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  1. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    Are her actions consistent?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Heather Munn, Jan 31, 2011.

    I'm writing about a fifteen-year-old French girl named Magali, who in the early years of WWII gets involved with an organization that is getting children out of the internment camps set up in France by the Vichy government at the Nazis' behest. (They are getting the kids out legally. There was a brief period when they were allowing that sort of thing, then they started not allowing it, then they started shipping the internees to the death camps...) She accompanies a young woman named Paquerette who transports kids to French homes where they will be taken in; Magali is along to help with the kids, so a larger group can be transported each time. Almost no one has a car at the time, so they travel by train.

    Sorry 'bout the background, it's necessary to understand what's going on.

    Here's the thing: a very important part of the plot has to do with Magali screwing up pretty badly. Basically, around the climax, she gets her mentor Paquerette arrested. But I am wondering whether the way it happens is consistent with her actions throughout the book.

    She has three incidents in which she acts rashly, and it's the third that really blows up in her face.


    The first time, a farmer is giving P & M & their group of kids a ride on the haywagon behind his tractor, when his tractor breaks down. A jeep full of German soldiers comes down the road and stops by the tractor (not to interrogate or anything, they're off duty, this is the so-called "unoccupied zone"); Paquerette and the kids hide in the hay but Magali, hidden from the soldiers on the other side of the haywagon, jumps down, comes up from behind the jeep pretending to be a passer-by, and charms the soldiers into giving the farmer the fanbelt he needs to fix his tractor, because supposedly she's been walking and needs the farmer to give her a ride. She thinks she's done great, but Paquerette reams her out afterwards because she sees she's not taking seriously how dangerous these guys are.


    The second time is again with off-duty German soldiers; they're walking through the train station checking out girls, and Magali decides they need to be kept away from the group of five teen girls she's traveling with, a few of whom are Jewish (though they have legal status in France and are not at that point in danger of immediate arrest.) She basically gives them the wink so they come and flirt with her and she leads them away from the group, but she's pretty sheltered and naive to be doing this type of thing and hadn't thought it through, and she gets freaked out when they want her to go to the train station bar and have a drink with them, and hides in the bathrooms to get away.


    The third time is around a time when the Vichy (that's the French gov't that collaborated with the Nazis) police is getting increasingly repressive. On one of her trips with Paquerette and kids, Magali sees the Vichy police beating a young man in the street. She gets angry and makes a comment about how they're pigs and do the Nazis' work for them. The police turn round and go "Who said that?" and she realizes with horror that here she is with this refugee baby in her arms and they're looking to arrest her, and she melts backward into the crowd--and Paquerette, who also saw the whole thing, steps up and says, "I said it." To protect Magali and the baby. And so they arrest Paquerette instead.


    I have two problems. One: is that last incident consistent with the others? I think the answer is probably no. The more difficult problem is: how do I have her get Paquerette arrested in a way that *is* consistent with the first two incidents?
     
  2. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sounds like it will make a very good story. :D

    To make her reaction to the third incident more consistant with the others, change the man that is being beaten to a young teenage boy. Instead of beating the boy, they could be roughing him up. What sets off the MC's temper is the boy may not be much older than some of the children she has helped escape.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it is inconsistent to be honest during wartime people don't act consistently - they change, you see aspects of their personality you wouldn't normally.

    If you can get hold of a copy of the Finishing School by Pamela Brown - it is about a girl in Singapore just a little older facing similar challenges it may help with ideas.
     
  4. Wasp
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    Wasp Member

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    I don't really think any of these events show her personality, and any type of personality can do these actions if you write it right. You've never really explained her personality so we can't really judge if it's inconsistent.
     
  5. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    It seems like Paquerette is the one to worry about. In real life, I think the whole crowd would just remain silent like school kids. It would take a unique type to volunteer for arrest.
     
  6. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    All right... briefly... she's cheerful, confident, pretty competent for her age when she wants to be, fun-loving, impulsive, extroverted, not easily scared, good in a crisis, or thinks she is, and is acquiring more and more drive to help people in trouble because of what she's seeing around her. She also wants to be someone important, someone who saves people's lives.


