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The Psychological Effects of Frequent Resurrection

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Electric Bone Flute, May 6, 2021.

  1. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Troubadour

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    I've got an idea for an individual who discovers upon an early death and subsequent exhumation that he will "respawn" wherever he was buried if he isn't in his grave. Problem is, I don't know if this person would be well-adjusted after this. I'm shaping the character around the events foremost, so at least I don't have a fixed character in mind. I already envision that this person would be reclusive; I want it that he's exhumed a few years after for police investigation and so is a few years out of sync with the world. For the story, I want him to investigate his own murder by a serial killer/cannibal, politely the first time around, then no-Mr.-Nice-Guy the second before uncovering something even more unsettling about the killer; this would be his second and probably third death after discovering he comes back to life. Only problem is I don't know how unsettled such a person would be. Obviously we can't interview people who have died in very traumatic ways, but how would someone who has been affected in a severely traumatic way be able to handle confronting the stranger who directly harmed them multiple times?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    How does he know where "his" grave is?
    Is it like only in their family plot?
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    IMHO, with something like this, it depends on the character's personality, history, and mental make-up. So, different people are going to respond differently. Find out who your character is first and that'll serve as a foundation to how this ability effects them over time.

    It's like give one person super-powers and they'll rush off to save the world. Give a different person the same powers an they'll rush off and try to conqueror it.
     
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    That premise is similar to David Mitchell's Horologists (The Bone Clocks, Slade House). They don't suffer any ill effects from being resurrected again and again. They're also not resurrected in the same body, and usually haven't suffered a traumatic death, although sometimes they have.

    Since you're dealing with a fictional premise, you don't have to make it the same, of course. Your character could be suffering psychological trauma from coming back to life. Or, if not from that in and of itself, from the traumatic circumstances of his previous death. And if he's being resurrected in the same body, you have a good case for trauma being part of his body memory. In reality, physical treatments can have an effect on psychological trauma: EMDR, for instance. That suggests the trauma is carried in the body.
     
  5. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    So for me to understand this correctly:
    Person has life 1, which goes normally, and they die for whatever reason, and is then buried. They're exhumed for whatever reason.....and then I'm lost. So do they have "life 2" upon the exhumation and will end back up in their grave somehow? Like is his body teleporting to his grave? Or is his spirit going back to that original body? Why is this body constantly being exhumed? What you've put here doesn't really make any sense. Your rules need to be consistent with its own logic (so any sort of death causes him to respawn, not just "untimely" ones).

    Also does your Bad Guy keep killing the same person? How do they know about this power? What is their reason for killing the same person over and over? THAT is just as interesting. Serial killers usually* do what they do because they want that feeling of power/control, and kidnapping/torturing/killing someone is the ultimate control over them. If your character remembers these other times they've been alive, then their reactions to being captured/murdered is going to shift over time, too.

    As Penpilot said, the reactions can be varied. In All You Need Is Kill (I read the manga adaption of the light novel, it's the basis of the movie Edge of Tomorrow), the main character finds that he keeps coming back to life after he dies, and after the first few times he's rightfully scared and confused. But as time goes on, he experiments to determine the rules and begins to "speedrun" the day to accomplish what he needs to. Other characters notice this sudden change in him and he ends up meeting another character who has the same "problem"/power as him, and they both turned into supersoldiers "overnight" and "normal" people feel that they can't relate to them anymore. They're not afraid of dying because they know they'll "live" but they're still very different mentally going through traumatic/painful times so often.

    Compare this to The Big Bad in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 5, who isn't defeated as so much put into an infinite loop of respawning into new lives and then dying in new, terrible ways. You only see a few, but in one he's approached by a small child and he's terrified of how this kid might end up killing him. This was a character who had no problem killing his own daughter to stay in power (as an Italian mafia boss, so already his tolerance for Bad Stuff was pretty high).

    There are going to be people who take dying multiple times as an opportunity to seek justice/revenge, some who will see it as a curse and try whatever they can to be redeemed, others who will be paralyzed with fear and not able to do anything. But even a worm can turn, everyone has a breaking point. Which is your character? What made them that way? You might have to do some background work on your character to figure it out.


    *Of course there's a bunch of different ones who do things for many, sometimes very complex, reasons, but this is a very high-level overview for this very high concept discussion
     
  6. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Troubadour

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    He doesn't know where his grave is; so long as he dies outside of it, he goes back. He gets a new body each time (this is important, because the after the first time the serial killer kills him, he disguises himself and ends up "unwittingly" eating his own flesh). The killer didn't know him the first time, wises up the second time, and the third attempt is because the respawner doesn't want him to get away with this, so he pursues him.
    I put this out there so I could shop for character development ideas. I think "more enervated and traumatized each time around" as both a motivating consequence and character arc will work.
     
  7. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Goes back in what way? Do all of his bodies get buried in the same grave?
    How does he get a new body each time? Does he reincarnate, as a baby, and then have to grow up? Does he enter someone else's body? Does a brand new adult body magically appear for him?
    Do you see him being exactly the same no matter what body he inhabits? Or would his new bodies play a part in the character development?

    If he has a different appearance each time, he'll get treated differently. He may have different abilities. If he's tall in one life and short in another, that will change things. If he's able bodied in one life but has a disability in another, that will really change things. If he comes back as a different race or ethnicity, there will likely be a difference in how he gets treated and experiences the world. If he comes back as a different gender, there definitely will be.
     
