1. writerdude11
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    writerdude11 Member

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    How should I make these characters make amends for what they did?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by writerdude11, Jun 5, 2013.

    Hey guys, Im writing a story about an interracial couple who wants to start a dog shelter but their racist neighbbors keep sabotaging the inspections due to their hatred for interracial couples. They leave nasty notes and plant pests where the dog shelter should be. Im at the point where one neighbor who has been against this plot all along is gonna call it out. To make a long story short, the neighbors realize how much trouble theyve caused them and want to make amends. My idea is that they all call the inspector and tell them its been them all along and that they deserve to have the dog shelter. They also show up one morning with extra donated supplies like dog food and blankets. I think this is good but it might be better. Any other sugggestions on how to make the amends fit the crime? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and have a good day!.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is a very interesting idea for a story. An interracial couple who want to start a dog shelter? That's a unique starting point.

    My one concern about this, based on the little synopsis you've given us, is that the resolution of the conflict sounds too easy. The neighbours just 'realise' they've been horrible? What makes them realise this?

    I don't have a problem with phoning the police and confessing, bringing dog blankets, etc. It might well be enough to make amends.

    What I do wonder is what made these people change their minds so radically, about the couple and the shelter? I hope you've got some major plot climax planned, to bring an end to their conflict with the couple. Otherwise, it's just a— 'with a single bound, Jack was free' —type of story ending, which is not very satisfying.
     
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  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need a dramatic escalation of conflict, followed by a kapow! moment and then an interesting resolve, which I don't see here. Generally the most racist person gets their come-uppance in some way or has some kind of epiphany or something related to the kapow. I can't tell you what these events should be since it's your story, but if it were my story several spring to mind. I also think the fact that the couple are interracial can be the trigger for the attacks, but the couple themselves should be a regular couple and you shouldn't harp on about differences--but I know in the US people make a bigger deal of interracial marriage. It's pretty normal in most other places.
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Doesn't sound at all realistic to me - if you're mean enough to do all of that, you're not just gonna "realise" you were wrong all along, esp not as adults. In this day and age, also, I can't see it as all that common that an entire neighbourhood would hate interracial couples. Seriously, I'm Chinese and my husband's Czech - even in the Czech Republic (a rather racist country), we've had zero problems. My sister is married to a white African/British man, with a son, and she's had zero problems in England. I have a pair of friends who are due to marry this July, one's Paraguayan and the other's Ghanian.

    I know interracial relationships don't get portrayed (almost ever) on TV, but it's more common than you think. I've had my share of racist jokes and jabs but never about my relationship, never about the fact that I'm married to a white man.

    Your story may be more believable if it were only 1-2 neighbours. This should mean that there're other neighbours who could tell on the bad ones.

    I also don't find their attempts to sabotage a dog shelter believable - surely they would rather do something to their garden, car or house? Throw eggs at the windows, ignore them in the street, tip over their bins, that kinda thing. You wouldn't go aaaall the way to wherever this dog shelter is just so you can trash it - or you might, but that would have to be the result of an escalation, and not your key event.

    Your MCs need to be more proactive - right now it sounds like they get bullied horribly and do nothing, and then the problem gets fixed without the MCs doing anything either. Your MCs are boring, and seems like they'd be rather frustrating to read if they only sit there and get bullied without fighting back.
     
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  5. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with this.

    It depends on what part of the US you're in. :/ Personally I don't understand why on earth it matters. People who make a massive deal about it are ridiculous and unfortunately there's plenty of people who do.
     
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  6. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who is your reader? What age group: a child, a teenager, a young adult (that always sounded idiotic to me, I call them adolescents :)), or an adult? Also, what background does he/she comes from?
    Your story, as you presented it, would hardly be appropriate for an adult reader. So, a younger audience maybe? You still need to work on character motivation and morals : the couple still needs to do something, be in a dilemma, argue about "who's stupid idea was this in the first place" (most couples would eventually have an argument like that :)), etc... And your "bad-turned-good" neighbor still needs some reason for his transformation: a personal reason probably, something emotional, or something rational, it's up for you to decide.

    Also, about interracial couples and racism: as Mckk wrote, in most of the world there maybe debate and occasionally unpleasant incidents, but having a whole neighborhood of racists... Even the term interracial, as I understand, has a different meaning in the US: for example, a Texan of German descent marrying a PuertoRican, or an Arab marrying a Norwegian is hardly considered inter-racial in most of Europe.
     
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  7. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    Id have the non-caucasion save the wife of the other couple in a way that puts his life in great danger. nothing brings us together like death or closeness to it.
     