    Allegro: yeah, I'm going to need to give a lot of serious thought to Paquerette. She partly does it, of course, because she is the leader of the group and feels responsible. But basically Paquerette is a real hero. Magali wants to be like her... but that's going to take a whole lot of growing up.
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the three events make perfect sense. In all three Magali is taking a risk, which is consistent with being young and rash. I also think it makes sense that she loses her temper when she sees the police beat up someone, because she expected better of her own countrymen. Also, it's easier to get angry if you're taken by surprise - when she's conning the German soldiers, she's the one taking the initiative and can prepare herself.

    If you feel you need to make Magali's actions more believable, maybe you could establish her opinions of the police earlier in the story, or have another occasion where she gets angry and says things she shouldn't?
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    See I see that as exceptional rather than unusual - I can think of plenty real life brave examples during the NAZI occupation times.
     
  9. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I just brought it up because her actions are so dramatic and doom filled her past behavior should have some harbinger.
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't look to if the actions are consistent, but if the motivations and emotional responses are consistent. People may act in a lot of different ways, yet the actions might all be the result of the same emotional reasons.

    For example an insecure person might trow them self into a lovers arms one day saying that they will be together forever, and break up the next day, both as an result of the feelings of insecurity.
     
  11. Pen
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    Pen Member

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    I think Magali acts reasonably well in character, but it has to be said the previous two instances involved her saying pleasant things or with good things in mind- I'm not saying that stopping miliciens beating somebody isn't something a good character would do, but if she is something of a sweet talker she might know better than to do so by simply insulting them.

    Paquerette taking the blame is also a little rash, but it could well be consistent if she sees the miliciens about to round on Magali or indeed on somebody else at random, but from what I know the scene would probably have a lot of people pretending they didn't see the violence. As a result, there would probably be Magali and Paquerette as likely suspects, actually looking at the crime scene, so it might well be the natural thing to do.

    If the question is how to get Paquerette in trouble from Magali's rashness, it could well be that she attempts to stop them from the violence by sweet-talking, but the two miliciens, originally policemen, start to see through her and they have seen her walking with Paquerette, whom they then challenge, or who steps in after one of them gives her a slap?
     
  12. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    Ah, you've heard of the Milice...

    Yes, that's part of what had me wondering. She's not necessarily mature enough to always do the rational thing, but... it seems like it would be too obvious even to her, in the third scene, that what she's doing is useless venting. To me her downfall-flaw is that she's overconfident in her abilities... so the day it blows up in her face, she should actually be trying to achieve something.

    I like Ellipse's suggestion that the person being beaten be a teenager... boy, if he was a teen refugee, just like the kids she's been helping, that would really add tension to the scene! It's really kind of a tough thing, because what she learns from the experience is that she can't save everybody, and that in trying to do so she's endangered the refugee kids who were in her care just then and were her first responsibility. Which is a very tough thing to realize. And yes... if it was a teenage refugee, you could understand her losing it momentarily.

    It seems like, from the reactions of many people here, I don't need to change the scene as much as I thought I did. I may just need to sit down and work on it with these things in mind and see what Magali herself comes up with.

    Thank you all for your help!
     
  13. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    I need to give credit where credit is due here, actually, and I feel kind of bad for not doing so before. None of this is mine. I co-author with my mom; she asked me to rewrite this book for her. (We did the same with the previous book, the one that's getting published, it's by both of us. I forgot to mention her when I introduced myself! OK, I'm a jerk. I gotta go edit that.) My job is to work especially with the characters, dialog, and prose, but she's cool with me making small changes to the plot or sometimes even big ones if it's done in consultation with her, we did that in the first book too. So that's what I'm doing here, is wondering about making those types of changes and how big. (She and I have been talking it over as well.)

    And yeah, I have to agree, she has really set up a good story here and it's a pleasure working with it.
     
  14. The Royal Bard
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    The Royal Bard New Member

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    This sounds like it'll make a good story. However, I think you're basically over-thinking it. The girl's behaviour seems perfectly consistent to me, especially with the character description you gave, of an idealistic teenager eager to make a difference.

    Paquerette's behaviour doesn't seem unrealistic, either, especially if she's the leader of the refugee children. There have been, and are, real-life examples of the same kind of thing. Extreme situations can bring out the best as well as the worst in people.
     

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