I have a character who, maddened by the suicide of his son, chooses to destroy the company the young man worked for, holding them responsible.

He is a successful businessman who told his two children they must make their own way in the world. His daughter takes the challenge and thrives, but the son is weaker and a bit resentful. He expected their father to give them what they wanted, not a lesson in independence.

The son travels to Istanbul, gets a job but has no passion and little interest in it. He is fired after a few weeks. He tries halfheartedly to get another meaningless job and chooses to hang himself.

The businessman is guilt ridden and grief stricken. His choices seem to make sense to him, but are lost to reason.

My MC has been hired to protect the owner of the company that is his target of vengeance. MC is an assassin and the most effective way to do this job is kill this grieving man. He would rather find other solutions as the organization he works for tends to try and assist those who are suffering - even if it is in a drastic fashion. MC sees this man as more a potential client than target.

Is it reasonable to have someone maddened by grief and guilt be brought back to reason by a stranger after eight months or so?

I am not asking what to write, as I see the scene clearly. My question is more would such a change be credible considering the extreme stresses this character is under?

4 Answers 4


It is a long way from wishing someone dead, to being able to actually do it. Even having set out to kill that company-owner, can your businessman really pull the trigger?

Based on this, I would expect that on some level, your businessman would expect someone to stop him, even want someone to stop him. We have a sort of image in our mind of how the world works, getting away with murder doesn't sit well in that image. It's "not right".

Only, he has already set out on this journey. He has climbed the tree, and now he cannot get down. He cannot admit to himself that maybe killing that company-owner is not the way. And then somebody comes, and offers him a ladder - a way to get off that tree. He is being gently propelled in a direction some parts of him wants to go, and knows it is right that he should go, but he doesn't dare to go. You are right - he feels very strongly that he must extract this revenge, for his son. It's hard to give up of such an emotion, even if you know you should.

But that's the trick - he knows he should give up on this crazy idea. So yes, I think it is very believable that your assassin can convince him. (Provided the assassin can offer empathy etc.)

  • My assassin is quite capable of empathy. He also understands the rather toxic blend of guilt and grief having suffered it as a young boy - believing himself somehow responsible for the accidental death of their parents. His sister, a precocious and sophisticated twelve at the time, understood that bad things happen without it being anyone’s fault
    – Rasdashan
    Feb 15, 2019 at 4:51

Before we even consider redemption, you should consider the credibility of your character.

We consider any murderer to be deranged and in need of either correction or assistance. For a non deranged person, to be able to kill another human being, for whatever reason, takes a significant amount of emotional effort. As far as I know, most grieving parents do not go around killing people. They do not even plan on committing murder. In fact, when such things happen, they easily make it to the sensationalist pages of international news.

That is just to say that premeditated murder is not an easy walk. To make the premise of your climax believable you will need to present a profoundly deranged character, one that has snapped out of the normal rails of social behaviour. Until the reader knows that he can willingly and consciously harm another human being, they will always suspect that a final doubt leading to redemption is at hand. Anger and grief alone do not warrant action.

That being said, can your character redeem himself? Yes he can. A member of society that snaps into a murderous spiral inspires mental weakness. In fact your character is driven by the events, dominated by the environment surrounding him, and, from what you have told us, he does little to nothing to imprint his own decisions to the plot. Leverage this lack of will-power and you can have him repent at any time, cry over his misfortunes, and even apologise for his intent. No issue there.

"I could have shot him, but my eyes filled with tears for the ominous act I was about to do. Deep in my heart I felt a voice. It was like the cry of a young boy, and it begged me to give that very forgiveness, which had been denied to my son."

et voilà.


Yes, it is credible.

Grief is a horrible thing and losing a child is just about the very worst thing that can ever happen to you.

Grief can make you do and say pretty horrible things. The best cure for that is time. But if this man is still hell bent on destruction 8 months later, the grief has morphed into something else.

He is not unreachable. Sometimes all it takes is feeling 100% listened to and understood. That doesn't suddenly snap him back to normal (he'll never be normal after this tragedy) but the goal isn't to cure him, it's to give him awareness over his actions.

So, yes, the right stranger can make all the difference and set the character on a path towards healing. Or at least focusing his emotions in more socially acceptable ways. He knows right from wrong, the grief and his desire for vengeance is just blinding him to it.


I don't find this story credible.

First, why in the world does the kid give up and kill himself after a few weeks on his own? He works at one job for a few weeks, gets fired, and kills himself? That is not plausible to me at all.

Second, your father is a businessman, and he cannot comprehend an employer firing a slacker kid after two weeks on the job? I've fired half a dozen people before their probation period is up, because I determined they were incapable of their job, misrepresented themselves on their resume or in their interview, or weren't getting along with their coworkers. It makes zero sense for a seasoned businessman to blame another businessman for firing his son from an entry level job.

You would need a far more actively evil employer and much more time for him to stress out the kid to warrant any sort of blame. And "irrational grief" is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that lets you just do anything and claim anything you want; readers have to get it.

Further, I don't buy the empathetic hired killer angle. Hired killers do the job or they don't get paid, and they aren't psychiatric counselors. Most people given as the target of hired killers are innocents (witnesses, prosecutors or other public servants in the way, wives or husbands or others standing in the way of an inheritance, sometimes politicians trying to do their job, or just in general a non-criminal obstacle to something a criminal wants). Nobody becomes a hired killer if they aren't willing to kill innocent people, and that requires a distinct lack of empathy. (I would make a distinction between a hired killer and a soldier sniper that kills the enemy or assassinates enemy soldiers or politicians -- enemy combatants and leaders are not innocent people -- but that distinction does not apply here.)

