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View Full Version : I'm having trouble writing a suicide note


Mac H.
07-25-2007, 05:52 AM
Don't panic. It's for a fictional character - not me.

Here's the background:

The guy is a soldier at the end of a war. There is now peace, and he's proud that he's helped achieve it.

But he's a ruthless killer, and he knows that the new peaceful world that he worked to create has no place for him. The world will be better off without his type of person. He also has a disfigured face from a war injury (in a pre-plastic surgery era) and it isn't clear what kind of life he could possibly have as a civilian.

He is meant to be going home now, and leaving the (ex-) war zone.

It is a farewell letter to a civilian friend, and as we read it we realise that it isn't a 'good-bye I'm going home now' but it is really a suicide note... although that isn't ever explicitly said.

I never write in first person, and I'm having trouble writing this without being horribly melodramatic.

Any suggestions or tips on writing something first person like this?

Mac

JoNightshade
07-25-2007, 06:10 AM
Does he live? Cuz that would be awesome if he lived anyways.

JoNightshade
07-25-2007, 06:11 AM
Oh, right, something constructive.

I would suggest making it short and terse. This does not sound like a wordy guy. Maybe something like, "I don't expect you to understand why I did this. You'll probably be upset. I'm sorry." Etc.

Duncan J Macdonald
07-25-2007, 06:26 AM
Charlie,

I find that, as has happened to this war, the end has come. I shall return from whence I came, knowing that what I leave behind is far better for my having been here to help it along.

Farewell.

Legionsynch
07-25-2007, 09:32 AM
Terse is very good, especially if it's a soldier. The less emotional, and the more distant the letter is, probably the better. One, because it's a guy, and a heartfelt goodbye just isn't typical, and two, because if he's planning to kill himself, he's not really thinking about other people anyway.

The alternative, though, is no suicide letter at all. A lot of people kill themselves, and the people around them question why. With no note, there's less understanding of what went through their mind, and it makes it more painful.

anodyne
07-25-2007, 09:46 AM
Friend's Name,
The war's over. I don't belong here anymore.

Soldier

That's a joke. <points up> Really... you need to factor in the time period and conventions. If this is say, the Civil War, I'd make it a long letter on whatever they talked about last time, with ambiguous hints to him "leaving" since he's supposed to be going home.

Then he commits suicide and the careful re-reader will go, Oh! And everyone else will be like, schwa?

Azraelsbane
07-25-2007, 09:47 AM
No note is the best note. :) It says everything.

Mac H.
07-25-2007, 10:52 AM
Hmm .. I need a suicide note because the guy dies in a sudden 'accident' on learning that he's being sent home .. and I need to communicate to the audience that it probably wasn't an 'accident' - and the reason.

If it's any consolation, he certainly isn't an uneducated grunt.

It's actually a screenplay, but because this letter is in first person I figured the novel writers would be more help. As it is a screenplay I'm limited with the methods I can use to communicate to the audience the reason behind the 'accident'.

That's why I don't want the audience questioning IF it was an 'accident' ... I want them to know why and have this part of the story make sense.

Mac

Sofie
07-25-2007, 02:31 PM
Check out

http://www.well.com/~art/suicidenotes.html

for real examples of suicide notes. Might give you some idea of how to write it without being too melodramatic, yet quite emotional.

Mac H.
07-25-2007, 02:58 PM
That link is really illuminating.

Thanks.

Mac

anodyne
07-25-2007, 07:39 PM
That link made me bawl my eyes out... wow.

<makes a note to never have a suicide in one of her novels>

mscelina
07-25-2007, 07:49 PM
*stares in horror*

there's actually a link for that? holy crap.

Spiny Norman
07-25-2007, 08:02 PM
That link made me ball my eyes out... wow.


Think you mean "bawl," there, otherwise that statement is going to get progressively weirder. :)

Smilies in a suicide thread! Who needs em?

EDIT: I find it morbidly fascinating. I'm stealing the ".38 whispers into my ear" line.

anodyne
07-25-2007, 08:05 PM
No... ball.. as in, with a melon scoop.

I'm all for the dramatic self-mutilation... FOR SCIENCE!

mscelina
07-25-2007, 08:09 PM
O....M...G.... I can't believe you WENT there Spiny!

*tries to restrain herself from the smilies*

In re: suicide notes. It would definitely depend upon the (a) era. Victorian suicide notes and modern suicide notes would be a lot different. (b) was the war won or lost (c) the motivation the CHARACTER has for writing such a note. I understand that you, the author, NEED him to at least hint that his 'accident' is intentional. But why does HE need to? Is there something else going on with him? Did he get a 'Dear John' letter? Can he not live with the guilt of killing other people? Is there some other tragedy we don't know about? Or, has the war driven him mad? See, soldiers who are returning home from war are usually euphoric, not depressed. The depression hits once they get home and eveything is different (hence the post-traumatic stress syndrome). If the war itself had sent him into an obvious depression, chances are someone would have noticed. Soldiers were sent from the lines for 'shell shock' long before anyone really knew what it was. If it's something really subtle, it might actually be better to have the accident happen and then have doubts cast upon its cause by military authorities.

Just my two cents. Good luck.

anodyne
07-25-2007, 08:15 PM
Or, since this is a screen play, couldn't he write a "true" suicide note, spelling it out. "The world isn't made for people like me. The war is over and now there's no place for me. What I'm doing is for the best. Just, tell my mom I loved her." You pan over his shoulder as he writes, and then he crumples up the paper and writes a normal letter. The audience is clued in that the accident isn't an accident, and you don't have to deal with over-wrought histrionics.

Spiny Norman
07-25-2007, 09:13 PM
O....M...G.... I can't believe you WENT there Spiny!

*tries to restrain herself from the smilies*

It's actually from a Billy Connolly routine. He's playing some over-the-top mournful country song, and a line goes, "Oh, how they cried, how they bawled," and then he snaps at the audience, "Bee-ay-doubleyew-ell, BAWL. No smut in this show, folks, this is a family show. Stop laughing."

I figured we needed to lighten the mood somewhat.

EDIT: With that in mind, my joke makes even less sense.

JoNightshade
07-25-2007, 09:24 PM
This guy (the suiciding one) reminds me somehow of the book King Rat. The guy who runs the prison camp and is top dog... until they're all released, and suddenly he becomes nothing and nobody.