Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:11 PM
I'm having a dilemma with regards to something I'm writing. I discussed it with Patrick, and he was very helpful, but I'm still not quite settled as to what's going to happen. So it's time for some reader response, people. Share your thoughts with me on the following conundrum.

I have a character who is experiencing paranormal events. She wants to confide in her best friend, but she knows she'll sound crazy. She needs help, though, and she's getting desperate.

What would you do if your best friend came to you with a crazy, supernatural story that s/he swears is true? This friend has always been utterly trustworthy and normal in the past; you've never had even the slightest reason to doubt her/his word. But s/he has absolutely no proof; in fact, when s/he tries to show you evidence, s/he fails pretty miserably and gets very upset and even more insistent about her/his story.

I know I'm being cryptic, so don't even try and guess what I'm trying to do. Please just give me your best prediction of what you'd do in this character's situation. Thanks in advance! I'm confident that you'll help me get through this muddle.
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26 comments:

On 3/10/07 , Michelle said...

1 - We're both religious, so I would probably first try to interpret "supernatural" through that lens. Is this somehow miraculous? A curse? A blessing? Divine intervention? My faith is not always very strong, but it would give us a comfortable shared vocabulary with which to discuss the supernatural.
2- Is she speaking symbolically? Poetically? Am I understanding her correctly?
3 - Is she feeling o.k.? Is she really stressed out? Is she seeing a therapist? On any medications? I would be going through the DSM in my head, trying to figure out which cluster of symptoms she's exhibiting.
4 - Is there some rational explanation for what she thinks she saw/experienced? Like the tree's shadow that your kid thought was a monster?
5 - If all else fails, if she seems otherwise normal, sane, rational, and persists that this strange thing really, literally happened, I would probably believe that there was something to it, but wouldn't be quite sure what. I really do like and respect my best friend a whole lot. She's quite with it. So I'd figure we'd have to investigate it together, and I'd try to keep an open mind.

 
On 3/10/07 , CableGirl said...

That's a really interesting dilemma.

I think that if my best friend came to me with a story that I just couldn't bring myself to believe, based on our friendship, I would take her at her word. I would try to be supportive no matter how cracked I might think she is. If nothing else, although I may not believe her, I would believe that she believes it. Make sense? I would try to help her get to the bottom of it.

 
On 3/10/07 , Summer said...

Even if I didn't believe in the paranormal l would still support her and try to understand and see what she was attempting to prove to me. I wouldn't discount her fears for a minute, but if it continued over time and her behavior became more and more erratic I might talk to a close family member of hers and express concerns over her health.

 
On 3/10/07 , Julie Wright said...

I'd listen attentively and nod a lot though at first I would likely doubt said story (I'm such a cynic) but eventually . . . I would come to the point where I would believe in my friend. If nothing else I'd know my friend needed me and even if I felt skeptical . . . I'd be there. (I'd put in a few weel meant questions to others of our acquaintence to see if she's on meds I should know about)

 
On 3/10/07 , Catherine said...

Well, that's actually happened to me, several times. Sometimes I'm the person with the unbelievable-yet-true story. Sometimes I'm the friend.

When I'm the friend, I listen, and filter, and realize I have no reason to believe him/her, so I do believe him/her...but at the same time, I just can't. Not quite. But I don't disbelieve. I guess I become kind of a agnostic. I don't just swallow the story, but I totally believe that she's telling it like she understood it and I wonder what else might explain it. But I also kind of just believe it face value and feel terrified, humbled, and excited.

 
On 3/10/07 , painted maypole said...

interesting question. Obviously it depends on the friend and our shared history, but I think I would do my best to just LISTEN... in my head I might be thinking "this is really wacky" but I would try very hard to listen and believe, knowing how hard it would be for a friend to confide this stuff and that they wouldn't just be making it up forattention or whatever. If I was worried for their safety or the safety of others I might try to get them help, otherwise, I would just ask lots of questions and not commit to believing or not.

 
On 3/10/07 , bubandpie said...

Something rather like that did happen to me - a close friend of mine told me that she was receiving messages from God - like, real messages. My theology doesn't rule out such acts of communication, but I am heavily skeptical of most such claims. But because I trusted my friend and she was convinced, I believed her.

A long sequence of events ensued at the end of which both of us became convinced that whatever was going on with her was not of God - but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for quite a long time.

 
On 4/10/07 , Sirdar said...

Well...if he/she is a very close friend I will listen and try my best to believe him/her. If the evidence doesn't show up I will say to show me when it does show up. I've learnt you can't prove everything at once all the time.

Also, you can tell if he/she believes that what they are saying is true. You can see it in their change of manor. With a good friend you can tell if they are BS'n or not.

 
On 4/10/07 , Radioactive Jam said...

You mean, what would I do *after* I got over my jealousy? Because I would be jealous.

And supportive. But I'd also make X-Files and possibly Twilight Zone jokes.

Ultimately - I'd offer to help in whatever way my friend needed or thought I could assist.

 
On 4/10/07 , Sketchy said...

I would listen and make supportive comments but in my head be really skeptical.

 
On 4/10/07 , lalaland said...

