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How to write a character who resents her own Birthday? (1 Viewer)

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MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
So I have one very important character in my story who struggles with the concept of her birthday. Long story short, this character's mother died while giving birth to her. So in her mind, she took away her mother's life. She didn't think about it much as a kid since she couldn't wrap her head around it but as an adult she understands and she's super hard on herself about it. Let's just say she's now 35 and her best friend (a man) arrives to deliver a special birthday surprise party for her and it takes her by surprise and not in a good way....she knows that her best friend knows her dislike for her birthday and can't wrap her head around why he would do that to her to "rub it in" (or like rubbing salt in her birthday wounds). She would've preferred him leaving her alone. They have a moment alone together and she asks him why and he says he only wanted to celebrate her, not to remind her that her mother died on the same day as her birthday (he doesn't necessarily say the latter but you get the point).

How would my audience take this? A character who feels heartbroken and sad over her own birthday? She starts to question maybe her mother would've been better off without having her. Lots of "What ifs?" begin floating inside her head, although she's 35 years old or so. Her birthday is like a sword jammed in her heart, very painful. I am being honest and truthful for how my character thinks. Maybe over time she will learn to view her birthday differently. Maybe it'll cause a rift between her and her best friend.

In any case, how do I make a character like this likable to the reader? Yes, she is a bit depressed I suppose over it but I want readers to keep reading her part of the story and staying hopeful for her and that she will see light in her life. Please let me know! :)
 

BrandonTheWriter

Senior Member
In any case, how do I make a character like this likable to the reader? Yes, she is a bit depressed I suppose over it but I want readers to keep reading her part of the story and staying hopeful for her and that she will see light in her life. Please let me know! :)

I would say that most readers would sympathise with that scenario if you write it out well. If you get across in writing how much it affects her, the memory of her mother. You can keep a depressed character likeable by giving her many other good qualities. You'd be surprised at how many people actually hate their Birthdays too, and for much weaker reasons.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
One possibility. I guess, treat them as intrusive thoughts she cannot stop. Do not TELL how birthdays make her sad -- SHOW it. (Or show and tell.) So the reader can feel her anguish.

I guess this requires first person present. Roughly (I can't write your scene)

"Happy Birthday!"
My mother died today. "Thanks."

The Birthday cake is beautiful.
My mother never saw any of my birthday cakes.

"I got you a present, I hope you like it."
I would give everything I own for a kiss from my mother.

"Make a wish."
I wish I hadn't killed my mother.
 

Hector

Senior Member
Why do you want to make your character likeable? I wouldn't hang out with any character from any of my novels! :highly_amused:
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
She would be likeable like any other character, based on her good qualities. Most people suffer trauma of some sort, so that only makes her relatable. Perhaps she decides to spend every birthday learning something new about her mother. Perhaps her friend becomes her research buddy as they explore old records together. She may learn that she has many of the same qualities/talents as her mother, for example, maybe she loves writing and she learned that her mother had been an author of poetry. They find an old journal full of the poetry -- another relative gives it to her.

Then these findings become the new basis for celebration, and she slowly learns to enjoy her birthday, as it becomes a celebration of her late mother and her learning more about herself and why she is the way she is.
 

Sam

General
Patron
You write a character who resents her birthday.

You've pretty much answered your own question within your post above. She hates her birthdays because her mother died giving birth to her, a massive external and internal locus of the character.

The reader will feel empathy for the character.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
You write a character who resents her birthday.

You've pretty much answered your own question within your post above. She hates her birthdays because her mother died giving birth to her, a massive external and internal locus of the character.

The reader will feel empathy for the character.

So since my audience will have sympathy for my character, she should be likable. I've read other threads where people don't have interest in reading about a "depressed character", especially if she's the narrator talking in First-Person perspective. But man, she's human. We all have our highs and lows in life. My character I'm speaking of definitely is depressed from her birthday, it's a cruel reminder to her and she doesn't like it. She has nightmares about it. Some of my readers will probably feel sorry for her because she feels that way about her own birthday since they think and hope she'd be happy but I think that's pretty understandable.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
She would be likeable like any other character, based on her good qualities. Most people suffer trauma of some sort, so that only makes her relatable. Perhaps she decides to spend every birthday learning something new about her mother. Perhaps her friend becomes her research buddy as they explore old records together. She may learn that she has many of the same qualities/talents as her mother, for example, maybe she loves writing and she learned that her mother had been an author of poetry. They find an old journal full of the poetry -- another relative gives it to her.

Then these findings become the new basis for celebration, and she slowly learns to enjoy her birthday, as it becomes a celebration of her late mother and her learning more about herself and why she is the way she is.

