September 18, 2018 at 9:25 pm #48124
Meet Wilhelm Gilbert Falk.
He’s a German young man in the 1940s, the very image of the Aryan race. At the beginning of the story, he’s still in the Hitler Youth, towards the end he’s a guard at Dachau. His only problem is his best friend, Daniel, a Jew. During the years he does his best to protect Daniel. At the beginning, he tries giving him money, flinching when he has to break a window during Kristallnacht. But as the story progresses his moral code starts to waver. The read sees (at least I hope they do) the wear and tear of the utter hatred and racism of the Nazis on Wilhelm. He tries killing himself, but Daniel prevents it. Fast forward a bit and he’s even killing Jews as coldly as the others, reasoning with himself that he has no choice, then drinking himself into a stupor. He even beats Daniel, telling him later that it saved him from death. At the end of the war, Wilhelm fully rejects God. He asks Daniel: “How could there be a God, after all of this?”
My question to you is this: How do I place events and people in his path to turn him back to God without being cheesy? How do I help my bitter, hurting character without preaching?
Thank you for your time,
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.September 19, 2018 at 12:28 am #48170Chelsea R.H.@seekjustice
Well, I certainly appreciate your willingness to tackle difficult things! Good gracious 😛
My advice would be that during the war he is constantly seeing small things–tiny things even–that show a God who cares. Like, they could be just simple, but beautiful things. Maybe seeing the care of a nurse who takes the extra time to write a soldier’s last letter while the rest of the nurses are too busy to care for the dying. Or the stars, or flowers, or an act of sacrifice. Just small things that he doesn’t think much of at the time but later on can see them as moments of hope during a period of hopelessness.
And I think Daniel will be important too (at least, if he doesn’t end up dead. Good characters always end up dead). If Daniel is sticking by Wilhelm through thick and thin, that’s sort of a symbol for God’s faithfulness to us, isn’t it? It could also be helpful if you had another soldier who had been through the war as well, but had managed to hold onto his faith. That would be no easy task, so showing that soldier’s brokenness, while also showing his faith, would work quite well. It would be important though, not to have this soldier, or Daniel, preaching at Wilhelm “You’ve lost your faith, you heretic! You’re gonna go to hell!” But rather them showing they understand his hurt, and just offering to walk beside him, rather than give him a sermon.
But I’m of the opinion that no particular event is cheesy, rather that the cheese and cringeworthiness comes from the emotions tied to it, and whether those emotions are real and vivid or pasted on and trite. So I would worry more about showing his emotional struggles as genuine and painful, more than I would the events that lead to his redemption.
I love the sound of your novel by the way. Do you have an official sort of blurb for it?
Mahalo keia huiʻanaSeptember 19, 2018 at 9:09 am #48191Parker Hankins@parker
Wow!! That book sounds like it would be a long very enjoyable read!! *loves LONG books and historical fiction, especially WWII*
Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.September 19, 2018 at 10:56 am #48202
@seekjustice Yeah, they like to make things hard for me *laughs nervously* Thanks for the advice! I’ll start adding in small things to catch his attention. Yes, Daniel is very important. Don’t worry he survives 🙂 That’s interesting about another soldier. I may have a character who can play that roll. Alright, emotions, got to work on our ending…Thanks again! Unfortunately, no official blurb…might make that a job for my co-author 😉
@parker It’s definitely going to be long…I do as well! Have you heard of ‘War of Loyalties’ by Schuyler McConkey? Its set WW1, but its really long. It’s in my ‘to read’ stack.
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.September 19, 2018 at 10:58 am #48203Parker Hankins@parker
I’ve never heard of that book, but I’ll definitely look it up!
Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.September 19, 2018 at 4:15 pm #48267
@scarletimmortalized *waves* Hello, my favorite HF topic! WWII is an underappreciated realm of writing. (At least from the German perspective.)
