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  1. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    Terror

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Bishop, Feb 1, 2020.

    I have a situation in my story where two of my characters have been recently in a shooting where three people were killed. One of my characters, Jason, knew all three people very well, and he also knew the shooters. The other guy, Sawyer, was just there to tag along. He doesn't even know their names all that well. But they got out of the nightclub where the shooting had happened and are now wandering the streets of downtown at like two or three in the morning trying to find somewhere to stay for the night. I just need to know how Jason would be thinking, or more how to put that into words and behavior, after three of his friends have been shot in front of him by two more of his good friends. He was also almost killed. He suspects Sawyer had something to do with it all since he survived and the others didn't, but he had nothing to do with it. I'm just having trouble trying to figure out how to word Jason's trauma and how to specify his behavior during this time following the shooting.
     
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  2. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    Everyone responds to trauma differently, even fictional characters. Without knowing more about Jason, I think it will be difficult to make suggestions. Some general ideas:

    He might be consumed with self-guilt, as if there was something he could have done to prevent it, especially if he had invited those friends to the outing in question.
    He might relive the moments he had with those friends and feel anguish over the fact he'll never make new moments with those people.
    Or he might be relieved he did not join them in death, and perhaps that relief itself makes him feel guilty. Or not.
     
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  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Have you researched the symptoms of PTSD and survivor guilt?
     
  4. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    There would be a period of self assessment and doubt. I would think you could have some inner thought to verbalize the event in his mind. Questioning Jason with innuendos an slighted direct could also shed some light. I would start with the information that you as the author want to reveal and work from there. I think there would be a tendency to rush the facts and have them all drawn out in a paragraph, but I would spread it out over a chapter or two.
     
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  5. lonelystar

    lonelystar Active Member

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    If Jason is wondering the streets where is he looking to stay and how does he react to others? Is he rude or abrupt?
    Is there someone with him or is he alone? If he is with someone what is he saying (what the hell happened man? Was it really Johnny with the gun, why?) Or does he swear or mutter under his breath?
    Some people react to trauma with anger or violence either to themselves or others. Everything from slamming doors or smashing something or deliberately hitting their hand against a wall to physically hurting another person. What is on the street he kicks/pushes/smashes (dumpster, garbage pile, car, sign/billboard)?

    There are also the stages of grief to look at which you could look at.
     
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  6. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Terror is one of those things you can't really grasp in a single description, or even a few. It's something traumatic and the only way to show that is how it alters a person over a longer period of time. I agree with Naomasa that you should look up PTSD. Your character doesn't need PTSD but the effects of trauma are similar for everywhere immediately after the event. It's only PTSD if the person doesn't improve after a month.

    As far as in the moment? Well, a lot of people experience terror when their world view is shattered. When you don't even realize you should be concerned or scared and suddenly a dawning horror crashes on you. Which means shock, confusion, your mind failing to fully comprehend and struggling to cope...with terror I'd say all your normal coping mechanism don't work. They fail, which is why you are terrified. Things don't seem real. Your mind might recoil from reality in order to protect itself. I don't know. It sounds like this situation is so fast I'd likely have my character immediately begin recalling it over and over playing in his mind in specific detail. The face of the shooter right before they pulled the trigger, the image of the bullet going through their friend. Instant hypervigilance and distrust. Hypervigilance for example, hears a noise and immediately reacts as if it's a gun. Distrust: medics arrive and your character doesn't let them touch him, doesn't let anyone touch them.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think the amount of time it took for the shooting to take place might figure in as well. If, for example, they just walked into the nightclub and somebody shot some of them, there would probably be a lingering feeling of disbelief ...unreality ...in the survivors. If, however, they had been crouched under a table or hidden in a closet for a half hour, waiting for the guy with the gun to discover them, the terror would have built up to an excruciating level. I imagine the aftermath for each buildup would be very different.

    Adding in the guilt/uncertainty factor regarding your POV character knowing both the victims and the perpetrators would certainly figure into the aftereffects. But I don't know that 'terror' is quite the right word, if the thing happened suddenly and unexpectedly. I think it would be more shock and disbelief.
     
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  8. Nephthys

    Nephthys New Member

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    I suppose for me it would depend on Jason's personality. Is he a strong type that would immediately go to thoughts of revenge, rage? Is Jason the type to worry? Is he a paranoid type? Scared? Angry?
    There are many paths you could take this down.. I feel that there is no standard reaction to an event like this, but it would largely depend on what we already know about Jason.
    Also, the events leading up to the scenario could come into play. Being at a nightclub I also wonder, do drugs or alcohol play any role?
     
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  9. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    Yes, they're all very high during the shooting. Jason is an angry, vengeful young boy. He's 17. He's weak-minded though, and pretty physically weak as well. He overestimates himself.
     
  10. Nephthys

    Nephthys New Member

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    What are they high on?
    Going off your description of Jason, I would say his thoughts would be all over the place, probably quite dark switching between the kind of revenge he could never achieve, and paranoid fear. I'm interested in the drugs he's using though, this to me would also have an impact of his immediate mental aftermath.
     
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  11. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    He smoked a lot of weed about an hour and a half beforehand and ate some peyote a half hour before.
     
  12. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    This sounds like an excellent plot point. The possibilities you have engineered are broad and interesting. I am wondering, is Jason still in fight or flight mode? What is his goal in the hours that follow apart from finding somewhere to stay. How does that make him feel? Has this pushed him back into his bolt hole or does he maintain an air of bravado? What is his inner dialogue? Is he empathetic to the people who got shot? Jason needs to decide what he is about. For the good of the story he needs to stand up or at least wrestle with his conscience as he must be torn. Such a challenging incident would surely trigger an emotional response.
     
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  13. Nephthys

    Nephthys New Member

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    With the info of the peyote I feel like you could really have a lot of fun exploring Jason's immediate response to the event. It sort of opens doorways for you to get creative with it, but then also choosing a landing spot for his thoughts.
     
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  14. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    He was never in fight mode. He's a flighty kind of guy. He wants to be seen as a victim, he wants people to feel horrible for him, but no one really cares, which makes him feel even more helpless. It's a downward spiral with no chance of a return for him. He hides his feelings a lot, not sharing too much with people on the street who ask if he's alright. His inner dialogue is conflicting between wanting to kill someone and wanting to kill himself, and also confusion. He is destroyed emotionally about the people who got shot, they were all his good friends, including the shooters themselves. It's a pretty complex situation, as it should be. But that makes it so much more difficult for me to approach, as so many things go on at once and I want to cover them all.
     
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