That's a good bit to add. I think my character in particular would like to lock herself up away from everyone on her own birthday since she has a big phobia about it but maybe she can learn and grow and adapt. Do something like learning more about her mother and stuff like that. Maybe she will learn to appreciate her birthday more over time from that. I'm not particularly fond of my own birthday myself, so strengthens my desire to add this bit to one of my most important characters. She questions what is the purpose of her life, why is she here, why does she exist? At the end of the day, all she wants to do is to make her late mother proud.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
One possibility. I guess, treat them as intrusive thoughts she cannot stop. Do not TELL how birthdays make her sad -- SHOW it. (Or show and tell.) So the reader can feel her anguish.

I guess this requires first person present. Roughly (I can't write your scene)

"Happy Birthday!"
My mother died today. "Thanks."

The Birthday cake is beautiful.
My mother never saw any of my birthday cakes.

"I got you a present, I hope you like it."
I would give everything I own for a kiss from my mother.

"Make a wish."
I wish I hadn't killed my mother.

Excellent points/examples. I've been struggling which perspective to use for this story involving her. I think first-person perspective is best in this scenario. I am actually not very fond of my own birthday myself, so for me it'll be easy to write this particular character I speak of. When I think about how I may have altered the life of my own mother...for better or for worse...I still have a very heavy heart about it. I would like to write a character exactly like that and I think it would be interesting.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
I would say that most readers would sympathise with that scenario if you write it out well. If you get across in writing how much it affects her, the memory of her mother. You can keep a depressed character likeable by giving her many other good qualities. You'd be surprised at how many people actually hate their Birthdays too, and for much weaker reasons.

I'm actually one who thinks very little of his own birthday and is very protective of keeping it a secret. I don't like people knowing. My character I'm speaking of is very similar to me but a little different. The ultimate reason why she hates her birthday is a powerful one, I think readers would understand.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
You write a character who resents her birthday.

You've pretty much answered your own question within your post above. She hates her birthdays because her mother died giving birth to her, a massive external and internal locus of the character.

The reader will feel empathy for the character.

What do you think about my character if she got defensive/protective of her birthday? She doesn't want people to know what day it is so they can't rub it into her. But for those few people in her life that do know and one brings it up, maybe she gets a bit violent/aggressive towards them. "Don't you dare!" she would say and pull out a sharp weapon. Of course, since it's someone who she cares about, she won't inflict harm upon whoever brings it up but she wants them to know never to bring it up again (in a sense). Over time, as she grows as a person, she begins to embrace it more and perhaps accept it and not get violent about it.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
I would say that most readers would sympathise with that scenario if you write it out well. If you get across in writing how much it affects her, the memory of her mother. You can keep a depressed character likeable by giving her many other good qualities. You'd be surprised at how many people actually hate their Birthdays too, and for much weaker reasons.

I must ask you what do you think about my character if she is a bit defensive/protective/aggressive about keeping her birthday a secret, even from her own family members? Maybe her cousin brings it up (maybe by accident...maybe intentionally...I don't know...) and she gets really mad and whips out a sharp weapon at them? You know, not that she means harm to them but she wants them to know that "that's it" because her birthday has caused her so much pain. Her birthday is like a battle scar to her mental health and mind, and she's trying to rid herself of that pain.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
One possibility. I guess, treat them as intrusive thoughts she cannot stop. Do not TELL how birthdays make her sad -- SHOW it. (Or show and tell.) So the reader can feel her anguish.

I guess this requires first person present. Roughly (I can't write your scene)

"Happy Birthday!"
My mother died today. "Thanks."

The Birthday cake is beautiful.
My mother never saw any of my birthday cakes.

"I got you a present, I hope you like it."
I would give everything I own for a kiss from my mother.

"Make a wish."
I wish I hadn't killed my mother.

I also must ask you what do you think about my character reacting in a violent way to even her closest family and friends if they bring up her birthday to her? Not that she will inflict any harm or damage to them but she gets angry and holds a sword or knife out at them to signal "that's it". I don't know if that's going to far for my audience but she would feel that way. They have no idea of the pain and suffering she's been through thinking about that as an adult, that she literally thinks she killed her own mother on her very own birthday via childbirth.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I also must ask you what do you think about my character reacting in a violent way to even her closest family and friends if they bring up her birthday to her? Not that she will inflict any harm or damage to them but she gets angry and holds a sword or knife out at them to signal "that's it". I don't know if that's going to far for my audience but she would feel that way. They have no idea of the pain and suffering she's been through thinking about that as an adult, that she literally thinks she killed her own mother on her very own birthday via childbirth.

I should back up. In the book I am reading now, the character would get angry, rant at her friends, and pulling a knife would reasonable. Then there would be elaborate explanations of what she was thinking, or regretting. Or justifications. (Plus backstory.)

So, what you are proposing actually seems very normal.

I actually don't like the book I am reading, so I was trying to think of a way of handling your scene that I would like. It works for having her anger build up until she pulls a knife. I was just hoping that when I read your scene, I would be inside your character's mind, and when she started waving a knife at people, I would already understand why.

