1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    10-12 year-old smoker

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Thomas Kitchen, Mar 8, 2014.

    Hi there all,

    I'm creating a main character for a fantasy novel, and as you can see, he will be somewhere between 10-12 years of age. It begins in the real world, and then he and his best friend are slowly brought into this new world. He's suffering from verbal and physical abuse from school bullies, and possibly sexual abuse from somewhere else, but I haven't decided if I will incorporate this element yet, as this is the early stages of creation.

    What I'm wondering is two things:

    1.) Would what he's suffering from be enough to get him smoking cigarettes? I'm pretty sure it would, but I just wanted to check. He might also smoke from severe peer pressure from the bullies; I haven't decided yet.

    2.) Would a boy at this age be believable as a smoker? I would be building his character before he enters the fantasy world, and I know anything can be done if done well, but what about in general? After everything he's been through?

    Also, just to let everyone know, this is an adult fantasy novel.

    Thanks. :)
     
  2. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, kids start smoking because they're pissed off about something, because of peer pressure, because they want to rebel, because they're bored... there are a myriad of reasons. Some of my friends started smoking when they were 11-12. Granted, one guy who started at 11 was already coughing his lungs out at 14, but yeah, there were plenty of smokers in my class and I smoked my first cigarettes at 13. Do they look believable... well, they look ridiculous, but I'm guessing that's not quite what you meant. :D
     
  3. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I know a lot of kids personally that started smoking at 10 or so, especially those from poor or rough home lives. I know parents that used to buy cigarettes for their 13 year old. It's very believable and possibly even expected in certain environments.
     
  4. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    1. It could, but only if cigarettes are something he is exposed to. It has to be in his sphere of experience. I think I can best explain what I mean through an anecdote. Once, in an excerpt written by someone else, a character compared a certain winged creature to a dragon. The only problem was, dragons didn't exist in that world and as such, the character couldn't possibly know what dragon-like even meant. Similarly, the pressure might get him to smoke (to be cool and to fit in with the though guys or whatever), I would worry more about exposing him to the concept of smoking often enough that it is a sound enough decision for him to make.

    2. Yes. Unfortunately I have seen some kids smoke at this age. I can't recall a ten year old doing it, but I have seen an eleven year old and twelve year old do it. There was a rather shocking statistic on the news recently about boys in the age category 12-15, however I can't find the exact numbers. All I do know is that:

    a. It does happen.
    b. A larger percentage than I expected smoked "frequently".

    I think it's key that you really put him under pressure. I don't think any kid would start smoking because it's nice. Everyone I know coughed their lungs out when they started and they have all admitted to originally doing it to fit in.
     
  5. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    I went to school in Italy, and about everyone I know there started smoking when they were about twelve (year more, years less).

    A five year old could easily buy cigarettes there, in any store, no questions asked.
     
  6. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Well, I wasn't born in Italy, nor have I been to school there, but I stayed there on vacation for a little while. My friend, then 14, was a smoker, I wasn't but now that you mention Italy, I do recall that he had little trouble getting his cigs. Still, and this may sound like some boy adventure story but I can assure you, it really happened, we did get chased away once. I still remember making a dash for it. We were pretty terrified then, but it's kinda fun to think about in hindsight.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for all the super quick replies! Well, I've been thinking that these school bullies will actually force him to smoke cigarettes, after school. He's a tiny little lad who only has one friend, his parents know nothing because they are at work often and he spends almost all of his time in his room (but they are perfectly decent parents), and he just fits in nowhere - even when he arrives in the fantasy world.

    Thoughts?
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    My youngest sister was smoking at 11, it's terribly sad but it happens. I think kids from troubled home situations would be feeling more desperate to belong, they might be more easily influenced, and also, could be an easier target for bullies too.
     
  9. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    It probably depends what city you were in, and most of all if was north or south. I grew up in Rome, pretty big town, and many times I bought cigs for friends when I was about that age.

    Sorry for the off topic, let's get back in line.
     
  10. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    In another of my school experiences, it was pretty common that bigger guys pushed kids and pressured them to start smoking, mostly to make fun of them, but the kids would keep on smoking to "look cool" (strange things are cool when you are growing up).
     
  11. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Not sure about that. All the kids I knew who smoked at 13 were very "protective" over their cigarettes: they only ever gave out a few and even those to their closest friends or people they wanted to impress, but since cigarettes were relatively hard to come by, the kids held onto theirs tooth and nail. What bullies did do was steal cigarettes from weaker / less popular smokers or took them by force. There was one guy in my class when we were in 7th grade whose smokes were repeatedly taken from him by 8th graders: 2-3 guys held him down while one searched his pockets and then they shared the ciggies, but nobody ever forced anyone to smoke their precious smokes.
     
  12. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Here are my thoughts: I want to read the damn story already :p
     
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  13. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for the heads up. I'll work at making it more believable. :)

    I want to write the damn story already. ;) Thanks.
     
