1. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Characters thinking before they leap?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Penny Dreadful, Jan 20, 2009.

    I'm decent with handling bad reviews. They wound my ego and I'm not always happy to see them pop up, but when they're constructive, that's great. I belong to a crit group and recently received a review that confused me a bit.

    A character in my story is a young girl. Though it's never said outright, she comes across a tunnel that leads into a Fairy underworld. The reviewer immediately drew parallels between Alice in Wonderland and my story. This had never occurred to me while writing. Folklore and it's ilk generally cites doorways into "Fairyland" as holes in hillsides, caves, tunnels in the ground, ect. Alice struck me more as a "bad trip", and terrified me as a child. I hated the book, hated the movie, and, consequently, never revisited it when older. My girl was Dorothy and her ruby slippers. As far as I was concerned, Alice was a poseur.

    But that was a tiny, personal pet-peeve, and I digress...

    The character sees the hole and, immediately, runs back inside to get prepared, i.e. hastily packing a book bag with a flashlight, batteries, and a dead fish. (Yes, a dead fish. I realize it makes little sense out of context, but the dead fish is an important, er, character.)

    The reviewer seemed to find this little detour completely unbelievable, which left me baffled. Never mind that she had to make preparations important to the story later, but do children not plan?

    I certainly remember doing some stupid things as a child, and preparing before hand to do said stupid things made me feel a little adult and the "thing" a little less "stupid".

    I'm just curious to get a second opinion... assuming any of what I typed was understood. I'm bad at posting what's on my mind and tend to ramble.

    I'm just hesitant to make a cut a couple of paragraphs that contain info needed elsewhere.
     
  2. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    It seems reasonable to me that a kid would see a dark tunnel, want to explore it, and get either supplies or friends to go with her. It also seems reasonable that she would just dive on in. It really depends on how you set her up in the first place.
    For instance, in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is set up initially as boring easily and being extremely curious. This makes it easy to believe that she would run after a talking rabbit who wears a waistcoat and a watch, and that she would blindly follow him into his rabbit-hole. Her characterization is further rounded out when she scolds herself numerous times about being impulsive and not grown-up.
    On the other hand, if you characterize your girl as being a little more cautious, maybe even afraid of the hole, it's totally reasonable that she would prepare for her adventure and bring along things that comfort her.
    Have you posted any reviews yet? If you have, you should post your story in the review section and we can take a closer look at it.
     
  3. Aristocrazy
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    Aristocrazy Member

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    I agree with illustrated but at least the prior review gives you something to think about >.>
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    How does the girl come to the conclusion that the hole she just saw leads to a Fairy underworld, and that the hole is not just an ordinary cave entrance? What struck me was the instant charge back into the house to get things she would "need", when all she's seen is an opening. How does she know where it leads? I would have expected some kind of precipitating activity...some moment of discovery...where she begins to explore the opening and sees an odd light deep inside, or perhaps, she feels a tingling on her arms that she recognizes as Fairy-energy...anything that might explain her sudden burst of activity and careful planning.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd ditto salty's wondering... if you've taken care of those snags, i'd say it can work just fine, assuming you can write it believably...
     
  6. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    The ground collapses unexpectedly and by looking inside she can tell that the tunnel appears to be both deep enough to lead somewhere and "man made". It's strange to her but really just a little girl's exploring until some journeying downward. And, in terms of "planning", it's really just quickly packing a flashlight and... fish.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I would definitely get supplies to bring along if I were to go into a dark magical tunnel! Then again, I'm pretty...well, obsessive that way. I believe in always being prepared. I don't know if I was the same when I was a child BUT...

    I'm writing a fantasy serial that utilizes a similar concept, fantastic entry to a fantasy world. In the first story, the MC just took a ferry to the magical location, but she'd prepared for the trip ahead of time (not sure if she'd end up in the fantasy location) and had a few supplies. In the sequel, when she discovers a new entryway (a dark tunnel...go figure), she has a backpack all prepared with various things to take with her--gifts, flashlight, candy bars, etc. Ditto in the third story of the series. She's learned to prepare herself.

    So it depends mostly on how your particular character would react, not children in general. If your character tends toward caution and preparation, then her actions seem just fine to me.
     
  8. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds fine to me. That's the sort of thing I would have done as a kid (and still do now, but that's a different story) I would think that she would at least walk in a little way first though, just because she's curious. Frankly, I'm a little sick of seeing idiot characters who don't think before they leap and it's very refreshing to read about someone I don't want to hit over the head to knock some sense into.
     
