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View Full Version : Unrealistic or delayed reaction to worldview-altering event?



Mark Moore
05-25-2014, 05:52 AM
In one of my current WIPs, my MCs, a trio of college girls, are presented with radically different (and pretty unsettling) religious-based origin of the universe and nature of the afterlife.

One of the girls is pretty superficial and shallow and worldly and has never given much thought to religious matters.

Another is a bit more sophisticated and is kind of generically spiritual but not subscribing to any particular religious view.

The third is a practicing Roman Catholic but isn't hardcore and doesn't take everything so seriously. She's into weird fiction like cosmological horror stories, and she's convinced her city is some sort of weirdness epicenter.

My problem is the characters seem to take this new information remarkably well and even joke around a bit (regarding something unrelated) during the scene. It's only later, when they and a new doctor acquaintance (who was also in on the meeting) are sitting in a restaurant that the Catholic girl looks noticeably worried and starts a conversation about how this new knowledge has affected each of them. I created this restaurant setting as a place where, throughout the series, the girls can meet to relax, unwind, formulate strategies, and discuss other things. This scene will probably be the last scene of this particular story, and I think it'd be appropriate for it to end on a downer like this, but I'm wondering if anyone would wonder why the girls take so long to react emotionally. I didn't want to interrupt the previous scene until stuff that sets up future stories is gone through, but would it be realistic behavior for these girls to not have immediate reactions?

ElaineA
05-25-2014, 06:20 AM
Gah! I'm going to say something that, were it me asking the question, I wouldn't want to hear: I think you just need to write it and let betas tell you if you pull it off. I did something similar in my WIP. I didn't see the problem with the way my MC reacted to something completely unimaginable. All of my betas called me on it. But then, I had treated it like...la la la, this is pretty cool...instead of OMG WTF has happened? I didn't write it well.

I'm pretty sure the only real way to know if you acheived it off is to get feedback from others.

SBibb
05-25-2014, 07:03 AM
Seconding that you may want to write the scene, then get feedback from betas.

I could see it being realistic for characters to joke and put off the knowledge at first, especially if it's unsettling and they don't want to confront it. But that may also depend on character traits. One of the characters might try to confront it but be brushed off until later. Or they might all say nothing.

So... write it and see what happens?

Siri Kirpal
05-25-2014, 07:17 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sounds normal...maybe too normal...to me.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

benbradley
05-25-2014, 08:59 AM
In one of my current WIPs, my MCs, a trio of college girls, are presented with radically different (and pretty unsettling) religious-based origin of the universe and nature of the afterlife....

I didn't want to interrupt the previous scene until stuff that sets up future stories is gone through, but would it be realistic behavior for these girls to not have immediate reactions?
It's certainly plausible for them not to have immediate reactions, but I think it's implausible for all three of them to then change all at the same time (depending on this thing they're presented with - perhaps more detail is needed here).

I can imagine ONE of them changing, freaking out or whatever, and the other two having more of a "whatever" reaction to the thing, AND to the girl who's changing/having an epiphany.

Chris P
05-25-2014, 09:08 AM
I agree with Siri--seems entirely normal, especially for the characters as you've described them. Something like the origin of the universe and nature of the afterlife is so far removed from everyday life that it's unlikely to have much of an effect until something happens that makes it immediate. A near-death experience, the loss of a loved one, etc.

Now, had your third character been very deeply fundamentalist and her day to day world view and interactions depended on things being just as they are described in the Bible or whatever Catholic traditions regarding such things then I would expect her to be more deeply troubled. But as you describe her, I think she'd just say "yeah, that makes sense."

frimble3
05-25-2014, 09:21 AM
Sometimes your head decides that something is just to big to handle right at the moment. You sort of push it into the background and get on with whatever needs doing. Then, later, you have time to sit down, take a breath and... it hits. And it can hit everyone differently. One just wants to sit quietly and think about it, the ramifications, and so forth. Another wants to talk it through. Someone else may be teary or babbling, or euphoric. And I suspect it has more to do with personality than world-view or religion.

Megann
05-25-2014, 12:37 PM
I am confused as to how a character can be superficial, shallow and never have given much thought to religious matters be wordly at all. Because from your discription she sounds more naive than someone who has seen and done much in life.

Your second character seems much more nuanced and worldly.

King Neptune
05-25-2014, 05:37 PM
I can easily understand people have delayed reactions or simply brushing it off entirely, which is how humans usually handle troubling information.

WeaselFire
05-25-2014, 11:46 PM
I didn't want to interrupt the previous scene until stuff that sets up future stories is gone through, but would it be realistic behavior for these girls to not have immediate reactions?
How should we know? We don't know the girls, their background or this radical new religious origin of all things under... Well, under whomever.

Personally, if it's religious, I rarely pay attention. All religions have the same basis (Be nice) and similar tales of pre-history (flood tales, universe origin, ways to live for salvation...).

Jeff

Mark Moore
05-26-2014, 05:55 AM
Thanks for the replies, everyone. :)


I am confused as to how a character can be superficial, shallow and never have given much thought to religious matters be wordly at all. Because from your discription she sounds more naive than someone who has seen and done much in life.

Your second character seems much more nuanced and worldly.

Okay, I'll try to give a better explanation.

Character #1 (Bernice) is fairly vapid, but she's rich, so she's worldly in the sense of being cosmopolitan. She's into fashion, pop culture, and gossip. She's very talkative (about either herself or others). She likes to bring up how her father "owns" the city. She spends money left and right. She's very here-and-now and not at all hereafter.

