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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Tough Life Choices

   
Author Topic: Tough Life Choices
lehollis
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Hello Hatrackers,

I'm working on a back-story for a character who has had a hard life. He's had to make hard choices, the kind one might end-up regretting, or wish they could change, or wonder if they did the right thing, how things might have been, etc.

So, inspired by JeanneT, I thought I'd open it up and see what kinds of things Hatrackers could come up with. Even if I don't use any ideas, they might get me thinking.

If it matters, the character is around 35 to 45 years old, married (previous marriages possible), with kids and a decent job. (i.e., things are going okay for him when the story begins, so he came out of it okay, but the choices were hard enough that they still haunt him.)

(Oh, I should mention this is real-world, modern, today, no-magic, no superheroes, no aliens, etc. Other than that, anything goes )


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

(Oh, I should mention this is real-world, modern, today, no-magic, no superheroes, no aliens, etc.)

Ack! I don't write that crap. (Just Kidding)


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lehollis
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Well, the back story anyway. I don't mean the story itself will have none of those things.
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Zero
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How about pulling the plug on a loved one? Maybe only just before a "cure" came out. That's an oldie but a goodie. How about choosing not to pursue a certain career, or to end a certain relationship.
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wetwilly
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I haven't really had any tough choices in my life that I have regretted.

I know my father had some, though. For one thing, he is a truck driver, and before that he worked for a savings and loan. Both jobs required extensive traveling. Now that all of his children are grown, he looks back on his life and regrets that he was gone for so much of our childhood. He has expressed to me that he believes he was not a good father. From my perspective, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that is his belief and his regret about the decisions he made.

Is that the kind of thing you were looking for? Or were you thinking more like "choose which child will die" kind of hard decisions?


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lehollis
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Wetwilly, the first is closer to what I'm looking for, yes. But I don't mind a little of the second if that's what comes to mind.

Really, its all about generating ideas, so anything goes as far as I'm concerned.

Zero, good ideas. Thank you. Pulling the plug has lots of potential. Maybe I'll look for a unique way to use it.


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JeanneT
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Working so much that you neglect your family is a good one.

35 to 45 is old enough to have been in the first gulf war--perhaps volunteering and then having to live with the health results that some people came back with.

I have known men who didn't stay in touch with or get to know children from a first marriage. They sometimes think that is for the best, that it's easier on the child, etc. I think that is something someone might very much regret.


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halogen
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One thought is unreal selfishness.

Choosing to live while other people die will haunt a person. Running out of a burning building knowing you could have at least taken one person with you or swimming to shore from a capsized boat and being the only survivor.

Another aspect is the idea of group fright.

A person is more likely to drown surrounded by people because everyone is assuming another person will take action (Keep that in mind if you are drowning, just take dead aim at one person and start shouting like hell). There is a true story about a woman who died in a similar manner, beaten to death on the highway after a road-rage incident while a crowd of commuters watched. Any of them could have stopped it from happening, but they didn't.

'The Accident' is always a good one.

I have a friend who actually hit someone while driving drunk. Messed the individual up pretty bad, permanent disability or something. It was early in the morning and he just plowed into the man after a long night of drinking. He was eventually found and arrested but it was a few years after the incident (a tip from one of those crime commercials).

Before you start looking at me I didn't know anything about this until hearing about it several years later (small town friends I no longer keep updated with).

Actually hurting another person would be a terrible burden. Driving drunk and killing your neighbor's kid. The police may have given up searching years ago but it would still be brought up. "If I ever catch that animal that did this..." that sort of thing.

Morbid thoughts, but I guess that's the subject matter

[This message has been edited by halogen (edited December 12, 2007).]


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annepin
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The first thought that came to my mind was that he made, or failed to make, a moral choice of some kind. For instance killing someone, or not, even though he had good reason to. Or cheating a business partner, or not, but choosing to play it straight and watching others get ahead in life.

I'm also intrigued by the kind of choices that involve something completely altruistic, and not telling anyone about it. Saving someone's life, at great cost to yourself, without telling anyone. That sort of thing.

Other random thoughts--disinheriting a child, convincing a former girlfriend to have an abortion or put a child up for adoption; refusing aid from one's parents or friends and choosing to "make it on his own"; ignoring a child's illness as a cold when it turns out to be something much more serious; being too miserly and having his wife leave him...

There are so many options, though, it really depends on who he is and where you want to take the story.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited December 12, 2007).]


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KayTi
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hunting accident
dropping out of high school/college
choosing a convenient career for the fastcash now, versus longer-term payoff
choosing the small-town honey instead of reaching for the glamour girl of his dreams
staying in a po-dunk town
not pursuing a talent (in service of convenient career mentioned above) like art, music, dance (that could be comic, of course...LOL)
not pursuing a talent because of family disapproval
not doing something that was asked of him by family/close friends, and a result was very bad (not giving joe-bob a ride home from the high school dance because he was taking home his small-town honey, and joe-bob got iced by a drunk driver on his walk home instead.)

Personally in my life, one of the main things I regret was not taking the opportunity to travel with my dad on two different occasions when he invited me to. High school life seemed more important. (oh, what an idiot I was.) My dad's still around, I haven't squandered the rest of my time with him entirely, but I do feel foolish for not taking advantage of the opportunities he offered. (and he stopped offering after the second time I turned him down.)


