Reactions to tragedy


In real life, pretty much everybody reacts to tragedy differently. So why is it that every author has their pet reaction to tragedy that all their characters use? Not only is it unrealistic, but it takes away the chance for the characters’ different reactions to reveal things about themselves.

Possible reactions to tragedy (not an exhaustive list):

  • Distracting oneself with mindless activities
  • Distracting oneself with others’ humor
  • Distracting oneself by making jokes
  • Distracting oneself by reading/watching/playing stories
  • Distracting oneself with hard mental work
  • Distracting oneself with hard physical work
  • Distracting oneself with creative endeavors
  • Distracting oneself by chatting with friends about normal things
  • Talking to friends about the tragedy
  • Talking to authority figures about the tragedy
  • Talking anonymously with strangers about the tragedy (if possible)
  • Getting wrapped up in others’ problems
  • Staying unusually silent
  • Screaming
  • Crying loudly
  • Crying silently
  • Doing everything possible not to cry
  • Pacing
  • Taking unhealthy risks
  • Going for revenge against whoever one can blame
  • Punching random objects
  • Throwing random objects
  • Lashing out against friends and family members
  • Trying to prevent a similar tragedy from happening
  • Eating more than usual
  • Not eating
  • Taking mind-altering substances
  • Getting in unhealthy relationships
  • Isolating oneself
  • Obsessing over routine
  • Numbness combined with apathy
  • Numbness combined with going through one’s normal motions
  • Trying to get things back the way they were
  • Denial
  • No reaction at first but a reaction hits later in greater force
  • No reaction at all. Emotions relating to the tragedy just fail to load. Note that this can happen to anybody and does not mark a character as a sociopath.

Characters can have more than one reaction at the same time, one reaction after another, or different reactions to different tragedies.

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