Glad I dropped in today. Well, you’re not giving much away here, but why has the (historically normal/trustworthy) friend sought out the other friend in the first place? Is this person feeling threatened or obligated or exhilarated or what? You say the character needs help. What’s driving the desperation? And the nature of the paranormal experience would matter to me, I imagine. If this friend were to announce, for example, that he/she knows I’m about to be abducted by toe-sucking-three-tailed-muck-dwelling inhabitants of star glupnikt63:f in a galaxy far, far away – well, that would probably inform my response/reaction in a particular way (I must confess). That said, my first concern would be for my friend’s well-being and state-of-mind. I think there's a powerful impulse to ask for evidence in this situation, but I’d want to pull back from that position (at least initially) and assure my friend that I am, at the very least, concerned and interested and available.

Is there something you need to talk about?

 
On 4/10/07 , Melissa said...

I'd believe my friend whole-heartedly, mostly because she is such a friend. I've been told of too many paranormal events by too many completely believeable people. I don't usually believe it when I see it on television or see it on tabloid covers, but when a friend says that it happened, I believe her. She doesn't even have to swear that it did. Wierd and unexplainable things just happen. All the time.

 
On 4/10/07 , James Dashner said...

I think you need to assume the worst case scenario for your readers and assume they are die hard cynics. If this friend is all lovey dovey cheesy and believes the story upon hearing it because they completely trust each other, most of your readers will roll their eyes.

It doesn't matter what would happen in real life. Fiction is not real life. You have to play to the lowest common denominator sometimes. Perception is reality and all that jazz.

I would have the friend feel sickened, betrayed, worried, horrified that their best friend has gone psycho. They grow apart for awhile. They avoid each other.

Then slowly the friend comes around and believes it.

I had this exact dilemma in my new book coming out, but it was a child telling his dad about something. I basically disobeyed everything I said above, because the dad does believe his son right away. But it was a little different because he had seen evidence himself beforehand.

Anyway, not sure if that helped at all. Stuff like this is tough. But I have to say, I'm very intrigued!!!

 
On 4/10/07 , Adriana Velez said...

What if she told the truth but told it slant, as Aunt Em would say? If she tailored her version according to what she already knows about her friend?

I think it would add some interesting texture to the characters and the story to consider the fault lines of their friendship. What does she know about her friend? What doesn't she know? What does her friend think of her? Is he or she a natural skeptic and will this cause a rift? Will the friend see her differently after she reveals her secret? Will it bring them closer? Is her friend actually yearning to believe something like this?

 
On 4/10/07 , Adriana Velez said...

Oh yeah, and I second what James says -- it's fiction. What matters most is what makes the most engaging story. Often that's not about what the average person does/feels.

 
On 4/10/07 , Radioactive Jam said...

I'd still be jealous. Cheese and crackers Luisa, I *am* jealous and it hasn't even not happened yet.

 
On 4/10/07 , Leendaluu said...

I think some initial skepticism is in order because it's jus t foreign and our intial reaction in denial. Then a little bit of hearty anger...perhaps at the distance this puts between her and her friend and also anger at the discomfort the fonfidante friend feels because this is not happening to her (she feels left out). Then I think it has to move into some acceptance and joy at her friend's gift. Of course I would throw in some 'acid test' in there somewhere...spoons bending or some such. Just for a little 'evidence' (I know that's trite)

 
On 4/10/07 , dawn said...

Well, assuming you have developed the friends character, you need only find the person in your comments column most like the friend Ha Ha. Okay, I would likely listen very intently to what is being said, be very doubtful and think my friend is nutso, but not let on, and I would go along with and try to glean as much information as possible from my friend who trust that I trust her completely but I really think she is nutso. And now that I have written that, you know how I talk to my friends, in long drawn out, run on sentences so they can't get a word in edgewise. I am so transparent.

 
On 4/10/07 , Carrot Jello said...

Smile and nod.

You're a writer? Geez, I hope my blog doesn't make you pull your hair out.

 
On 5/10/07 , Luisa Perkins said...

Thank you all! Your thoughts are extremely helpful. I think I've got it figured out.

 
On 5/10/07 , Alice said...

Hi Sister Perkins! This is Lauren even though it says Alice (internet is not safe according to my dad). I set up a blog with help from mary, and i just wanted to show it to you. Its www.wakeboardstar.blogspot.com. Its pretty awesome too. Mary has been sending me links to your blog ever since i set mine up, and i think your's is great!

 
On 5/10/07 , Dapoppins said...

Like Michelle I would do that number one thing...I would also believe what ever said best friend said, no matter how unbelievable.

 
On 5/10/07 , Anne Bradshaw said...

Me? I'm Mrs. Gullible. I'd believe her, but at same time be scared to death in case it was a dubious spirit making things happen. I'd advise caution and suggest calling in backup.

 
On 5/10/07 , Annette Lyon said...

I just sent you a message with my ideas, but these people had better ones, and it sounds like you've gotten it all settled anyway. Hooray! (That's what I get for slackin')

 
On 6/10/07 , piper of love said...

don't forget to send out the love of the buzz before tomorrow!

I love buzzing you BTW! I link to you in my blog.

xo! long live the original BUZZtastics!

 
On 9/10/07 , Kimberly said...

I know you've got it figured out, but I can't not comment for some reason.

I would suspend my disbelief for a really, really close friend. I wouldn't believe, but I wouldn't think she was crazy either.