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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Character Clinic: Joe Cooper

Lorna's character Joe is on the couch today. He's a high school senior quarterback whose biggest dream is to play for the NFL--preferably the San Francisco 49ers. He has a girlfriend Rebecca who he loves dearly. One night, he was texting Rebecca and not paying attention to the road. He hit and killed a jogger. To make matters worse, he ran from the scene and didn't tell anyone. The jogger just happens to be the uncle of Cheryl, the head cheerleader at his school who has always had a crush on him. She's vowed to find out who is responsible for killing her uncle. Yikes!

Lorna wants to know: What is Joe thinking or feeling as he goes through his life after the accident? Will he have trouble in school or make mistakes playing football? Anything important I need to know?

Joe -

You've killed someone. Unless you are an unfeeling, uncaring person (which your intake form would suggest otherwise), then you are definitely going to be affected--seriously--by this traumatic event. The guilt, at times, might be unbearable.

The nightmares you mentioned are evidence of post-traumatic stress, as would any flashbacks while you're awake, avoiding the scene of the crime, perhaps even avoiding your car (opting to ride your bike to school, etc). People with PTSD generally try to avoid any and all reminders of the event, which might mean suddenly Cheryl makes you uncomfortable (besides the fact that she's after you and doesn't know it) because she reminds you of her uncle. Or it might play out in your life by the fact that you don't want to text your girlfriend anymore. Texting reminds you of that split second when you heard your car crunch into something on the road.

It's different for everyone, but *normal* people would probably act different enough after an event like this that even the casual observer would know something was "up" with them, whether they could figure out what it is or not. You'd likely be more withdrawn. Your grades might suffer. Your game might suffer. Life might suddenly crowd you out.

You'll probably be mentally hounded by questions, like, "Could I have done something to save him?" "Should I turn myself in?" "Should I have died too?" "Is my life worth living after having done this?" This will be excellent inner tension for him.

I feel that I must say that any reader is going to want him to come clean by the end of the book, or not only will the book be unsatisfying, it will also be espousing a moral premise that is inherently false. So I hope you've got a great arc planned for him to see this through. Best of luck!


Lorna G. Poston said...

Thanks for welcoming Joe on your couch today. Glad to know I'm on the right track: avoid texting, becoming withdrawn, and those close to him wondering what's up. I have a scene where Joe wants to sell his car, but didn't consider that he might not want to drive. Thanks for the suggestion.

As for the end... I hope you'll read the book to find out. :)

Lapiz de la Guerra said...

Wow! That sounds like an intense read. I hope she gets to share her story with the world...I'd love to read it! Thanks for sharing Joe with us all!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.