  9. Callire
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    Callire New Member

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    You're going against the grain of what normal children would do. That's fine, but you need to make it very clear that the girl is the type of person who would plan ahead and do this sort of thing. If she's starting out at the entrance to a cave, and this is the first time we've seen her, it does seem a little odd that she'd start packing for a journey. Maybe you could go into depth about the reason why she wants to go and grab xyz. Something as simple as "Uncle Ron taught Angelica to think like an Eagle Scout, and always be prepared for any of the harrowing adventures she might find in her backyard. Thus, she always carried her pink plastic compass with her at all times and kept a tin lunch box filled with band-aids under her bed."
     
  10. antius777
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    antius777 Member

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    Hmmm... I think I might agree with this. I believe that the young girl could be the type to BE PREPARED and all that, but perhaps we need some extra insight to the character before such an adventure were to begin. I think it's quite believable, it simply needs more details to flesh out the MC's personality.
     
  11. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    It doesn't sound strange at all to me. Like the others say it depends on the character. I know I, younger in age, would have also sought to have extra preparation in a situation like that. There are a great many of logical children. I tend to write children more mature than most children are simply because I find it more enjoyable. As long as you know, in your mind, that your character is young and is acting appropriately, then go for it.
     
  12. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Actually, grabbing a flashlight before going someplace dark doesn't seem against the grain for what a normal child would do at all. It seems incredibly unreasonable for any person of any age to go running off into a dark hole without something to see by. Even if they were extremely impulsive I still think they'd attempt turning around for a lantern once they hit the point they couldn't see anything anymore.

    Although, depending on her age, I think a typical kid would probably forget the extra batteries and I don't know enough about the dead fish's context to say either way on that.
     
  13. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Most everyone leaps before they think. It's a human flaw. We often think with our heart or gut instead of our head. To have a character that psycho-analysed every move he made, that, in my opinion, would be unrealistic.

    Characters are meant to have flaws. They're meant to make mistakes; to question their actions; to ridicule and browbeat themselves; and to do things that make them seem real as opposed to a cardboard cut-out.

    I don't see any problem with a young person being intrigued by a dark tunnel other than the fact that children are usually scared of the dark.
     
  14. delhi
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    delhi Member

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    I don't know if this will be of any use, but once I wrote a story about a boy going to some sort of magical world. It was an abandoned section of his unbelievably huge house, and it was said to hide a treasure of some kind. Well, he did think he knew what he was getting into, but mostly because he had imagination. Any child would. For example, he took a sandwich with him. Not to eat it, of course, but to distract a monster if there was any. He would've taken a musical instrument, for he'd read that music tames beasts, but he didn't have one light enough to carry. And he didn't take any coat, for "heroes always stand cold in their dangerous journeys". Silly of him, wasn't it?
    With this, I don't think your character is unbelievable, as long as he has a believable explanation for each action (not a logical explanation, but one that fits the character).
     
  15. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    I don't really see a problem with this as long as it fits the character. If she is an adventurous, maybe spontaneous girl then I wouldn't doubt her going in for a second. Of course I didn't read the story and have a much dimmer idea of it than the Reviewer, but it all seems in check from what your description of it.

    The comparison to Alice In Wonderland shouldn't be a problem either. Look at most fantasy novels and I'm sure that you will find roots that bury into Tolkien, Bradbury, etc. territory. For example the novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiaman is compared to a "Punk rendition of Alice In Wonderland." The quotee was complimenting Gaiaman's story, not pointing this out as a bad thing.

    From the sounds of it, (with all due respect,) it is the Reviewer themself that needs to change something in what they're doing, not you.
     
  16. ILikeMartini
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    ILikeMartini New Member

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    I think it's fine, I used to do that sort of thing as a child but I would have explored it a little first then come to the conclusion that I need to pack.

    Can I ask why the dead fish though?
     
  17. xxtake_controlxx
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    xxtake_controlxx Member

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    I think the packing and planning ahead is completely normal for a child. I mean, when children play games, they generally try to find props that can work in the game. Like, if a child is having a sword fight, there generally isn't going to be an imaginary sword. There might be a plastic golf club or something of that same ilk. So, if a child were to go on an adventure, I think it's safe to say that, at the very least, the child will want to "play correctly" - so to speak - and will try to take things she thinks she will need to go exploring.

    Then again, this is coming from someone who, as a child, would practice saying everything to herself before she actually said it out loud so that she didn't mess up. I mean, being prepared and ready isn't a bad thing, right?
     
  18. PS Foster
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    PS Foster Member

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    Is she already exploring when she comes upon this tunnel? If she is, or if she just thinks she might find something, then having a backpack filled with these items already with her would make sense.
    It's your story, write it to suit yourself.
     

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