I do not find it plausible a stranger talks a father out of a grief that has been going on for months. To make this father bent on revenge for that long, you must vastly increase the culpability of the other businessman in the death of his son, and that must go on for a much longer time. However the other businessman abused or coerced the son and drove him to suicide, must come to light to the father, so his anger grows as he investigates more. But that in turn makes the plausibility of him being talked down and abandoning his revenge very implausible.

Sorry for the negative answer. I am trying to save you time, a storyline has to be plausible to the readers, and I think you are taking far too much liberty with the irrationality of grief, blaming a two-week employer, and a son committing suicide after failing at a few weeks of work.

As a start, I'd suggest you get this son killed on the job and make his employer a criminal that intentionally sent the naive son into lethal danger. Then the father, investigating the circumstances of his son's death, has a good reason to want to seek revenge against this guy. But that still wouldn't fix the implausible hit man with a heart of gold, or a stranger talking the father into letting the employer off the hook.

Edit: The OP comments he could make the son murdered, and the murder made to look like a suicide.

In that case, the last paragraph above applies. The father can know his son would not commit suicide; in fact an early scene between father and son can seal the deal:

Son was angry. "That's it? I'm cut off forever. With no warning."

Father shook his head. "I've told you a hundred times, son, you cannot party forever. But you are my son, you will always have a bed to sleep in and food to eat. Doctors if you need it. But no more money. No parties. No more cars, the next one you wreck will be one you paid for yourself. No more half naked women parading through my house. If you want entertainment, get a job and pay for it yourself. Or watch TV, I'll give you that free."

"How is that different than a prison sentence? No thank you. Screw you. You think I don't know how to make my own money? Screw you."

Then the father knows the son did not have anything "real" to despair over, and would not have committed suicide. Father could still be paying Son's phone bill, for example, considering that a basic need, so Son could always pick up the phone and call him for a rescue. But upon investigation, Father can still feel guilty for not anticipating his son would get involved with a covert criminal enterprise to make money, and perhaps Son saw something he shouldn't have, and his suicide was forced, yes he was hung, but did not hang himself. A real medical examiner finds bruising on the body suggesting a fight minutes before he died, or something.

Now the father has reason to investigate, and hire people willing to be violent to counter this covert criminality and take revenge. You still have problems, the hit man with a heart of gold makes no sense. But your character for that role could be somebody the father hires to protect himself after the covert criminals make an attempt on his life. It is implausible a stranger could talk the father down from revenge, but somebody that has saved his life and become his friend, and shows him how he will destroy himself, his daughter, and perhaps sacrifice his own innocent workers in the crossfire, might be able to talk him down from his rage. Then for a satisfying ending, the same MC-bodyguard military sniper covertly kills the criminal and the henchmen that killed Son.

In the reader's eyes this will not be murder, but justice. Without fanfare. Father can learn of these deaths, and the MC can deny any knowledge of it.

"Karma," he tells the Father. "They live by the gun, they die by the gun."

But then the MC bodyguard is no longer needed by Father, it is time for him to move on. Next adventure. You have a story.

  • MC joined the military young, became military sniper. After a few years of Black Ops, he was recruited by the CIA. At 24, becomes disillusioned and is approached by an independent group so goes professional. He is not Collateral, but more of Grosse Point Blanke type of assassin.
    – Rasdashan
    Feb 15, 2019 at 12:17
  • 1
    I find the premise fantastical and divorced from reality, so no emotional payoff. There are no sympathetic or believable characters (the daughter?), and the "climax" seems convenient. I also don't understand why anyone would have a murderer-for-hire as a hero, against a would-be murderer with a personal motivation as villain. The moral is professional murderers are better because... the financial backing of their above-the-law masters...? In a Bizarro-universe I guess everyone acts Bizarro… Not the sort of story I would spend time on, tbh. I would stop reading/change the channel...
    – wetcircuit
    Feb 15, 2019 at 14:22
  • @Rasdashan Well good luck with it, write the story you have to write. That doesn't change anything about my assessment, I find this setup implausible on every level -- The son, the father, the businessman AND the MC. You don't "protect" somebody by committing premeditated murder, or even contemplating it. I don't get it. I don't think others will get it. You need a story that adheres more closely to how people really act and how people are really motivated to revenge and murder and suicide. Two weeks of job disappointment is just not enough!
    – Amadeus
    Feb 15, 2019 at 14:35
  • 1
    @Rasdashan Real life is not an excuse to write bad fiction. Plus you did not characterize the son as "disappointing" his father, you characterized him as weak and resentful of not being given what he wants. Those two emotions don't fit together. And in any case, TWO WEEKS. That is not enough time to go from Setback to Suicide, it is simply not realistic. Whatever is compelling you to write this particular unrealistic story, I hope you find it cathartic, because I do not think your premise is remotely plausible enough to be salable.
    – Amadeus
    Feb 15, 2019 at 19:49
  • 2
    I suppose I could have it turn out the son was murdered and it was made to look like a suicide.
    – Rasdashan
    Feb 15, 2019 at 22:24

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