Main Entry: vic•timThink about everything that commonly finds a way into our fiction that falls under that definition: rape, molestation, neglect, robbery, mugging, kidnapping, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, military combat, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp, natural/manmade disasters, severe automobile accidents, carjacking, being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, or seeing a dead body/body parts. All of these events can be learned about, directly experienced, or indirectly witnessed.
1 : one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent: as a (1) : one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions (2) : one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment b : one that is tricked or duped
I lifted the above list right out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual under the description for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Not all “victims” have PTSD, but it’s a good disorder to know about in order to inflict our victimized characters with realistic, varying emotional hurdles.
Based on the four most descriptive clinical symptoms for PTSD, I’ll offer a couple overdone and underused scenarios for you to consider for your protagonists.
1) The character has to go through something awful—see above—and respond with intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Clichéd: Usually fictional victims directly experience a horrible past event; they react with screaming, panic attacks, or “freezing” in place.
Creative: A person can have PTSD simply by seeing something happen to someone else. They can also learn about something awful over the phone and still experience PTSD. Not everyone experiences fear or horror the same way. What if your character laughed nervously when afraid or vomited when horrified?
Click here to read the rest of my article.