1. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    Homeless kids: adverse possession or discreet living?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jmh105, Nov 7, 2015.

    Hello, everyone,

    I have a group of around eleven or so teens and young adults who make their residence in an abandoned house. I began research to figure out the logistics of their living conditions and came across two methods.

    With adverse possession, the group can be explicit in their occupation of the house so as to assert their ownership of the property. And, eventually, by making their presence known ("hostility") and proving themselves productive and active occupants of the home, it can legally become theirs after an extended period of time. For example, if they were to lodge in California, they could legally own the house after 5 years of tax-paying. Depending on how well they perform and function in their neighborhood, it would be more difficult to evict them (or generally less likely).

    Another thing they could be doing is simply living there as discreetly as possible, with each member entering and exiting only at dusk, night, or dawn and to be careful not to make a disturbance. This course of action does not seem as reliable as the former, but possibly more likely for them to undergo, depending on their circumstances.

    These young adults actively steal for a living, so would trying to establish themselves as rightful landowners be risky, since that would mean attracting attention to their "occupations?" In this case, would their best bet be to keep their activities--and occupation--secret? However, I do not plan on them being evicted in the novel (at least not "on-screen.")

    What do you recommend I do in order to make their habitation more realistic and sustainable--at least long enough so that they aren't actively caught in the novel? If I am missing any vital information (depending on which option is best), please let me know so I can look deeper into it. Your feedback is appreciated!

    Thanks!
    jmh105
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think adverse possession is rare enough that if you don't want it to be a focus of your plot, you shouldn't use it. It would be Checkov's gun, with readers waiting and waiting for you to pull a trigger you never pull.
     
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  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    As far as I am aware in the US it varies from 5 years upwards of uninterrupted possession depending upon state. I am not from the US though. It is quite a big ask for kids.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Sounds about right. Different states have different laws and all that.

    Bayview also has a point, OP. Readers might be expecting this to be the Chekov's Gun, and will get irritated when it doesn't get 'fired'.
     
  5. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    It would definitely be grating to see what appears to be a symbol, important plot device, etc. and have it end up not being so relevant after all. :bigeek: That is definitely something I need to keep in mind!

    In that case, would either option prove to be a Chekhov's gun scenario? If I decide to go with them simply hiding out and fearing for the worst, the worst should be coming regardless, right? In my mind's eye, I was thinking that perhaps the more prominent conflict is not really an external or surface conflict (i.e. housing, not getting caught by the police), but more of an internal conflict (i.e. not getting along with each other, not being able to come to terms with their own, individual problems).

    With that in mind, would there be a right or wrong way in setting up their housing so as not to cheat the readers?
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, they'll have to worry about a lot of things:
    -> The police for one. If they talk about how sooner or later, the police will come and take them all away then the readers will expect to see a confrontation eventually.

    -> Any strung out people who might already be living in that house. Maybe the kids struck a deal with this person, but know that sooner or later, the person might rat them out to the police to save his/her own hide.

    -> People asking questions about why there appears to be movement going on in a house thought long abandoned.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the house is the gun here. They are trying to live there and as they do so, they have to contend with people who may or may not want them there at all. A confrontation over this would be expected, and the readers would feel bitter if that didn't play out.
     
  7. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    • In this case, does it matter how I word the premonition? If a character implies "sooner or later," would having the end for the gang arrive literally by the end of the novel be inadequate? Would it not be prompt enough or give a feeling of "this was dragged out for this?" The thing is, I don't plan on their living conditions be the main conflict, so would I have to downplay this concern as not to get the hopes up for my readers? What do you think, in this case? Would the characters getting what they anticipated at merely the end be unsatisfactory?
    • That would be interesting! My story doesn't particularly start out that way, but I can always think about it.
    • Ohoho, that would be pretty intense! But when you say people, do you mean neighbors, bystanders, or people on the inside?

