1. semolinaro
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    semolinaro New Member

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    How can I portray a stern and apathetic character as 'fatherly'?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by semolinaro, Dec 18, 2015.

    One of the characters in my story, named Jarvis Coltrane, is a high ranking commander for a military organization against supernatural forces. He has seen a lot of strife and suffering, and is very uncaring, unsympathetic, sharp-tongued, uninterested and sometimes unfeeling. However, his Achilles heel is one of the members of his elite faction: Aleena Lockhart. Aleena came from a troubled past and while on the run, ended up with Jarvis and the military when she was a little girl. She was raised by Jarvis' group of four elites, and Jarvis came to see her as his daughter, even though they aren't related.

    I want to portray that Aleena is very special to Jarvis and that she's the only person he would be willing to die for. But I'm worried this will go against his character. He is the most unfeeling and cool character in my story, and having him suddenly gush out over Aleena feels wrong. I also want his actions to contrast the character of Aleena's real father, who would go to the length of killing her to make sure he got his way, proving that blood ties don't always equal love and protection. How can I portray that Jarvis values Aleena like she's his own flesh and blood without breaking his character? Any advice is appreciated!
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just look for subtle moments, not large, sweeping examples. Does he let his guard down around her? Does he find himself worrying about her when most of his attention is (and should be) focused elsewhere?

    I'm thinking of Adama and Starbuck in the updated BSG - is that the sort of relationship you're looking for? Maybe watch a few episodes of that show to get the vibe.
     
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  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Make it subtle. Maybe he lets her get away with certain things, maybe he acts too protective and stern around her if and when she puts herself in danger more than he shows around the other people? Maybe he finds himself double-checking her location to ensure she's safe?

    Have him come up with excuses to explain his strange behavior. He doesn't want to/or is unable to admit to himself that he sees himself as her surrogate dad so he makes up reasons why he's fussy over her when he isn't to the other people.

    Hope this helps. :D
     
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  4. semolinaro
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    semolinaro New Member

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    Awesome advice, thank you everyone!!
     
  5. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Consider the type of person she is. Did she come to the elite group weak and incapable, and then grew and hardened into a person similar to him? Does he see himself in her? Or was she always a firecracker--a fighter from the start? Or perhaps she is sensitive and caring despite all of her training and time spent with him, melting his icy heart... Alright, that was a little cheesy, but you get the idea.
    Each of those scenarios will affect their relationship differently.
    Also ask yourself what makes him have that fatherly bond with her and nobody else. Is she the only girl? Does she remind him of someone in his past? Has he always secretly longed for a family of his own? What does she have that he respects so much?
    If you have already figured all that out, it should come naturally in the small moments. If she is and always has been a fighter who reminds him too much of himself, he will probably see the flaws he wishes he could change in him, and he may be harder on her than anyone else, and surprised when she confronts him about it. On the flip side, if she is a sweet soul and he has always wanted a daughter, he will most likely go easy on her and try to protect her from the harsh realities of the world that hardened him so much, whether she appreciates it or not.
     
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  6. semolinaro
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    semolinaro New Member

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    This is actually really interesting, I'm glad you brought this up. I think I will take this into consideration for furthering their character development. Thank you!
     
  7. Wolfmaster1234
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    Wolfmaster1234 Member

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    All the points previously raised are very good. I will add that maybe you could have him be extra hard on her during training and such. This would show despite the fact that she would probably resent him for it that he is trying his best to make sure that she is as prepared as possible for when she is in harms way.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Not sure if this is cheesy, but my other thought is this: he may have code names for the people in his group, and for her, he picks something that in another language means ‘child’ or ‘daughter’. No one else knows what the word means, only he does.
     
  9. KennyAndTheDog
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    KennyAndTheDog Member

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    Perhaps a smile. My cousin is a military man and there is only one noob he smiles at. It's not big, but you notice it. hope that helps.
     
  10. novemberjuliet
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    novemberjuliet Member

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    He can be especially tough on her all the time. It's one of those things where he's always pointing out her mistakes and constantly getting on her. She can see it as mean and unwarranted but he really does it because he wants to see the best in her. Plenty of 'tough guys' lash out at people like this that they only want to see live to a higher expectation by constantly pushing them. It would go well with his character as well.
     
  11. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember in "The Empire Strikes Back" when you learn Vader is Luke's father? This twist adds so much weight and meaning to every one of Vader's actions throughout the movie. The drastic lengths he is willing to go to find Luke becomes the desperate pursuit of a father, not just the insane actions of a murder.

    Maybe providing care for a child helps your character, who is a cold and heartless military leader, feel like he is still capable of love and compassion. Maybe he actually is a nice guy, but she is the only person he can treat nicely, since he has to send everyone else he knows to their death. Maybe he just feels guilty, and taking care of her is his penance, like Claude Frolo in hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Ultimately, you should do what you want. I know it sounds like a cop out, but you could go ANY direction with father/sibling relationships. They are complicated, and you can write them from any angle. You mentioned the father fighting supernatural forces as the enemy. Maybe she has supernatural elements, but is his daughter, so it adds tension and conflict as he is forced to fight against an enemy he has to take care of.
     
  12. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    It will be in all the little things.

    The little things he does for her that he hopes no one notices.

    Just be sure that if you're going for a father figure you don't accidentally create sexual tension between them. Because the reader will go there first. A way to avoid that is to have another love interest for Jarvis or Aleena who is of equal or greater importance and influence in their lives.
     
  13. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    Maybe he trains her harder but gives her the easier assignments. That imbalance is something she notices, as do others which in itself can cause some friction. She's frustrated because she feels he thinks she's incompetent but really it's his way of caring because her safety matters most. But as mentioned in above posts, there's got to a be reason as to why he cares about her.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Apathetic" seems like the wrong word for your title. An apathetic character wouldn't achieve a high rank--you don't get to a high level of achievement with an, "Eh...who cares?" attitude.

    I assume that you mean that he doesn't feel a lot of sentiment in terms of human relations and friendship and love and kindness and all that stuff. But he does presumably care about something. What does he care about? How did he achieve this level of rank? Is it duty? Is it the survival of humanlity on a group level rather than caring on an individual level? Is it his own reputation? Is it wealth? Power? Loyalty?

    I would need to know what he cares about in his normal life before I could figure out what caused this exception.
     
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  15. oTTo
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    oTTo Member

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    When it is go time military training snaps in. That is the point of the training. He would always respond, while in the heat, as a soldier leading soldiers. Until she is in harms way, dire harms way and not just some scuffle he knows she can handle. I see this type of man still responding as a soldier, tactically and tactfully. As a leader you are a father. Your people are important to you, what they are doing in their lives interests you, their well being is your life. You can be cold, hard, controlled, but that does not remove humor. Sometimes humor gets you through the rough times, the dark times that soldiers go through can be tough on the mind and everyone has an outlet. If he cares this deeply for this girl, he would have a good sense of humor with his people, his family.
     
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