forum What's a non-cringy way to give a character trauma
Started by @FantasyOCmama15 forum

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@FantasyOCmama15 forum

So a couple of my main/side characters have been through a lot, including parental abuse, an attack in their childhood, a parent being murdered, etc. Now, I don't give my characters these experiences just to make them 'deep'. A lot of the things that have happened to them were needed in the plot and it would be unrealistic for them not to have some form of trauma, even if it's slight. Also, I know that they would deal differently with it. I'll give some examples:
Shirai (main character, happy, friendly, innocent) was attacked and driven out of his city by a man that he thought was his friend, who dealt him a serious injury and tried to kill him, but Shirai was lucky enough to escape. I have no idea whatsoever of how to give him trauma, because his personality is always positive and he sees the bright side of things.
Then I have Kesshoku, (who's father was the man who attacked Shirai, and he is arrogant, and tends to bottle up his feelings) who's mother was killed, and Kesshoku found her, and assumed it was his father. His father lashed out at this accusation and almost hurt him (the most traumatic part of this was finding his mother). As a result of this trauma, I have given Kesshoku insomnia and the inability to trust. Should I add onto him or is that fine?
There are more but for now I just need help with these two. Thanks!

@Katastrophic group

imo the only cringy trauma is stuff that's only there for angsty backstory points. Not to say angsty backstories are bad, but there needs to be consequences.That's why trauma needs to actually have an impact on the story, so as long as you make sure it has lasting effects it should be fine.

As for adding more, there are many different ways it can impact even "happy" characters. For Shirai, maybe he's jumpy around people he doesn't trust yet, has nightmares, or maybe the location/setting he was attacked in had a lasting impact on him.
For Kesshoku, the trust thing makes sense. Maybe you could expand on that so he really doesn't trust anyone who takes on a more 'fatherly' role? with the insomnia, is it caused by nightmares (nightmares are always good for adding some angst) or is there another reason he can't sleep? If his mother was killed recently, he would still be greiving and there are many ways you could add that in so it has a lasting effect.

Sorry for the essay, but whatever you choose to do,just make sure it actually has an impact on the characters and story and you should be fine :)

@Williamnot group

To really try to understand how the trauma affects people, I looked at for things like "how has PTSD affected you" or something along those lines and read about peoples experiences with PTSD, such as those who had been in a dangerous accident.
You want to show a balanced perspective of PTSD, it's not just "oh I'm edgy" syndrome. My character was kidnapped and abused for weeks on end. He has awful nightmares and gets flashbacks when he's in a place or situation that resembles what he had been through. He also has quite a few unhealthy habits, such as eating loads of junk food, staying up all night and hating being around strangers.
As for your characters, Shirai would probably end up with symptoms like flinching when someone raises their hand or pretends to hit them. They also might be afraid of people when they raise their voice. Kesshoku's symptoms sound fairly accurate, but the insomnia would probably need a reason behind it, such as nightmares about his mother.
Happy writing!

@Guapeton group

you could have him bottle all of his bad experiences up and suppress them and avoid opening up to people, in general, and whenever he hears a voice/person resembling his "old friend" he freezes up and looses his smile while sweating profusely as he starts running the scenario of his near death experience while trying to figure out a way to either fight or runaway?

☁ 𝙲𝚕𝚘𝚞𝚍𝚒

Try to see how your characters' traumas tie-up with what they went through. For example, one of my characters was abused horribly at the orphanage he lives in for years (I won't go into detail because it's too horrific), but one traumatic thing is this closet as his "room". A lot of bad things have happened there, so he's claustrophobic now. He's afraid of tight spaces and absolutely hates closets, he refuses to use them unless his life counts on it, to avoid memories coming back.
See how that ties up? Tiny closet -> Claustrophobic and afraid of closets.

Shiari could be a bit paranoid, given that his friend tried to murder him. He could have some trust issues, and doesn't open up to people usually. Although, ask yourself questions. How old was Shiari when he experienced this? Does he remember this event? If yes, is it still vivid in his mind? Does he stay awake during nights thinking about it? These will help you figure out how much it bothers him/how severe or mild the trauma will be.
Make Shiari just SEEM like a positive person. Make him want to TRY to see the beauty in life, when he's actually a broken person who can't overcome that horrible night/day., trying to change his new, horrid view on people and the world.

For Kesshoku, it seems like you got his trauma! Great job! I would suggest adding a scared behavior toward others lashing out, being mad, and things like that.
Your story sounds really interesting! Keep up the great work!!