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wrenbird
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Maybe letting true love slip away because of fears or something like that.

I had a boyfriend dump me when he went to college because he wanted to be free for the sleu of college babes that were going to beat down his door.

Three months later he came crawling back, and I triumphantly told him "not a chance." I like to think that one day, years from now (when I'm a famous author) he'll slap his forehead and wonder how he could have ever let me go.


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DeepDreamer
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Hard choices a man might regret later, 10 minute brainstorm, timer set, ready-set-GO:

Deciding to break off a relationship with someone he loved who didn't love him back the same way. Regrets that he didn't wait things out and see if things might change.

Deciding to completely close off communication with blood-family/ex-wife + kids/etc who were continually negative/didn't support his decisions as far as job, relationships etc.

Perhaps his family was abusive and he wasn't able to protect a younger brother or sister after he moved out of the house.

Lying to get out of military duty.

Lying to avoid having to testify at a crime he witnessed.

Testifying against someone who trusted him.

Not being there at the bedside of a dying loved one.

*goes for a more haunting tone*

Getting involved in a drug deal/criminal activity/hostage situation/robbery where the only escape was to kill in self-defense.

Witnessing the suicidal death of a loved one/stumbling in on the aftermath of a successful suicide attempt of a friend or family member.

Revealing a secret he swore to keep in order to get someone some help.

Ok, ten minutes is up. Ten ideas in as many minutes is pretty good for me. =D Hope they're helpful for you guys, a few have sparked some backstory ideas I may use in my stories.



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J
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--Stealing/embezzling to provide for his family
--paying for previous wife/fiancee/girlfriend to have an abortion
--hit a pedestrian while driving / driving drunk and then drove away
--I second the idea of hunting accident. Maybe the cops ruled it an accident, but, deep down, he ignored basic safety rules and shot at something moving without identifying it with his binoculars first. He could have sworn it was a deer.
--Or maybe the person he shot was an enemy he recognized at the moment he pulled the trigger, and now, even though the policy ruled it an accident, he's tortured by self-doubt about whether it really was
--Combining several of the above, he's in a hunting accident in which he shoots an enemy he recognizes as a person only at the moment he pulls the trigger, he decides to flee the scene and is never caught, but is haunted by guilt and self-doubt.

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Lynda
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Hmm. Interesting problem.

Choosing the flashy girl over the loyal one, and regretting it for years and years.

Not trying that "one more specialist" to try to get help for a sick or mentally ill child, friend or relative.

Finding out that friend who called to say he was going to kill himself wasn't kidding, and succeeded.

Shooting at a burglar (for instance) and missing, with the bullet going on to hit a child or loved one.

Shooting an arrow into the air for fun, not realizing until too late that when it landed, it killed your neighbor.

Trusting someone to invest your savings and look after it, only to learn later that he was an embezzler.

Getting a tattoo with some girl's name on it, and she isn't the one he married - maybe she became a porn star (ooo, a twist of fate!)

Working for a politician, neglecting your family to help the guy win the election, then finding out he's a sleazy crook with mob connections or something equally icky.



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lehollis
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quote:
"Getting a tattoo with some girl's name on it, and she isn't the one he married - maybe she became a porn star (ooo, a twist of fate!)"

Awesome.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Perhaps as a truck driver he ran over something he didn't see (perhaps the sun was in his eyes, smoke from a fire, or whatever it was jumped out of nowhere) and he found out later someone died on the freeway in a hit and run. He never told anybody. (Seriously all three of those happened in the last year here.)

Or perhaps he did something when he was a teenager like burn the school down and let the scottish groundskeeper take the blame. Or he got a girl pregnant then left her. Or he joined a cult but didn't drink the kool-aide. Or he hired a hitman to kill him when he reaches 35--45 years old.

Or he was raised in the circus and mis-aligned the cannon, or didn't secure the trapeese,

Perhaps he died at the beginning of the movie and was a ghost the whole time.

Perhaps his whole family were murdered but he survived because he slept somewhere unusual.

Perhaps he was attacked by a walrus and had a gimpy leg the rest of his life,.


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Grant John
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A couple of ideas.

Building on from the sleeping elsewhere, what about surviving because he was in a sleazy motel with his mistress.

The first one I thought of, mainly because it came up yesterday when I was visiting a Special Ed school is: aborting/not aborting a down syndrome fetus. Yesterday I was surprised to find out aborting down syndrome fetuses was common enough to significantly shrink the population of down syndrome children who are currently of primary age.

Grant


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lehollis
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quote:
The first one I thought of, mainly because it came up yesterday when I was visiting a Special Ed school is: aborting/not aborting a down syndrome fetus. Yesterday I was surprised to find out aborting down syndrome fetuses was common enough to significantly shrink the population of down syndrome children who are currently of primary age.

That is a good one, Grant. My Sister in Law just had a baby with Down Syndrome, and they had to choose during the pregnancy whether to keep it. It was a hard choice for them. That's definitely one to keep in mind. (All of the ideas have been good. That one just stood out because it hit close to home.)


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