1. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    Male Character Dealing with Past Demons

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lorne Nettles, May 6, 2019.

    I'm working on a short story in which the protagonist is a 35 year-old male. He's been living with his girlfriend for a few years. They have recently split up and he's moving into the basement of his mother's house.

    The break-up occurred because of some behavioral changes (maybe delayed PTSD). He's now dealing with some grief, shame, and anger about an abortion an ex had 15 years prior. He was the father and he advocated heavily for the termination of the pregnancy.

    I want to capture how his feelings are being expressed and seen by others. Can anyone share some thoughts on how his actions might look to a girlfriend as he begins to isolate or or become easily annoyed. The character has gone to 2 therapy sessions in the recent past, but stopped because the emotions felt too overwhelming to him.
     
  2. GrJs

    GrJs Member

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    I think you need to do some serious research on mental health issues before you begin to plan to write this. To begin with, why does he have PTSD? PTSD comes from people being in a highly traumatic situation, an abortion he advocated for would not cause PTSD. Extreme regret, self disgust maybe, stuff along those lines, but not PTSD.

    But in that case what caused the regret to come up now? Did he want kids with his current girlfriend and she doesn't them? What happened to change his mind on the matter? What were his circumstances then vs now that made him say the baby needs to go? What was he like when he advocated for the abortion vs what he is like now?

    Do extremely in-depth research on everything you want to write about in this story, because it's hard to tell if you actually know anything about these subjects at all. And contemplate your characters more. Obviously he's probably going to spiral into depression which does lead to isolating behaviours and irritability in some cases. But his personality and behaviour has to come from you. Put yourself in her situation and think about how you would see that situation. But really do some research. The reason you're having difficultly determining how it would look to another person is probably because you don't know how it would look to the person experiencing it.
     
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  3. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This raised a red flag for me. It suggests that you might not have thought through everything connected with his past. For this kind of character, you need to do that. I completely agree with @GrJs--research is paramount. You need to put him in the situation that caused the PTSD in your own mind (maybe write a separate character sketch that won't be part of your story, but will inform what you know about him) and then go from there.

    Good luck. You'll probably learn a lot.
     
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  4. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    thanks for the feedback! i did research prior to posting here and there are plenty of websites indicating that men begin to suffer from PTSD symptoms on average about 15 years after this type of event. i was simply asking for ways a man might behave with a partner when he's dealing with guilt, shame, anger, etc. i asked to get additional ideas. i have plenty of my own so i'll stick with them.
     
  5. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    thanks! i've got a character sketch and i have researched. i was just hoping for a tidbit from someone else in how he might display his behaviors to others. i'll stick with that i have.
     
  6. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    Well, post traumatic stress (for me) feels like this: Imagine constantly feeling as though you're in mortal danger, wanting to fight something that isn't there any more or worse, something that there was never any way to fight against to start with. The world feels small and dark and dangerous. Sometimes it's like your soul is curled up in a ball inside you, just screaming in terror, and sometimes it feels like it's gone away completely.

    There's a fair amount of standing still, staring at things other people can't see, jumping at little noises and so on.

    The thing is, extreme stress and grief can manifest very similarly to PTSD and be mistaken for it, even by professionals, as I recently found out, so that might be what your man has.

    It even comes with hallucinations; I spent a fair amount of last week running in to old friends who weren't there- who couldn't possibly be there- and who I know I'll never see again. Honestly, I could have reached out and touched them. I could hear their voices, you know? It was like I was getting one last chance to spend time with them. A gift, maybe.

    Hmm. Anyway, your man there is in for a rough ride. He'll probably cry a lot, occasionally look confused or lost, be pretty jumpy and be constantly very tired.
     
  7. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    thanks a ton! this was very helpful and exactly the type of insight i was looking for.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Do you have any links? Because that just doesn't sound right.
     
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  9. GrJs

    GrJs Member

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    So I went and did a little research myself and found a few resources I think might help with your question on behaviour. Next time definitely add that you're talking about a specific kind of PTSD, in this case Abortion PTSD, as I found the symptoms are a little different from each other. Abortion PTSD being more focused on the immense grief feelings probably closer to survivors guilt. The lack of clarification on what kind of PTSD he had lead to me misinterpreting what you said and thus I assumed he was just going to have PTSD just cause it's one more thing to pile on someone because it's not currently enough to just have them immersed in self loathing and depression.

    Which is, unfortunately, something people do. You know those stories where a character is sad because their family is dead and because of that they must be depressed and because of that they must have PTSD as well and because they have PTSD they must have symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and so on and so forth until they have all the mental afflictions that would land someone in a Psyche ward but they're perfectly functional humans until they have what every character calls 'an episode'.

    Anyway, here's a few links that may help with the behavioural aspects:

    http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/rlp-2008-the-hollow-men-male-grief-and-trauma-following-abortion.cfm

    https://www.abortiongrief.asn.au/documents/men-and-abortion-trauma.pdf
    Pages 4-5

    https://www.abortiongrief.asn.au/abortion-trauma.php
    Down to the Common Triggering Events section

    https://revealmosaic.com/mosaic-phc-blog/what-are-the-effects-of-abortion-on-men/
     
  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Everyone has been really helpful here, but given the nature of the topic, I just want to give a quick reminder that responses should only address the nature of the symptoms the character might experience and not the morality or lack thereof of the act of abortion itself. Links to authoritative sources are greatly appreciated.
     