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  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's completely realistic. In some parts of Belfast a catholic woman couldn't bring a protestant man into the "hood" and vice versa so a black man and white woman in some parts of America I'm sure is exactly the same.

    Like Jannert though, I think you don't have a story, yet! You need the conflict, why do the racists suddenly see the stupidity/error of their ways? What happens to enlighten them? It's not the dog pound they don't like; they are trying to make life in general difficult for this mixed race couple right? the shelter is just an easy target.

    What if one night, the racist woman is trying to plant something (drugs maybe) in the kennel, the husband is going to call the cops when she is home safe but they don't realise they've just got an evil Rottweiler in that day as a rescued dog that was ill-treated and left to starve. The dog sees her climb into 'his' space, attacks, noise erupts, human screams drown out the howls and roars of the rabid dog. The white wife calls 911, her black husband comes out, batters the dog, saves the racist woman, flushes the drugs down the toilet just before the police and ambulance arrive. Now the racist husband owes him and he talks the rest of the racist neighbourhood into accepting them, or tries. Maybe he has to come to their rescue one night when the neighbourhood vigilantes try to torch their house...

    Just an idea to get you going....
     
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  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's very unlikely that the racist people would have a sudden epiphany and 180 degree change of philosophy. Even if there were a big event, I think it would take a while for their views to soften, and even if they were to change their mind, I think it's unlikely that they'd proactively try to make amends for previous acts. They'd probably just stop engaging in them. At the most, maybe they'd leave some money or something (even anonymously). One of the most difficult things for people is to admit they are wrong. There have been studies that show once a philosophy is entrenched, people will strive mightily to maintain them and will even dismiss facts that are contrary to their established view. There is a certain news station in the US that is very biased toward one particular view. It has been shown that viewers of this station are less well-informed about facts and events than even people who watch no news whatsoever. (Similarly, see information about the Dunning-Kruger effect.)

    Admittedly, this is not exactly the same as racism, but it is related and and applicable. I think you'd have to have not only some significant event or situation where the racist and the couple are forced together for some period of time and need to attain some common goal, but also a period of time to get these entrenched ideas out, and for the racist person to have some period of reflection and to become truly sorry for their past behavior. After that point, they'd really just be making amends to the couple in the form of acknowledging their past behavior and expressing to them how sorry they are. Slowly they could become friendly. The couple knows that the neighbors are racist.
     
  10. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can see what your saying Liz about emotions or beliefs entrenched in someone's psyche and how it might take a lifetime to turn around. (I've seen enough of this in the North of Ireland where men would rather die than go for a pint with 'one o' them!') I think it would be a boring book though. Have you seen the movie 'Crash'? They dealt with racism and lots of misconceptions which turned the mind-sets of characters in a second. Very pertinent and quite moving without all the therapy.
     
  11. pafjlh
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    pafjlh New Member

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    I like the idea for your story. Now for a suggestion, what makes people always come together? Shared tragedy, something huge that makes everyone be there for one another. Example, lets say a Tornado hits the neighborhood and many houses are destroyed by it. However, the inter racial couples place of business is still there. They help out their neighbors in many different ways and many of them start to get to know them. This starts to make their neighbors see them differently. Now there can be one hold out maybe the person who stirred up the others to start with. You know a real racist type who got the other neighbors to think that their property values will go down if they moved into the neighbor hood. They refuse to give in, maybe in the end because everyone else is starting to change their feelings and are willing to give the couple of chance, they decide to leave the neighbor hood all together, because they don't want to live there any longer. The reason I suggest this is its a more realistic approach not everyone is going to change their feelings about racism, so having a hold out will give the story a believable twist. These are all suggestions, but its a way to take this story.
     
  12. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I agree that you need more conflict and drama before the neighbors become overnight converts. But I don't think you need to make all of the neighbors change their mindsets. Racism of all things are deep rooted and it may take generations to erase it. My suggestion will be to differentiate the neighbors using the pack rule, because protesting crowds/mobs usually follow a pack pattern. Just as in pack animal world there are the leaders and then there are followers. The leaders usually have genuine believes in whatever they are doing (doesn't matter right or wrong), and the followers follow them. Among the followers there are those who believes in the cause but protesting only because there is now a leader, otherwise they might never voice their opinions, and at the bottom of the pack are the followers who just follows because they don't want to be left out. So, when the neighbors who belong to the bottom of the pack become overnight converts, whatever the reason may be, I will believe it. But when the neighbors in the other end of the scale (the leaders) do so, I'll have a hard time believing it. So, in short all of the neighbors becoming hunky-dory to the couple is not plausible. But yes, the leaders of the pack or the hardliners may be compelled to shift their position a little (compelled by the climax of the story you will create). Even then they may not fully admit they are finally shifting their hard-line opinions, they may cite some other reasons for allowing the couple to open the shelter. For example, they may say the mayor requested them to allow the shelter until all the animals find a home, which may never happen but that will safe their face for the moment.

