Characterization is pretty difficult in any story or novel. Every character needs to be brought to life, be substantial, and most of all, realistic. The world is not perfect, and bad things often happen to good people, which is why traumatized protagonists are common in fiction. And they are universal – meaning that they can appear in romance, in science-fiction, in dramas and mystery novels. Characters that have suffered trauma, and have psychological consequences and PTSD because of it are pretty difficult to portray in a novel. There is also the added pressure from the fact that trauma is a sensitive subject and needs to be handled with the utmost respect and compassion. Below, we’ve gathered some tips on what you need to watch out for when you’re creating characters with that level of vulnerability.
1. Type of traumas
There is a difference between suffering a single traumatic event and suffering several episodes of them. They will affect your character in a different manner, but the main difference is that, depending on the level of trauma and your character’s perception, a single traumatic event can be healed easier than if your character suffered several of them. However, this doesn’t mean that a single traumatic event cannot scar a character for life, which is why perception matters. In order to glean your character’s perception of it, you need to get into his/her head and imagine the personality on both sides of the coin – with and without trauma.
2. Importance of age
Age matters when it comes to trauma. For example, an adult character who had suffered trauma when he/she was a child or teenager will deal with it differently than an adult character who has suffered trauma as an adult. Another aspect in the example above to consider is time – for the first character, plenty of time has passed where the character has had time to reflect and deal (or deny) whatever happened, while for the second character, the traumatic event would have happened fairly recently.
3. Character actions
A character that has suffered trauma will behave differently than a character that hasn’t. In a lot of cases, he/she might react with violence upon others, which in turns makes it difficult for the readers to connect with the individual. On the other hand, some readers will not understand a character if he/she gets over the trauma too quickly. Remember that some of your readers will be people who have undergone trauma themselves, and you need to be aware that if your characters’ actions are too unbelievable to be real, you might unwillingly hurt a reader. Characters that have been hurt are endearing, almost by default, and you need to be careful with their actions, or they lose credibility with the readers.
4. The social circumstance
The other characters in your story, friends and relatives of the protagonist (the character that has suffered trauma) will play a large role in the characterization of the protagonist. First factor is knowledge – do the other characters know what happened, or does the protagonist prefer to keep it a secret? On the other hand, what will the other characters do if they know? Will they try to help, or will they leave the protagonist alone? This depends on the story you wish to tell, of course, but the answers to the questions above will dictate your protagonist’s behavior.
5. Healing path
Depending on the type of trauma you’ve created for your protagonist, you will need to show a different healing path. The healing path, on the other hand, depends on how many books you will write about the character. A series of books offer you the opportunity to heal your character step by step, but if you’re writing a standalone book, then your character should heal by the end. For example, if you’re writing a romance, the healing of the traumatized character is a parallel plot, not a side plot. This means that it needs just as much attention and page time as the main plot. Otherwise, the healing path wouldn’t be credible and believable. Remember that you need a healing path for your character; otherwise your character will not grow and change. Also, when the readers come upon a character that has suffered trauma, they want them to get better and be happy again.
Image credit: Pixabay[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.