  14. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Good. Please, if possible, keep me in the loop about this story. If you need a beta reader or if it gets published, let me know, I'd definitely want to read it (could you tell?).
     
  15. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    @Macaberz - Nah, I thought you were rather disinterested. Good to know I have a beta reader this early on, though! :D May I ask, what exactly is drawing you to this story? I may be able to utilise whatever is catching your attention so your enthusiasm for reading it is increased yet again. ;)
     
  16. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I don't think the bullies would force him to smoke. Smoking is something cool people do, and if they don't think he's cool, he's doesn't deserve one.

    I had my first cigarette at 12 and it was really because I wanted to be part of a group. There was a circle of kids passing a cigarette around. You couldn't be in the circle and just pass the cigarette without hitting it.

    But no one smokes a lot at first. Your MC isn't going to have a strong desire for a cigarette unless he's been smoking for a year or more. And if he isn't around cigarettes at home it's going to be very hard to get them.

    I definitely didn't cough and started inhaling right from the start. Nothing felt better than the first couple of drags on my first cigarette.
     
  17. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    He might be a target for bullies, and might take up smoking to appear to be tougher in order to ward them off.
     
  18. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Ah well, there's always an exception, isn't there? My point was more that I can't imagine many kids actually think it tastes nice or makes them feel good, well aside from feeling good because it's probably disallowed for them to smoke...

    Are you catching my drift? :p
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Your story idea sounds great, @Thomas Kitchen , but this is a really depressing thread. For me, anyway. I've always hated smoking (both my parents smoked, and my dad died of emphysema at the age of 63) and never was tempted to try it. So sad that kids are getting into this dangerous and expensive habit so early. Not shocked, just depressed. Bummer ...:(
     
  20. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    On a global level, I generally like child protagonists a bit more than older ones. I simply find them to be more interesting. And I just realized that perhaps the word 'simple' catches why I like them better. Sometimes, for my taste, older characters are superficial. As if the author thought that by adding such and such traits their characters would be deeper, for me it just yields a disconnection. I am not saying kids are easy characters to make, they aren't, but the nature of their actions and thought processes strike me as purer and I often find it easier to shift into that mindset than to shift into one of a heavily troubled adult character. Most of the time at least. Also, I really like the dark tone of story.

    Then, on a deeply personal level, I have found that I like these sort of stories because they are a way for me to experience the things that I didn't have in my own childhood. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to be your character, but there is a certain attraction to the rebellious kid. At least for me. You see, I was anything but rebellious myself. I was rather shy and never broke any of the rules in school, well not until my late teens anyway. Odd and stupid as it may sound I can't deny that I feel like I have missed out on some mischievous adventures as a kid. I did have a perfectly fine childhood and I am absolutely happy with how I was raised, but there still is a child-like desire for adventure somewhere deep inside me. Writing and reading is perhaps a way for me to express that. The premise of your story tugs at a heart/soul string of mine.

    So, there you have a piece of my soul ;)
     
  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a really interesting thought. I wonder how many 'good' kids wonder 'what if...? in their later years.' That's a story premise right there. Could somebody live vicariously through their children, by allowing and encouraging them to be rebellious or even downright bad? Hmm... food for thought...
     
  22. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Or a parent who was unpopular as a kid doing all he or she can to make his/her kid popular.

    I may be wrong but I do think that to some (slight) extent, most parents consciously or subconsciously relive their childhoods through their own children. I am not exactly in a position to say if that's really true though, but I think it might be.
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I think you're quite right. Some try to make their kids have the same kind of childhood they did themselves. Others do the opposite. But I can't believe for one minute that a person's own childhood doesn't rear its head when the person becomes a parent themselves. I know a guy who came from a badly broken home in the 1960s, at a period when multiple divorce and numerous step-siblings and step parents was not as common as it is now. His obsession regarding his own children was to provide them with a stable, loving home (which he has done.) It was his number one priority, and he linked it directly and consciously with his own peripatetic childhood.

    I'm thinking ...would the opposite be true as well? Somebody whose home life was stable and loving and unthreatened—would they want to inject a bit less predictibility into the lives of their children? I don't mean make the kids miserable, but just shake up their world every now and again. Move house frequently. Change jobs. Change house rules to challenge the kid's ability to adapt? Might be interesting to pursue the thought in a piece of writing.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    I agree-to me, the bullies forcing someone to smoke would suggest that the bullies think that smoking is a horrible experience. Only if the kid has been walking around preaching about the evils of smoking (or if perhaps his parents preached them in a very public way) would I expect bullies to force him to smoke.
     
  25. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I smoked my first cigarette at 11 for three reasons: Rebellion, to look cool in front of my "bad" friends, and curiosity. I smoked off and on over my junior years, but I didn't start in earnest until I was 17.
     

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