    To conclude I would say if you are dealing with as deep a topic as interracial marriage, don't rely on convenient plot ploys, dig deeper into the minds of the characters.
     
  13. writerdude11
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    writerdude11 Member

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    Chigoliz, just to let you know. There will be a major plot twist to make the neighbors start to change their view on racism. One of the neighbors that they thought was perfect turns out to have a secret that majorly shocks them, which in turn starts to change their minds. I plan to make the amends slow and convincing. I am trying to do the best I can and thanks for your suggestions.
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually think it could be done in such a way as to be very compelling. I think a key component, though, is that it depends on the POV of the story. If the story is from the POV of one of the dog shelter owners, they're only going to observe the behavior of the racist neighbor. They'll only see the external manifestations of his philosophy -- his actions or lack of actions. Suddenly there aren't any new complaints from the inspectors, or strange occurrences. The neighbors no longer shout epithets or glare at them. Suddenly they don't run inside when they see them. Maybe they see them make some tentative overtures to talk to them. After a conversation with them, they recognize a different tenor -- less hostility, etc. A kind of 'if I didn't know any better, I'd think he was trying to be friendly' kind of feeling.

    If the story is from the POV of the racist neighbor, we could really have some fun, getting into his head, and watching his thoughts and feelings slowly change. We would see how he deals with the sense of shame or embarrassment at his earlier behavior -- at some point he may try to deny it. Maybe he avoids the neighbors. He himself would struggle with how to make amends, and with how much amends need to be made. This could be a great opportunity to explore the origins of the racist behavior, why he's so hostile, what had enabled him to change his mind. It takes a lot of introspection to make a complete change in this sort of philosophy.

    I do, however, agree that there needs to be some sort of inciting incident to cause this change. He's not going to just suddenly wake up one day and decide he is no longer racist.
     
  15. timwilson
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    timwilson New Member

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    I agree with Jannert. There just doesn't sound enough problem here. The problems need to increase and increase to add interest. The interracial couple thing is a great idea, but it needs to get more and more tense.

    I would have the couples sparking off each other. Compare the two. Maybe have the white couple break up halfway through. Give them some pain.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds good. I was going to add that the incident that makes the racist change his ways does not necessarily need to be directly related to the dog shelter couple. Glad you have that part covered.
     
  17. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Writerdude - make sure to pop back with excerpts for critique, it's interesting seeing an idea grow into a story and onto a novel :)
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So you want us to come up with a better story for you to write?
     
  19. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Sometimes, with comments like this, I have to wonder. Is the dismissal through implication more about you wanting to crush the writer's confidence, by labeling the start of any potential brainstorm as some attempt to get others to 'write for them,' or is it because you simply don't want to offer help, so you say these kinds of things in order to avoid actually doing work, yourself? I've often seen you call others out on posting things that are counter-productive and unnecessary. I have to say that this is a fine example of you being just as guilty and, quite honestly, that it proves the existence of the kind of comments that deter people from reaching out to other writers, because they are essentially being told, in many different ways, that their questions are 'stupid,' or 'wrong,' or insert negative variable here that fits the description. What if the OP has never made a real amends? What if the OP has never seen or experienced the kind of resolution that's necessary for this story? How do you suggest they find a solution, that is accurate in its portrayal of real life? Especially, if they've never experienced what they're depicting? Do they fumble along and guess, eventually producing a piece that's so far from reality and everything human, it's laughable? Wasting their time, and never learning? Do they trash the piece altogether, because they should stick to writing what they know, writing nothing more, because they lack the experience? Should they shy away from exploration? The using of their imagination? What better resource than other writers? Other people? Here, on the forums, there may be some people who have had to apologize for seriously fucked up things, who have had to account for their actions and behavior and words, who have had to pull people aside and tell them briefly that they are sorry. Hell, someone might have witnessed a similar experience unfold, or read about one somewhere, that could suggest a believable route for the OP to consider for the story. And then you have comments like these, that deter genuine people from learning things, akin to the problem of the "Write what you know" mantra. It's limiting the writer's ability to embody the minds and lives of people they have never, or will ever, live. The only way you do that is through observing and listening to the experience of others, research, brainstorming, the hearing of other ideas and the reading of stories, whether fictional, non-fictional, or personal, then attempting to speculate based on what you do know. When someone basically says, "Go somewhere else for your ideas," what they are really saying is, "Don't even bother asking other people for help, or to communicate their experience." And quite frankly, I'm tired of seeing these kinds of discouraging comments.
     