So, little ol’ Wilhelm is giving you trouble, aye? Would be suspected. So. I am by no means a psychology major, but I do study it and here’s what I’m seeing:
Wilhelm is trying to rationalize his participation in the war by saying he had to, yes? And he’s projecting his guilt and pain onto other people, including his childhood friend, Daniel. Also, he’s trying to move all blame and guilt he carries only someone else–God. God and Daniel, to be exact.
Good. Characters like these are complex and difficult to write, but they are real. They are very memorable and lovable characters, if you pull it off right.
Now. As to dragging him down the path of redemption–we’ll start off with basic PTSD symptoms and stages. *cracks knuckles* When a character/person experiences something traumatic(this can be anything–from seeing a car accident, to failing a test, to being tortured), often the first stage is shock. They don’t believe this happened. They can’t believe this happened. How could something like this happen to them? The more pride the character has, the more shock and denial.
A character may try to dissociate from the problem, ignoring and running from it so they don’t have to face their fears. They avoid anything that reminds them of the problem. If your character was in a war, it could be as simple as a car backfiring and making them hit the ground, searching for the gun. Embarrassed, they try to avoid that confrontation again, staying away from busy streets or loud places. This is where it becomes a problem. Fueled by embarrassment, anger and being embarrassed, and terror of memory, the MC might avoid going outdoors altogether, especially if he lives in the city or a busy area. But what happens when he runs out of food and the terror of being embarrassed and remembering has become so great he can’t bring himself to go out unless it’s dark and everyone is at home?
That’s when things get dangerous for our MC. After all, what kind of places are usually open after dark? Not nice ones. Bars, clubs, etc. And maybe your MC doesn’t usually drink… but he wants to ease the pain for one night, and forget about everything. He wants to pretend to be normal again. So he goes. And then he likes the feeling–so he goes again the next night, and the next, and the next. And before you know it, MC is trapped down a path he didn’t want to take but doesn’t know how to get out of.
Now, your character probably won’t be facing the same challenges as MC above, but the idea of the cycle is the same–numbness, shock/denial, confusion, shame/stunned/overwhelmed, guilt, repression, dissociation, and finally, outright inability to confront the problem. Now, I’m not saying everyone goes down this the same way. But that’s the basic standard. You can find more detailed descriptions online. (I know all of this sounds off topic, but bear with me. I am famous for lengthening anything into a five-page rant. But I promise there is a point.)
Now–Wilhelm is a veteran. He’s probably going to have some form of PTSD, whether mild, severe, or barely there, depending on how heavy the fighting was and what he encountered on the battlefield. I’m not going to sugarcoat it–war is ugly. It’s one of the most ugly and black things on earth. So yes, he will have issues, even if it’s as mild as jumping at a loud noise, it’s still there.
On to redemption. Wilhelm is pretty normal to stop believing in God after being in such a horrific war. There seems to be two ultimatums when it comes to God and war–complete trust or complete denial. There are those that lean on Him for comfort, and there are those that try to place all the blame on Him. Wilhelm is obviously the latter.
So use that. Instead of leaving him to spiral down like MC above, give him a shoulder to lean on, preferably one that trusts God and has seen some of the war as well. Give him a father figure, a friend, and smaller sibling figure to take care of, anything to give him something to feel his worth with. Veterans have a really hard time overcoming the sheer mass of death they have seen, and sometimes they shift the blame to themselves, because, if they would have been better, or stronger, or braver, maybe they could have saved that 15 year old kid that snuck in for the glory and ended up dead. Maybe they could have save the girl that got caught in the crossfire.
Whatever it is, give Wilhelm something stable to lean on. It can be as simple as keeping a plant or injured animal alive, or as complex as raising an orphan child. Give him something that allows him to see the beauty in life, not just the blood and death of war.