And it doesn't work well if you wanted the knife-waving (or whatever it is) to be as surprising to the reader and it is to the guests. For that, you would have to take their perspective. But you didn't seem concerned about that.

It sounds like an important and potentially powerful scene. I'm glad you're trying to write it well.
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
I should back up. In the book I am reading now, the character would get angry, rant at her friends, and pulling a knife would reasonable. Then there would be elaborate explanations of what she was thinking, or regretting. Or justifications. (Plus backstory.)

So, what you are proposing actually seems very normal.

I actually don't like the book I am reading, so I was trying to think of a way of handling your scene that I would like. It works for having her anger build up until she pulls a knife. I was just hoping that when I read your scene, I would be inside your character's mind, and when she started waving a knife at people, I would already understand why.

And it doesn't work well if you wanted the knife-waving (or whatever it is) to be as surprising to the reader and it is to the guests. For that, you would have to take their perspective. But you didn't seem concerned about that.

It sounds like an important and potentially powerful scene. I'm glad you're trying to write it well.

Thank you very much! I feel very strongly about writing this scene since I can relate to what my character is going through. Like her, I'm very protective of my birthday as well, I don't like people knowing it. Most of my friends don't understand why, I keep my reasons why I don't like mine very personal and private. For my character...if she entrusted her best friend to keep her birthday a secret and he accidentally shares it with a bunch of other friends, no doubt my main character we're speaking of will feel a bit betrayed by her best buddy and get perhaps a little violent. She flashes her knife and makes her friends rather scared and shocked. She acts before she thinks. Later on, she'll learn that what she did maybe could've been done differently. Her best friend and her other friends we're just trying to celebrate her and didn't mean any harm. She was in a dark place at the moment it happened. She tries her best to patch things up later. She learns from this scenario and grows as a person, important step in her character arc.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
So I have one very important character in my story who struggles with the concept of her birthday. Long story short, this character's mother died while giving birth to her. So in her mind, she took away her mother's life. She didn't think about it much as a kid since she couldn't wrap her head around it but as an adult she understands and she's super hard on herself about it. Let's just say she's now 35 and her best friend (a man) arrives to deliver a special birthday surprise party for her and it takes her by surprise and not in a good way....she knows that her best friend knows her dislike for her birthday and can't wrap her head around why he would do that to her to "rub it in" (or like rubbing salt in her birthday wounds). She would've preferred him leaving her alone. They have a moment alone together and she asks him why and he says he only wanted to celebrate her, not to remind her that her mother died on the same day as her birthday (he doesn't necessarily say the latter but you get the point).

How would my audience take this? A character who feels heartbroken and sad over her own birthday? She starts to question maybe her mother would've been better off without having her. Lots of "What ifs?" begin floating inside her head, although she's 35 years old or so. Her birthday is like a sword jammed in her heart, very painful. I am being honest and truthful for how my character thinks. Maybe over time she will learn to view her birthday differently. Maybe it'll cause a rift between her and her best friend.

In any case, how do I make a character like this likable to the reader? Yes, she is a bit depressed I suppose over it but I want readers to keep reading her part of the story and staying hopeful for her and that she will see light in her life. Please let me know! :)
Read stories with characters who resent birthdays/holidays because it's the anniversary of death/trauma and see what works and what doesn't and go from there
 

MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
Read stories with characters who resent birthdays/holidays because it's the anniversary of death/trauma and see what works and what doesn't and go from there

Do you have any examples by chance that I could look up?

Speaking of that, I wonder how most people in real life approach a friend of theirs who they know doesn't like their birthday? Is it better to leave them alone and not say anything? There are some men and women out there who dislike the concept of aging and want to maintain their youthful looks, some people are scared to get older. Seems like most people wish happy birthday to such folks anyway, thinking and assuming they'll like it. Now for someone like me...there are many reasons why I don't like mine...and although people who might know it and say happy birthday to me, I honestly get offended by it because it brings up past trauma and they know very well how I feel about my own birthday.

I can write my character here very well because I have deep feelings about my whole stance on birthdays. Lots of emotion put into it.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
Do you have any examples by chance that I could look up?
I don't recall offhand. It's usually something that's part of the character, but not something that defines the character. I know the character Harry Bosch isn't big on holidays because he's a loner. His mother was murdered when he was eleven and he spent time at an orphanage before being fostered out.

Speaking of that, I wonder how most people in real life approach a friend of theirs who they know doesn't like their birthday?
Ask directly how they'd like you to handle it. The answer may surprise you.

I honestly get offended by it because it brings up past trauma and they know very well how I feel about my own birthday.
First, be a duck. Let it slide off you like water off the back of a duck. Second, realize these folks are insensitive. That's on them. Don't let their insensitivity get you down. Living well is the best revenge! Third, are you certain you made it plain how you feel? Miscommunication is a real thing.

Last- Yes, write it. Just write it. Write it from your heart, write it from your gut. Write it until it's all out. Then go back and pick out the gems.
 
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