, when they meet again and again, she's hit with that spark and she changes for good, being overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions, without knowing how to control them.

    I've also used this most, if not all the time:
    It's a great weapon for sure. I thought maybe there were others available. :p (like other characters telling her that she's changing a bit)
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    You should research the psychology behind why people lose touch with their emotions. I don't know much about that, but one culprit would be PTSD. I would find a lot of info and actual case histories and testimonials as you can. Rading what people have written about their own experiences, maybe on message boards dedicated to healing form that particular malady, would provide lots of ideas.

    I would think, if you go with PTSD, that her mode would have to be either freeze or flgith, because if she were a Fight she'd be aggressive and always getting in peoples faces. Well, maybe she is like that, I don't know. But these are the strategies people will use to block out emotions after a traumatic incident.

    Was there ever a time whn you expeirenced something similar? I know I largely lost touch wth my emotions after my mom died. I didn't really realize it, but at some point during her 5 year sickness I shut off in order to be her rock or stability, to giver her a strong shouldet as it were. I became that rock inside, and it lasted for a few years after her death. I mean, I was able to experience other emotions, but grief and happiness were locked off. I was only vaguely aware of it, and most of the time not at all really. Though I did realize now and then that I hadn't really laughed or smiled big in a long time. Just those little snorts of mild laughter and faint smiles. And the grief I should have felt at her passing seemed to be completely absent (though that was a complicated issue due to our troubled relationship).

    Then one day I was working on solving a problem. It involved getting a camera to work in a certain mode that I needed it to work in, and after a long struggle I suddenly found the information I needed and was able to get it working. I think the rush of triumphant joy broke my long stasis and I found myself laughing uncontrollably for way too long, like a child experiencing extreme bliss. Well, I was experiencing it, as if it had been locked away and stored inside (rather than actually missing) and now the floodgates had broken open.

    After like ten minutes of laughing like a happy idiot with tears streaming down my face it mutated into crying and I was wracked by deep sobs. Now all the stored-up grief I didn't allow to the surface for like 7 years rose up and exploded out of me in one huge cathartic rush. The whole thing took like a half an hour or so, and afterwards I felt like I had gone through some kind of amazing therapy that left me rejuvenated.

    I think it happens like that for a lot of people, and afterwars they return to normal, which could be a gradual process, especially if they locked off their emotions at an early age and hadn't reached maturity yet.

    You could have her (before she reconnects) show signs of being emotionally immature, little semi-tantrums, demanding to get her way, her face twitching perhaps unknown to her as if she's about to cry when people disagree with her etc. And afterwards she stops doing those things and shows more responsibility and maturity. Lol, great answer huh? She could show more maturity by showing more maturity. Well, aside form that one I hope there are some things you can use in there.
     
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  5. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Oh and I just remembered, often a traumatic experience actually does halt a person's emotional and mental development, so it's like they stop maturing until they get over the trauma. So she culd still be in a frozen stage of growth through most of the story, acting years younger than she actually is. People might even get angry at times and tell her that.
     
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  6. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    Have her start noticing colors, or smells. Little things like that. Then have her stop and notice a colorful dress in the store and buy it on a whim, and have people comment on the fact that they've never seen her wear color.

    In her dialogue, have he start out brusque, matter of fact and short. As the story progresses, have her start making more attempts to add emotion to her voice and dialogue. Have her try to make jokes and them go over like a lead balloon as people are not used to her joking so take it at face value.
     
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  7. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've found that when people feel after having not felt things in a long time it's scary to them. Actually terrifying as they now see it as a loss of control. So she might try avoiding anything that makes her feel - and sentiment, nostalgia, is different for everyone so I would try to link things to her past. Scent is huge in memories, sounds, music, I'm from Canada so the way the light looks on certain days makes me nostalgic for my childhood.

    Anger and edginess might be her initial emotions as she tries to hide the changes within her and hide back in the comfort of her muffled numbness.
     
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  8. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    Another thing, if she was depressed, she may not have memories of certain time periods in her life. It is pretty common for people who have had severe depression to look back and be able to say they have almost no memories from a certain time.
     
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  9. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    Actually, yes. But I would rather talk about that in a private message later on, if you'd like to know about my experiences. :) Thank you for the long and elaborate response!


    Interesting. So I should start by making her a bit immature, doing unexpected things and thinking differently, on a subtle level. Of course, it all depends on me, but I'm grateful nonetheless!

    The bit about her trying to avoid anything that makes her feel - I did not think about that! Looks like a great idea, I'll see about it.

    She barely remembers anything about her distant past. It's because the only way for her to heal was to forget everything. I figured it like this: the separation was a trauma for her, but it wasn't the only reason she lost the ability to feel emotions. It's a secret detail I've yet to establish myself for the sequel. :confused:
     
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  10. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    Not immature per se, just have her start noticing things and acting on things she never cared about before. Before she was emotionally dead and didn't care, as she starts to care, she starts to be more interested in the things going on around her.
     
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  11. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    The ideas for this are best if they come from you.

    But I would recommend some research into Psychology and since it's first person, make her thoughts change gradually. Sometimes one big event changes us and sometimes it lots of little events that continue to back up something we've experienced. This then convinces us our belief is correct.
    Example: You're always there for the people around you, then when something big happens in your life, they aren't interested in supporting you the way you do them. Then it happens again. Different situation, different people, but you didn't feel as supported as you wanted to be. This starts backing up the idea that people fail to be there for you when you need them. Symptoms start to manifest. You don't "waste your time" listening to others anymore. You don't trust people or bother to let people in when you're struggling because they don't care. So you list the symptoms of these experiences. Now you want to reverse them.
     
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  12. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I meant that if you've experienced it yourself, the best thing would be to look inside and find inspiration in your own experiences. If possible that's the best way to handle such a situation.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I agree. This means your outlook will be unique to you, not a copy of somebody else's experiences. And that's what makes every writer potentially fantastic. You will have a perspective that nobody else has.

    However, it's also a good idea, I reckon, not to stick too closely to the actual facts and events that you experienced. This isn't a diary, it's a piece of fiction—and just rehashing what happened to you is not really likely to bring any kind of catharsis. You just get stuck on the same old merry-go-round.

    Instead, don't be afraid to create very different situations for your character to experience. But as you do that ...bring YOUR own expertise into play. If you were in that character's shoes, what would you be doing? Knowing—as you do—what it's like to lose the ability to feel and express emotions? And maybe to regain them eventually?
     
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  14. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    ^^ Yes! It's also a good idea to correlate your own experiences with those of other people who might have experienced similar things but with some differences. That's why I shared my own experience here, so you can compare and contrast it with your own and any others you might receive or find.

    Closely related to what @jannert said, it's usually not a good idea to have a character be a vehicle to write about symptoms or characteristics of some emotional or mental issue or condition. Feel free to use such symptoms, but you do need to make a good character that will function properly in the context of a story. Most emotional/mental conditions that I'm aware of make people sort of 'stuck' or in some way impair their ability to grow or change and to relate in some ways with other people. which if written realistically would probably make for pretty dull characters. I find that much of my psychological information needs to be tempered in order to create good characters.
     
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