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A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

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XtremeOne1
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A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by XtremeOne1 » 17 Apr 2021, 16:49

Hi guys,

So I'm trying to write a second novel(well I sell my first, though the hopes on that are kinda on the lower sell, haha)...and this one I'm trying to focus on own voice, very grounded, one character, etc...

The plan I have has been in a nebulous state. First it started as a mystery now it's more of a personal tale but a part of me still wants to do a mystery...

As this point, the plot is this:

A closeted teen with conservative parents has lost his twin brother eight months prior to the opening of the novel. Unexpectedly, the brother, who was considered the 'golden child' committed suicide. Our main character(the closeted teen) basically spiraled in the eight months leading to the opening of the book, his parents(who didn't know how to deal with any of it) sent him to a 'mental health facility' and as the novel opens, he's returning to school for the first time since then.

The novel begins with him really trying to figure out WHY his brother did. He's desperate for why because 1) Who wouldn't be and 2) He feels guilty(he was having sex with his secret also closeted boyfriend and ignored his brother's phone call on the very same night he killed himself) but that becomes less of a WHY did he do it(because, really, there so often isn't an answer) but who his brother really was, who other people in his life, his brother's life really is, who he really is(getting comfortable with his sexuality, with himself overall)...but my issue is, yes he has the spiral into the abyss in the novel, much of the novel is about pulling himself out of that(though with many flashbacks and calls back to it) and I worry about a message it might send, especially if the book gets market to the teen crowd. 'Sure, you dying will suck but at least it will get your gay brother to come to terms with himself'.

Obviously, I don't plan to have the novel end with him all 'I'm better now' because it will be more complicated than that,...but the MC character does come out more fully grown, more sure of who he is and what he wants just he still has a lot of grief to deal with and he would still rather have his brother. Is that just a bad message though? That yeah he's still grieves and he has lost many things but also gained some?

I trust everyone's opinions here a lot, and I know many of us have dealt with mental health issues.

OR

I can just make this a mystery and have to figure that crap out again. But if I do that, it's really important that I keep the whole 'guilt' thing, and I really don't want to distract for the personal journey of our closeted teen(I'd like to make some positive representation out there)

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Cable
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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by Cable » 17 Apr 2021, 17:07

The plot is not really the same, but nonetheless your story reminds me of the video game Gone Home which was a pretty powerful narrative experience to me. In that story you are trying to solve the disappearance of your sibling (I won't go into further spoilers in case anyone hasn't played). Perhaps you could go a similar route; whether or not the end result is suicide, perhaps in the beginning it is simply that the brother called about something, the main character didn't answer, and that night the brother left and nobody knows where he is. This would lead to consideration of what secrets someone might have and the processing of your main characters emotions, without suicide explicitly being the launching point for that arc and not something that has to be dwelt on quite as much. It also implements the mystery idea as the mystery is where did he go and why.
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XtremeOne1
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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by XtremeOne1 » 18 Apr 2021, 13:40

Thanks for the reply Cable!

I like your idea but the only issue is I do want the character to be overcoming his grief, however his brother dies(be it suicide, or something else), while also dealing with other drama in his life. I wouldn't want the brother's death to be the main focus of the plot.

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Anna Raven
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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by Anna Raven » 18 Apr 2021, 20:40

I don't have much to add other than this is a great idea. I think you should put the numbers to suicide prevention programs up front in your book, to help people who are struggling with those thoughts.
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Spectral Knight
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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by Spectral Knight » 19 Apr 2021, 15:43

It's a really interesting idea...the idea of guilt over a relative's suicide is a tricky one. There's often no rational need to feel guilt, yet, the feelings persist. My only thought would be depending on tense this could be a bloody difficult read for some, particularly if done in first person tense.

That's not to say don't do it all - literature gives us an opportunity to explore those difficulties, but more something to be aware of I guess.

The idea of exploring who someone lost to us was is something that'd hit home with so many readers though - I'm sure at some point we've all lost someone who we thought we knew only to find out often very unexpected stories about them. The idea of discovering difficulties that the primary character might have been completely unaware of is itself a mystery... sounds intriguing.

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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by XtremeOne1 » 19 Apr 2021, 21:26

Thank you Anna! And that's a great idea about putting numbers in the book!

And yeah, SK, that's exactly it. It's so tricky, and yes it's in first person present so I have to strike this perfect balance because I don't want it to be a morose tale. I want it to have a lot of humor(the MC is the 'witty, sardonic' type)...It's definitely going to be tough if I go this route.

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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by das_boot » 20 Apr 2021, 13:24

I don’t think it’s that tough. My therapist and I talk often about how I use humour and my general oddness as a deflection from how I’m really feeling so that I don’t HAVE to process things. It’s a survival instinct that doesn’t really work, but it’s fairly common. So, your character being a wise-ass isn’t that strange, it’s an inappropriate response to trauma to convince the outside world that you’re fine so that no one asks what’s really going on under the surface.

As for the suicide/mystery angle... honestly? If I were to go that route I would make it a multi-layered mystery.
-Why did he do it?
-Who else could have stopped/helped him (ie; almost helping to “share the guilt/‘blame’ “
- was it MEANT to be a suicide or was it a cry for help/drastic attempt to make the conservative parents see how their pressure to conform was harming their child?
- was the suicide actually avoidable or was this always going to happen? Was there anyone else involved (perhaps a suicide pact)?

There’s a lot to think about, and honestly? Mental health is such a personal thing. While there are common threads, not everyone processes or exhibits in the same way. I don’t think you need to worry OVERLY about sensitivity either, at least in the respect that your main character is GOING to vacillate between being sad, being angry, feeling guilty... there’s a whole gamut of emotions that go along with any death, and especially a suicide. Not all of those emotions are going to be appropriate, but they’re still valid and genuine to that person, and that’s the main issue— not worrying about sensitivity necessarily, but I feel like the overall goal of this character’s arc should be justifying his feelings and resolving them, portraying those accurately and not necessarily hoping that it doesn’t upset or offend someone. I get how that sounds in text, I really do. It reads as very cold and “do what you want for the sake of your art”, and that isn’t what I mean... what I mean is that seeing your character go through all of that is far more real than you, as an author, avoiding a deep-dive into your MC’s emotions about the matter than giving a sanitised version to avoid upsetting people or making it a morality tale about why suicide is “selfish” or “wrong”, but not glamourising it.

I ABSOLUTELY endorse putting links to resources for anyone struggling with suicidal impulses at the start and end of your novel, however.
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XtremeOne1
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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by XtremeOne1 » 21 Apr 2021, 15:57

Thanks for the insight Das. It's super helpful and you voiced a lot of the things I want to explore and also some of my concerns.

You've all been a huge help. Very inspired to write(though my hand is a bit fucked atm so writing one and a half handed atm). Thanks guys!!

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Re: A Novel Dealing With Suicide - Need Advice, Input and Perspective

Post by das_boot » 21 Apr 2021, 21:54

I get why you have concerns about this— it’s a HUGE issue and it’s something that people are actively raising awareness of... it’s also something that can be seen to be overly glamourised in certain works, and I can understand why you’d want to approach this the “right” way...

But IS there a right way to discuss/portray suicide and the after effects on those left behind? Again, every person is different and there’s an entire range of emotions that are common when someone they love suicides. There’s also an entire range of emotions that are NOT common but are STILL valid to that person.
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