But, a specific kind of trauma.
I feel like a lot of the books I’m reading nowadays have a tendency to make the main character somewhat traumatised, but, from before the book begins. Like they have childhood trauma from seeing their parents die or living in a dystopian society.
And sometimes this makes sense, and it’s done well! But sometimes it feels like the author is just trying to either a) doing it to make the character more interesting or b) trying to get brownie points for mental health representation.
In the case of a), there are many better ways to make a protagonist interesting, usually it’s also much simpler, just making a protagonist that feels real and relatable is more than enough, and this can be accomplishes by giving them things like hobbies, preferences… check out my post on some things to give your protagonist for more info.
In the case of b), representing trauma isn’t a bad thing, but representing it badly can be. And this happens a lot, I’m not about to go into how to represent trauma well, because it’s not like I really know, I know how I’ve reacted to my own trauma, I know how my family and how my friends who’ve experience it jave reacted, but everybody reacts differently. But perhaps part of my problem here is, there are so many mental health issues that are hugely underrepresented that are for more interesting and easy to pull off! Anxiety, depression, social-anxiety, adhd, autism, OCD… of course, if you do decide to include any mental health disorder, be very careful to do your research! Social media is great to find people with these problems talking about them. Also look at what helps and be careful not to spread harmful stereotypes or unaffective solutions.
I think perhaps the other thing that bothers me about this is simply that, I prefer books where the character experiences, reacts, realises and slowly heals from trauma in the book. Starting with an already established trauma which usually won’t even be dealt with is just boring to me.
Again, preexisting trauma can be done well and make sense for your story, I’m not saying it doesn’t! I’m saying, take a step back ask yourself, why? Not just why in the book, but why did I make this decision as an author? What is my intent here? And evaluate if that intent is right, if you could improve it or if you’d be better to cut it all together.