Then, gently, introduce a slight want in his life for something more. A purpose, an empty feeling… maybe he hears the street preacher, standing on a wooden box in the corner one day and feels drawn to listen. Maybe he sees a widow mourning her dead son, and then sees her praying and wonders how she can still pray when all those she loved are dead. Slowly, grow the curiosity in him until it threatens to eat him alive.
Then, hand him redemption. Maybe Daniel brings him to church and Wilhelm feels to guilty about all the things he’s done to him to refuse, and then the preacher’s words stir something in him. Maybe the widow invites him in for dinner, and gifts him with her son’s Bible. Maybe it’s as simple as a little girl smiling at him and saying, “Jesus loves you.”
Whatever it is, know that if you do it well and with God in mind, it will never be cheesy.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisSeptember 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm #48280
That was beautiful! *wipes away tear* I feel we are kindred spirits when it comes to *coughs* hurting our characters.
Wilhelm does turn to drinking, trying to forget the things he did. During the war he maintains that he has no choice. Afterwards he begins to see that he did have a choice, but was too afraid of dying himself.
I was wondering. Wilhelm did see some combat but very little. He was mostly a camp guard. Any tips on PTSD for that? Maybe he starts seeing the ones he shot?
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.September 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm #48287
@scarletimmortalized *bows grandly* You’re welcome, M’lady. I so do love torturing my characters. After all, what otehr person would give their villain a terrible amount of survivor’s guilt and an ex-assassin an inferiority complex so bad he thinks he’s a monster for trying to live his life normally(okay, originally. then the whole assassin part came in…) and they wouldn’t let him? *winks*
Hm… camp guard, aye? So… do you have any idea where he would be guarding camp? Because in most things I’ve seen, soldiers double up as both guards and soldiers in times of conflict. So he should have still seen some battle.
On the note of hallucinations and nightmares, I would say it’d have to be a pretty traumatic experience to get him to see the ones he shot, unless it was at very, very close range. In most sharpshooter/guard cases, the guard doesn’t even see the targets face, so he dehumanizes the target, thinking of them as simply an object to help him get through it. Sharpshooters are known to shoot fast and efficiently, because if they focus on a target to long they can’t dehumanize it as well and the guilt starts getting to them. They tend to struggle with things other that hallucinations or seeing the faces of those they killed–because as a sharpshooter, they usually can’t see the face. Instead, they are plagued by triggers like loud noises(especially anything that sounds similar to a gun or war cry), nightmares being unable to protect whoever they are supposed to be protected, fast movements from other people, running people, sneaking people, footsteps, darkness, and such. Get what I’m trying to point out? Not that every sharpshooter/guard has the same problems and the same experiences, but things like seeing the faces of those they’ve killed strike me as something more of a person on the front lines seeing dead people everyday would do. So unless Wilhelm got managed to get snuck up on and then attacked on guard duty, I don’t think he’d have that exact problem.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisSeptember 19, 2018 at 5:57 pm #48291
And don’t ask me how I know so much about PTSD and mental problems. *facepalm* It’s a…. hobby. I find it interesting. *shrugs* What can I say? I’m a writer.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisSeptember 19, 2018 at 6:05 pm #48293
Ah I didn’t make myself clear, sorry about that! He’s a guard at Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany. Those he shoots are Jewish prisoners, under orders from his superiors.
Also, I’d love to know more about your villain and assassin *heart eyes*
It’s always fun to research things like PTSD. I know more than I should about torture.
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.September 19, 2018 at 8:12 pm #48316Chelsea R.H.@seekjustice
I don’t know anything about Dachau specifically, but those camps were pretty horrific. I don’t think he would necessarily be particularly traumatised by shooting the prisoners, but definitely if he had to torture them, rather than shoot them outright. Just a thought 🙂
Mahalo keia huiʻanaSeptember 21, 2018 at 12:08 pm #48571
Alright! I know they would let the dogs loose on prisoners…shoot prisoners at random. There were experiments at Dachau. I’ll have to look into torture.
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.October 10, 2018 at 8:26 am #52157
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