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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Character Clinic: Saoirse Doyle and Revenge 101

Jill's character is on the couch today from her urban fantasy. Saoirse is 24. Her mother died when she was 16 and her brother was murdered when she was around 18. Her father is in prison and she's engaged to Ioan, with whom she's had a shaky past because he cheated on her early in their relationship. Saoirse lives in post-war world and harbors a great revenge toward a race of people from which her brother's killer descended. This revenge consumes her, even to the point of sabotaging her relationship with Ioan, who has mixed blood.

Jill wants to know: Is there any generic thing that needs to happen in order for Saoirse to actually overcome her need for revenge? For example an apparition of her dead brother? Although that would be hard to work in. But something of the sort? I'm running in circles trying to have Saoirse let go of her revenge, but nothing seems to be working.  

I don't know about "generic," because that wouldn't make for a very interesting read. You've got a very real problem for your heroine, and it's a problem many readers can identify with. Her brother was killed, and she's reeling from the aftereffects of that, chief of which are the emotions of grief and anger.

She's indignant, of course, and this indignation is like a fuel she's running on. It makes her feel solid and powerful, rather than frail or weak. When she has what therapist call "revenge fantasies" about hurting people from the race who killed her brother, she's reinforcing herself to have these fantasies because staying strong and powerful prevents her from being overwhelmed by what underlies her fantasies, which is the sadness, helplessness, and even hopelessness. There is a great journal article on more of this here. (Warning: it's full of psychologese, but if you can wade through it, it's really good.)

Thinking outside the therapeutic box for a second (b/c make no mistake, your girl would benefit from some intense 1:1 time!), perhaps if you have her as the target of someone else's misguided revenge, that might make a dent for her. If you had a parallel story line running alongside might do the trick. Or if her revenge puts Ioan in danger, that might also be a reality check.

Here are two quotes I like about revenge:
  • “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” ~ St. Augustine
  • “There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” ~ Josh Billings (1818 - 1885)
In order for Saoirse ro arrive in a healthier place, she's going to either have to forgive or let go. Forgiveness would be the complete circle for her character arc, but walking away would also work for the reader to have satisfaction. She would run the risk of being an anti-heroine, though, if she can't let go of the revenge and ends up losing all the good things she's got going for her (Ioan). It would make for a tension-filled book if the reader was guessing which way she'd go up until the very end. Very dramatic.

Anyway, best of luck with this book!

Let's Analyze: Have you ever been eaten away with resentment? Can you relate with Augustine's quote about taking poison and hoping the other person dies? How did you overcome it?