  8. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Troubadour

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    I'm envisioning a video game respawn, but the savepoints can't be set by the player, so to speak. I've also toyed with a stakes-raising idea that if he dies in any hole, that becomes a new grave for him, potentially leading to an endless "spawn camp" death cycle if he's not careful about where he dies.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've seen this in a few places, and none of them have spent much time on the character's trauma. Usually the character is so determined to save everyone else that the deaths start to weigh a bit thin. Also, while the death itself is often traumatic, the coming back part is usually a bit more like a refresh, a fresh start, and that feeling comes across too. You mostly only see the occasional "Ohh I've been to hell" kind of reference. In one anime, the characters were sucked into a video game world, and every time they die and respawn they lose some memories of their IRL selves - and STILL nobody gets traumatized by that; in one scene, it's actually considered romantic, and their memories are a grateful tithing for their life.

    But... you're also describing a heavy tone here. He's investigating his own murder, by a cannibal. You're keeping the number of deaths to a few, 3 or 4, which means you have room to play on the impact of each one. He's also missing time in between. With this information I would expect both trauma and heavy themes on the nature of death, and even a touch of crazy ("I have to dig them up, let me dig them up, it worked for me damnit!"). It's also possible that something may be physically different about him, some wounds that don't heal right, or he's "losing his humanity" - even if there's nothing different, he may still have some body horror and head games about the possibility of it.

    The character has a relationship with his own dying, and that relationship should have its own arc that advances with each death. Take the time to develop that.

    Finally, at some point it's best to look at why he's coming back and nobody else is. Maybe it's a curse, or a ghost, or a spell. But developing that reason, as an extension of the character, is going to be a big part of making the story meaningful.
     
    Electric Bone Flute likes this.
  10. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    It would be interesting to see what you could do by taking that trope in another direction: making the character's trauma and coping with it a focal point. Kind of like a spin on the superhero movie that focuses on the collateral damage caused by the showdown instead of conveniently ignoring it.
     
  11. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

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    Unless his NEUROLOGY changes as he revives (THIS would be a really cool twist to the story possibly) then his PSYCHOLOGY would remain largely the same. He would adapt to the tramua and treat it one of the three ways abuse victims often do.

    1) he would become self harmful (He hurts mentally and wants it to stop thus he hurts himself to distract from it)

    2) he would become other harmful (He hurts thus wants others to hurt).

    3) Sociopathy which is believed to be caused by passive genetic predispositions to alternative neurology.
     
  12. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

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    I think things will very much depend on the character of the person and the specifics of the resurrection.

    If the person has few / no memories of his death, didn't experience any pain at the moment of his death, if he doens't have any experiences while dead and is the resurrection is just like waking up, then there will be little to no trauma, simply because there isn't much to be traumatised by. It will be pretty much like the movie groundhog day, where you simply keep trying again and again until you get the result you want.

    If the dying part is traumatic or painful, then you will probably suffer some trauma from it and/or want to avoid it at all cost.

    If I remember correctly, one of the last Buffy the Vampire slayer seasons covered something like this (I'm probably showing my age, writing that...). Buffy died at the end of the previous season and is resurrected in the first episode (or something like that at least). She's basically ripped out of heaven and has to crawl out of a burried coffin all by herself. It's a fairly traumatizing experience and part of the plot for the season is that she has to deal with this.
     
  13. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    At first maybe they go through the 7 stages of grief.
    • Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
    • Pain and guilt. ...
    • Anger and bargaining. ...
    • Depression. ...
    • The upward turn. ...
    • Reconstruction and working through. ...
    • Acceptance and hope.
    Perhaps they gain PTSD after a few times or come to see it as a superpower and put themselves in greater danger to pursue their goals.
     
  14. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    "I've got an idea for an individual who discovers upon an early death and subsequent exhumation that he will "respawn" wherever he was buried if he isn't in his grave. Problem is, I don't know if this person would be well-adjusted after this."

    In fact, I like the premise...but that bit really made me laugh.

    In a good way, I promise.
     
  15. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Troubadour

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    I like to see powers shown frequently in fiction and think of side effects and consequences, even if I have to outsource the finding.

    Actually, I think my next thread will be about this.
     
  16. Solusandra

    Solusandra Scribe

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    those arent the only ways abuse victims respond to their abuse.
    It would depend a lot on how traumatic each of his deaths and resurrections are. If each of his deaths were over in a flash, why would there be trauma? Or more trauma then getting beat up in a fight? It's the long painful deaths or lingering results of a bad resurrection that would cause negative psychological issues. If the deaths were fast and the resurrections brought you out in full health ready to fight again, the worst that would develop would be a dangerous feeling of a feeling of invincibility or a liability to develop writer god complex sociopathy.
     
  17. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

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    Abused individuals respond one of those three ways to varying degrees. Someone prone to the self harm aspect for example could be anywhere from experiences minor anxiety and has issues with self doubt to something as extreme as being suicidal.
     
  18. Solusandra

    Solusandra Scribe

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    You're forgetting, or perhaps dismissing, the majority of individuals who respond to abuse by stopping the cycle or becoming kinder. If it was only Self harm, becoming abusive themselves or becoming sociopaths, the world would constantly be getting worse, but every time this is studied the mass data shows a trend towards this sort of behavior abating.
     
  19. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    I think you two are looking at different stages of response to abuse. What ShadeZShadeZ is talking about is what tends to happen initially. Everyone who's been abused has had some degree of at least one of those reactions. Sometimes it's so mild that it's not recognized by others: no one else sees the self hating thoughts, the depression, or the anxiety, but the survivor is experiencing it. And sometimes it's obvious.

    Stopping the cycle and becoming kinder is what an abuse survivor does when they've been healing. That doesn't mean they haven't previously self harmed or hurt others, but they've moved past that. Or, maybe they still have a bad day now and then when they're really down on themself, but the kindness is what the people around them will see.
     
    ShadeZ likes this.
  20. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

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    Incorrect. Abuse affects everyone as I said in one of these three ways. You are talking about if they fight against it, as many do. Do not mistake being kinder and stoping the cycle for not suffering silently.
     
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