Character #2 (Amber) is also rich (richer than Bernice, even), but she's more financially restrained. She's new in the city, and her father has big plans for it. She's usually very quiet and keeps to herself, not out of shyness, but because she's simply uninterested in most people around her and considers them unworthy of her attention. If she does talk, it's to either flirt or put someone down. She's kind of New-Agey and generically spiritual (though she's officially Roman Catholic). She's given at least some thought to the supernatural.

Character #3 (Elizabeth) comes from a working-class family. She's been raised as a Roman Catholic (baptized, confirmed, goes to church every Sunday or Saturday), but she's not super-serious about it. She's even a bit blasphemous, often saying "Holy shit" and wearing a necklace that reads the same (though she undoubtedly hides it while in church). She believes everyone is saved, period. She finds the concept of Hell appalling. She's been lifelong frenemies with Bernice (they even share a boyfriend), but she's finding herself attracted to Amber. She's somewhat outgoing and conversational (though Amber has a way of putting a damper on that), but she mostly sticks to reading horror and keeping records of strange events that have taken place in the city.

The secret knowledge that is presented to them by a professor (with the promise/charge of reading and transcribing the relevant documents) is something that none of them would ever embrace. Without giving away the specifics, let's just say everything seems hopeless (OR MAYBE NOT! <--- sequel bait).

Liz, I think, would be the most deeply effected, Amber less so, and Bernice even less so. Amber would be quietly contemplative, and Bernice would be preoccupied with other stuff. That's why I'm having Liz be the one to initiate a discussion about this.

The problem is...would she wait through the rest of the meeting in the professor's office, the train ride to a restaurant, and the ordering and receiving of food before she says anything?

NDoyle
05-26-2014, 07:02 AM
Is this "just" textual (or iconographic) information or is it experiential? If it's textual/iconographic, a blasť reaction wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I'd expect it. There are all kinds of religious texts--ancient, modern--relating to the origin of the universe and to the afterlife that run entirely counter to the beliefs of, well, anybody else.

Experiential, on the other hand.... Well, I can imagine a character having a blasť/joking reaction to it. It can take time to process disturbing information. Rejection of the experience (and/or its purported explanation), if it's contrary to a character's well-established worldview, or seeking an explanation that the established worldview accommodates, would also not be out of place.

(I'm not sure that I'm expressing myself all too well this evening. I hope you get the gist of what I'm trying to say! :) )

frimble3
05-26-2014, 07:21 AM
I can see it taking that long to process the information, especially if they're not stationary for a while. Leaving the office, travel arrangements, find the restaurant, order, eat. None of them big events, but distracting. Then, they're sitting back, and the magnitude of what they've heard starts to hit them.
All of this affected by their relationships: if Amber tends to put people down, the others are less likely to let their innermost feelings out. And, if all three know that their attitudes to belief and religion are different, there may be hesitation to either expose themselves to mockery, or to step on toes.

Mark Moore
05-27-2014, 07:18 AM
Is this "just" textual (or iconographic) information or is it experiential?

Just textual and iconographic for now. They will have a religious experience in a later story, but that's going to be a major event for them, and I'd rather hold off on it and, for a while, explore their personalities and relationships as they exist now.


If it's textual/iconographic, a blasť reaction wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I'd expect it. There are all kinds of religious texts--ancient, modern--relating to the origin of the universe and to the afterlife that run entirely counter to the beliefs of, well, anybody else.

Yeah, that's a good point. I might have them be too easily accepting of this information. Actually, they haven't even looked at the texts yet (that's for a later story), just gotten a summary from the professor.

Debbie V
05-27-2014, 10:42 PM
The first question I have is, do they believe the professor. If not, then no reaction is required other than perhaps the disbelief. If so, why?

Denial is normal. Processing speeds and needs vary.

CynHolt
05-28-2014, 08:57 AM
The definitive text on the subject is Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (http://www.amazon.com/The-Structure-Scientific-Revolutions-Anniversary/dp/0226458121/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401252326&sr=8-1&keywords=thomas+kuhn). It's short and a bit confusing at times.

All of your characters are duelistic in nature as opposed to a more holistic view point. Are you planning to make a radical change? What Kuhn calls a revolution? That would be a move from duelism to holism. Or a minor change such as a shift? Which is not a world view change, just a change in religion, like from Protestant to Catholic.

If they have never cared about religious concepts before, why would they care now? None of your characters are people who do all their processing in their heads, they are experiential types. Just giving a good argument won't make a change.

If you want to discuss this in more detail, feel free to send me a message. My area of expertise is the movement of reality paradigms in the ancient world and one of the ways I track them is through scripture.

NateSean
05-28-2014, 08:28 PM
Different people experience different reactions to different pieces of information. You're never going to be able craft a scene like this where someone doesn't react, "Oh, I don't believe people act like that."

People do it to my stuff all the time. I'll describe a character's morning routine and someone will tell me exactly why what that person is doing is wrong, as though their way of life is the only one that matters.

I truly can't think of a single scenario in which someone would react to the information you have described that someone hasn't definitely acted out.

JulianneQJohnson
05-28-2014, 09:49 PM
I worked with teens. I've been a college age girl. Unless something is directly effecting them, I think it's perfectly natural for them to have little reaction to it, and even joke about it. I've heard teens speak about how they've been abused like it's no big deal, and yes, even make jokes about it. Some ideas are too big for us to relate to on a personal level. That said, I don't think you can have them suddenly be personally effected. It would either take an event that brings the idea forward, or there would have to be signs in the interim that they are effected, even if they aren't ready to discuss it.
Write it. Get some betas. They'll tell you if you pulled it off. There's no way for us to do that here.