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  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It doesn't appear that male post-abortion PTSD is a very accepted concept. The fact that the disorder itself may not exist makes it hard to discuss what symptoms the character might experience.

    @Lorne Nettles , I'm posting this in case you didn't realize that there was any doubt on this point. If you realize this and have chosen your view, I'm not here to stop you. But if you mainly just want a realistic reason for PTSD, in a plot not primarily about abortion, a different PTSD cause might serve that goal better.
     
  12. Ma'am

    Ma'am Banned Supporter

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    To be honest, this whole scenario wouldn't ring true to me at all.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
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  13. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    I think the issue with PTSD is that it has to come from an unresolved fight-or-flight scenario in which either you or another was in danger. It's difficult to see how it could result from a situation which the individual wished to happen and was not afraid of at the time. I think what the guy could realistically have is a shit-tonne of retrospective grief.
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That would make more sense to me as well. Lots of people experience delayed grief or remorse for something they did or didn't do in the past. That's not the same thing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, it's probably the opposite. People suffering delayed grief or remorse regret that they HAD some control at the time of the incident, but either misused it or just let bad stuff happen because it was the easiest course of action. Later in life, they realise they should have done things differently.

    The person who suffers trauma, on the other hand, probably didn't have control over the inciting situation at all—which is very scary for them, even in retrospect. They may develop fear that they'll be put in that kind of helpless situation again.

    Of course there can be some overlap, I imagine ...but in general, I would say your character is experiencing delayed grief and remorse. That's a bit easier to write about, I reckon, and probably doesn't require a lot of research. It's' not a clinical disorder, like PTSD. Just put yourself in the man's shoes, imagine what he felt like 'then' and how he feels 'now.'
     
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  15. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    thank you! i will use these links. thanks again for taking a look at it.
     
  16. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    this is very good feedback! thanks for taking time to reply!
     
  17. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    thanks for your honest feedback! i find your thoughts helpful.
     
  18. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    super helpful response. thanks so much!
     
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  19. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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  21. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    Let me ask this. Situation is: car accident, woman driving is pregnant. She is killed along with her unborn child by "drunk driver". So DA prosecutes the drunk driver for murder-x 2. Now the DA looks back and he had pushed for an abortion with a girlfriend. Would that cause him to reflect and maybe cause him issues, dilemma?
     
  22. Friederich Kugelschreiber

    Friederich Kugelschreiber i can edit this now Contributor

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    Possibly, depending on the person. People are pretty thick-skulled, though, especially drunk drivers, probably, so it seems equally unlikely. I wouldn't have a problem with it as a reader. However, I would foreshadow such a change somehow to make sure it wasn't coming out of a blue left field.
     
  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    My suggestion: Read Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants. Then write your short story as the sequel that takes place 15 years later. It's just a idea, but it could be an interesting jumping off spot. I would totally read that.
     
  24. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    So just to address this part, there are people I know who believe therapy will work for them, but know 'it will get worse before it gets better' - having to work through a lot and bring up a lot of buried feelings before you can begin to find improvement in your life which, as you said, can be overwhelming and they therefore stopped going to therapy. Not because they didn't think it would help but because they couldn't afford to let themselves fall apart enough at that point in their lives to let the therapy work. E.g. they couldn't take time off work for stress, there were family members who needed their support at that point and letting themselves work through what they needed to would have required really just taking time for themselves to work through it.

    Again I will emphasise, this is all different for every individual and the therapist / therapy technique they are using, it isn't universal by any means. For some people, they try therapy and just don't feel it has a benefit for them (again, this is very individual - some might try one therapist they don't get on with and call it quits, others might try lots of therapists and different methods, possibly medication etc and just not find anything that really helps). However, while some might be sympathetic to this and understand how much of a toll therapy can take, others might interpret it as procrastination (when will there ever be a good time to take a break from everything), or avoidance and just not really wanting to deal with it, or apathy and a lack of a willingness to fight for yourself.

    How far is he willing to explain that he finds the therapy overwhelming? How much does he shut down any conversation about going back because explaining it is overwhelming can be overwhelming in itself? People might find it irritating, others might find it worrying, others might even think there is something selfless in it that he is trying to carry on and work and support others over helping himself. So it also depends on the views and personalities of the people interacting with him.

    He might feel guilty for being irritable and snappy, which makes him feel even worse and in turn more irritable. The people around him might walk on eggshells because they don't know what will cause him to snap at them, they might try to cheer him up but the things he used to love he is uninterested in. It could become frustrating and worrying for them that they don't know how to help him, it could feel hurtful that he is taking his feelings out on them and that he doesn't seem to open up to them any more.

    As the others said, research is your best bet here - try and find as many real life stories and testimonies as you can.
     

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