    I see! I can definitely appreciate that the house, as of now, is certainly posing as the unfired gun. Does this expectation hinge on dialogue or characters' apprehensions, or just based on the fact that these kids are squatting as well as stealing, to boot? It makes sense for there to be some kind of consequence to their actions, certainly, but the level of consequence I am not sure of, since the "main ideas" are different from simply "stealing and squatting is wrong and can get you in trouble. These people live under poor living conditions."
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that the adverse possession is complicated enough that if it never becomes a plot element, it will be confusing and irritating. Edited to add: It also feels less plausible, and therefore resolving it will feel more important.

    The hiding out, on the other hand, immediately seems to be "balanced" by the fact that you need some excuse/reason for why these kids are living without parents, and the house is the excuse. The reader will probably still crave some sort of conclusion to the housing situation, but I think that a strong enough plot could make them forget that craving.

    (Edited to, well, edit.)
     
  9. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    I see... By complicating the issue, the resolution should, in turn, be just as--if not more--complex. If housing concerns isn't the main idea, then I should go with the simpler route and present a simple resolution in turn?

    You've got it! The entire scenario serves as reasoning for a bunch of teens being forced to live together, and having a house of some sort to return to at night (and to organize their spoils) would be helpful, but not the number 1 priority in terms of plot-development and main ideas/themes. What do you think about having them not be outright in their squatting and do so only at night/when it's convenient, and then having them be discovered by the book's end? Would this satisfy the readers if they're worried about them being caught at some point?

    In this way, the "meat" or the middle/most of the book will not be stressing about their house, but the two slices of bread would, if that makes sense?
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    What would happen if one of the 'kids' was actually the legal owner? I don't know exactly what your story is about, but if one of the kids was, say, 18 years old and had fallen heir to the house after the death of parents or guardians ...perhaps he or she could then just open it up and allow homeless kids to live there? The coming and going would be less noticeable, but perhaps the same kind of story could unfold. You say that eviction isn't part of your story's plan, so why not?
     
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  11. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    That's cool.
     
  12. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    My jaw dropped when I saw this, haha. That's an incredible idea, and I'm scolding myself for not having thought of it, haha.

    I am testing out scenarios in my mind in which they are able to live somewhere in which one of them owns the house, but I am reaching some dead ends. I can't figure out which of my already-existing characters could own the house, as none of their histories really allow it. Even if they did own the house, they'd still have to pay for electricity, water, etc, right? They would have to either cut down on some things or steal more vigorously.

    Both scenarios (who vs. rent) call for a new character, I bet, but because of the rent problem, what if it was someone who wasn't in the gang altogether? What if the kids did something astronomical (or at least astronomical in his eyes) to help this person and he pays them back by allowing them to stay in an extra home of his until he sells it/does whatever with it? I know my family lived in one house and once they bought another house, they transferred to that one without ever selling the old house. That house is vacant, but still legally ours, and we pay for water and all. That could be a plausible way to go.

    Another thing is that with this new character, I'm tempted to have him mean more to the plot than just the homeowner, but I'm not sure yet just how to go about it. But he may be necessary either way if I want them to live sustainably throughout the novel so I could focus on more of the internal problems.

    What do you guys think?
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I was thinking along the lines of a new character as well. What if the character was older? Or even 'old?' Maybe somebody who had lived in the house for a long time and could no longer take care of it alone? This could make both the homeowner and the kids dependent on one another. It could be an amicable thing (nice kids, nice old person), or maybe fraught with tension. The kids take care of the person and the house, do the yard work, bring him stuff, make sure he's fed and clothed, and the old guy pays the bills and lets them stay for free. If they fall down on their end of the bargain, he'll shop them to the cops? And no, they won't kill him, because he pays the bills and they don't have access to his money?

    All sorts of things you could do with your plot. The absent landowner is also a possibility.
     
  14. jmh105
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    jmh105 Member

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    The idea you're proposing would definitely work well to provide more conflict! Planning for this story is all the more difficult because there are too many good options or directions the story could take. Right now I'm about to burst at the seams with new developments and questions about where I'm going with the whole thing that I'm probably going to post here in the future. :D

    With your idea, I think it would work well if by the end of the book, well, the kids slack off because of something else awful that happens to them. With the tragedy on their minds, it would definitely slow down their work ethic, which could result in their eviction. This is definitely a good possibility. Thanks so much for the feedback!
     

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