1. Floran Bailey

    Floran Bailey Member

    May 11, 2018
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    Returning to abuse - is the motive good enough?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Floran Bailey, Aug 26, 2018.

    So I'm reworking an old story concept from way back in my cringe phase and I realized that by 'improving' the characterization and plot according to my current standards I had chopped out a good chunk of the "protagonists" motivations for doing a lot of less than great things (like serial murder and being an anti-social dick to people in general)

    Currently the story goes that she was (basically) locked in a cell, deprived of contact with the outside world and tortured intermittently for ~13 years by her mother, a cult leader, as mandated by her mothers religion. She's essentially made to know little else besides pain and darkness for pretty much the entirety of her childhood. (Basically an Omelas scenario)

    The issue is, when she escapes she lacks the psychological and linguistic development to understand or process what she went through and doesn't know hardly anything about her mothers cult aside from what the temple looks like. She's taken in by her father who is completely ill-equipped to help her in any meaningful way outside of trying to show her affection, something she doesn't understand and at first rejects out of fear.

    Contrast with the first draft where the torture and scape goat elements are still there but she's older and able to understand and process things fully, wasn't confined to a single room and was actually raised to be part of the church hierarchy. She understands the ins and outs of how the cult functions and in order to survive within the system she's had to become extremely sociopathic. She still has a full range of emotions (if anything she experiences negative ones much more intensely) and has some stunted sense of empathy, but most, if not all her actions are motivated by hate for her abuser. She's excellent at manipulating people, is fairly intelligent and has enough self control to prevent herself from being caught out (but has a tendency to fly into a self-destructive rage when things don't go her way) and plans to destroy her mothers cult from the inside out and she doesn't care how many lives are lost in the process and is extremely monomaniacal.

    Her new version (whose role was reduced to make room for other plot elements) isn't in a state where she understands how what was done to her is abnormal and is mostly just traumatized and scared and protective of people she views as her in-group. Whereas her older version would reject any form of support or affection because she can't afford to have any exploitable weaknesses and is a dick to anyone that tries to help her, her newer version doesn't think that far ahead and likes to form attachments to people once she gets to a point where she can trust them but doesn't have a clear idea of who her mother is and why she was hurt in the first place. For plot reasons she needs to grow to become like the old version, but I just can't see that naturally occurring after she's been removed from the abusive situation and forms attachments to other people. Currently I have her experience what a 'normal' life is like and she how normal children act and how normal parents care for them and from that realize how completely fucked up her childhood was and how disgusting her mother was, at which point she decides to get revenge.

    Which I think isn't as strong a motivator as her prior version had and because she's already formed attachments to people she's not going to destroy that, because they're not in the cult and her mom doesn't have control over them and so doesn't seem like some inescapable threat, which would prevent her from becoming so monomaniacal as she knows she can do what she wants as long as it's not within the city of Avolon.

    However if for some reason she were moved back into Avolon due to her vulnerable and plastic psychological state she could very easily be warped by her mother into becoming like her previous version and she'd also have knowledge of the outside world and a desire to protect that way of life, which would only further motivate her to not only kill her mother but also work to take down the organization from the inside out, and if that meant she had to become an abusive monster herself that's fine because she'd view herself as a lost cause anyway and any lives she destroyed would pale in comparison to the amount she saved once the empire crumbled.

    The issue then becomes finding compelling motivation for her to return to that kind of environment. Do you think she should return voluntarily or attempt to assassinate her mother, fail and get re-captured or something else entirely? I'm afraid ether option makes her appear stupid. What could I do to give her a compelling motivation to return?

    Sorry if that was a bit long.
  2. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Active Member

    Feb 17, 2018
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    The first iteration of the character seems very sound to me and I like it; it's complex and contains all the elements one would expect.
    I worked with deeply troubled and abused kids for a short while and I recognise some of the traits you describe.
    The only motivation I can think of that would work to draw her back to Avalon might be pure pathological hatred, you have already stated that a relationship would not do it, financial greed might but would a person in that state be able to sustain that level of greed and would it be believable? hmm. dunno.
    Other motivations could be a lust for power, but that probably doesn't sit well with the destructive ambition, although it might be made to perhaps? - then it would be very self destructive as well, which might not be out of place in fact.
    In any event it should be very interesting to write!

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