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  20. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    A good resource for gaining insight into certain kinds of amends and similar processes, one that usually deals with confronting really screwed up situations and seemingly irreparable damage, could be found in 12 step organization literature. I'd suggest googling public or free stories written by members of AA/NA.. There are some snapshots that detail how people have gone about making amends to families, of which the alcoholic has killed a member through something like a driving accident, and similar situations that have very hurtful consequences, such as a racist family harassing an interracial couple, because the interracial couple might have a perspective of being so hurt, they could never forgive.. and the racist family might realize their actions were so dirty and ignorant and hurtful, that they could never gain forgiveness.. but there are real life situations where both parties found common ground, and forgiveness took place. If you can see through the specific examples, and just look at the process and the state of minds of those involved, you might find some gems to help you with your story.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then don't read them. I post that kind of comment not to be mean, but to call attention to what I see as the fundamental flaw in their approach.

    Brainstorm for methodology. That's a good idea. Brainstorming for story ideas is NOT going to make anyone a better writer; quite the contrary.

    Soft, fuzzy responses in this kind of thread are like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture.
     
  22. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I must confess I'm disappointed at how few people addressed your actual question. You aren't asking for a critique on the story itself but on how amends is made between the neighbors, yeah? I'm going to trust you've got everything covered but the part you asked about and go from there. GoldenGhost had a great idea of looking into AA/NA stories.

    There could be a neighborhood fundraiser put on to help build top-notch shelter facilities, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition style. They could even pay to have the couple sent on a vacation while the construction's done or something.

    Supplies are great but only go so far unless a lot are provided (maybe a year's worth of food?). Maybe they offer to pay for vet bills or maybe they know a vet they can hook the couple up with for a hefty discount.

    Maybe some of the neighbors volunteer their services at the shelter for X amount of hours per week. Maybe some of the neighbors offer up their homes as extra space for overflow animals. Maybe they help foster animals and rehabilitate them for their new homes or take care of the sick animals that can't mingle with the general population at the shelter.

    They could help organize an advertising campaign, maybe even pay for billboards or ads in the phone book, on TV, or on the radio.

    They could get a veterinary facility built onto the shelter grounds so they can have an in-house part-time vet.

    Neighbors could donate some of their property for the expansion of the shelter.

    They could purchase or someone could donate a van or other vehicle to help with animal transportation.

    And with that I think I'm spent. Materials really only go so far unless they were beyond the means of the couple and they are personalized through thought and care.
     
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  23. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a lovely idea, just needs to be fleshed out. Why don't you make the racists in the neighbourhood just a really large family that owns a few houses locally. So the new couple has allies in the neighbourhood (most people) but the racist bullies are quite powerful and have been terrorising the neighbourhood for many years. They also mistreat their dogs (pit-bulls or some such). You can even have their own mistreated pitbull get rescued by the couple and as they are trying to sneak drugs on the premises (as per erebh's idea) the pitbull attacks the woman. Only don't have the black guy batter any dogs, he can just call him off, no real damage done, but someone can be filming it (maybe they put a secret camera to catch who was sabotaging them) and they can prove pitbull was just protecting them (so he isn't in trouble), the bad guys are caught, big celebration at the shelter, blankets, neighbours and perhaps a few members of the bad family who come to apologise for the actions of their relatives.
     
  24. Shayla
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    Shayla Member

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    I agree that to suddenly go from being racist to feeling bad and wanting to redeem himself - he needs a reason. It could be anything from a memory which makes him understand what it must be like to be in their position or he's faced with the prospect of someone in his family being a different race.

    Who's point of view is the story being told from? Is it the interracial couple? If it is, you could still easily start out with a random turn around of the neighbours feelings if that's what you want but then somewhere in the story, you could go to the neighbours point of view and have them tell the story of what made them racist in the first place and what changed their mind. What would be even more effective would be not to mention the neighbour saying anything along the lines of "I realised I needed to make amends with my neighbours." Let your readers figure it out for themselves.

    The plot has potential! Good luck!
     

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