1. Jaiyke
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    Jaiyke New Member

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    Is it unrealistic how much drama and violence my protagonist goes through?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jaiyke, Aug 9, 2015.

    So the story I'm currently attempting to write is about a 17 year old girl that lives in an unnamed Russia-inspired country and is forced out of her home when a massive civil war breaks out. Her father is killed, her home burnt down, and she is left with no one and is all by herself. Now, this is somewhat plausible and realistic, but as the story progresses, she gets involved (usually not by her choice) in many violent confrontations with soldiers and generally unpleasant people: she goes to her school to evacuate; soldiers show up and start shooting. She goes into the forest to survive; she gets kidnapped by insane survivalists. She tries to cross the border; she gets captured by soldiers and taken to a labour camp. You see what I mean? It's like an endless series of deadly confrontations, captures and escapes. I need to fill the story with something, but it all seems sort of unrealistic to me, like it's ridiculous one girl would go through so much in such a short time and still live (she suffers some serious harm along the way, but doesn't die).

    So would it be too unrealistic to have her go through and survive so much? I want the story to be grounded in reality, but I also want exciting and dangerous stuff to happen along the way.
     
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  2. Diablo101
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    Diablo101 Member

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    Yes... A little too unrealistic for me personally (I'm a war buff and Im quite interested in your story)
    By the sounds of it, your story just sounds like a boring book about surviving the same stuff over and over with nothing in between, heres some ideas down below to expand on and to fill in the gaps between your dangerous stunts on this poor 17 year old :p hehe
    Even my Actual war story doesnt have as much horribly, bad luck xD

    Is she alone, and by herself for the rest of the war/or her life?
    If her home is burnt down by the soldiers, why would she go to the school besides to evacuate? Why not just run into the forest straight up? A soldier burns your home, you wouldnt go to a school (at my old school we had a gym and thats where everyone gathered) That sounds like a massacre (as youve written) in the waiting for your heroine, i guess thats just my logic... And I guess I cant say I wouldn go to the evacuation place if I never knew of what war was like, or how it can be fought eg: Guerilla Warfare, into the forests - Tomorrow When the War began (A bunch of kids come home from a vacation in the forests to find their familys are not home, they go to a friends house and recon on the town (they are on a hill that overlooks the town so they see lights on and everything) stay there while they check out the show ground where everyone is kept under the invaders)
    The survivalists? why are they insane? Why do they kidnap her? IN a war wouldnt they be happy another of their people has survived? How are they insane, what caused them to go insane?

    In a civil war, Im assuming the enemies are her countries people as well, what is their motive? are they trying to take over the government? are they on a revenge thing for something that happened in the countries past? How were they trained? through the national forces? or by private militia? Military Junta?

    Tries to cross the border - good idea.. taken to a labour camp, great, is she going to be all alone there or will she meet some people who are nice to her like her own country people? What kind of labour camp? Who is the main antagonist? does the pro and ant meet eventually? is there a confrontation based on them two meeting?

    In a war, More than one person is mentioned, and more than one person needs to be explained. Consider some of these or come up with your own to fill in the gaps... (The stuff you have written in regards to the escapes/kidnapping etc all the dangerous stuff is fine. Just try not to make it all happen one after the other)
    As much as I am an action and war lover... There needs to be something more solid than just.. escape, kidnap, caught, labour camp, escape and put that on repeat... For a reader like myself, I can be fussy, but a good war story will stay in my heart and mind forever :p

    Also try and think of using Different POV's if manageable to create a more interesting book. (I use both protagonist and Antagonist POV in 3rd Person (In my words meaning I expand on that 1 characters' actions and behaviour in 3rd person more than the 2nd, chapter changes and I go back to the 2nd character and less on the 1st etc)

    I Hope some of these thinking ideas can help you generate some inbetween ideas for a little slower action ;)
     
  3. Jaiyke
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    Jaiyke New Member

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    Diablo, thanks for the detailed reply.

    The actual story is far more in depth than I've described it here. I spent a few days writing a very quick summary of it... and it took 12 pages of size 11 font lol...

    I'll address some of your questions by quoting individual questions and answering them. Apologies if this is lengthy.

    Nope. She meets and travels with a series of characters along the way, including her best friend, a family in the forest, a little orphaned girl, a couple of mysterious soldiers, her uncle and aunt, etc. None of them are permanent or main characters, however, and are only present in a few chapters at most.

    She had no idea from what direction the soldiers had come, so if she ran into the forest she might meet even more of them. After she flees from them, she finds some people heading towards the school, and they tell her that apparently a small detachment of (friendly) soldiers are waiting at the school to arrange evacuations of the area. The main character is very scared and doesn't know what else to do, so she goes along with them there.

    Well, it's not as simple as that (my fault, I should have elaborated more). They're a group of men that are basically like these extreme preppers you see on those American shows, and they thought for a while now that war was coming, so they built a sort-of bunker in the forest, and one of them saves the main character when a soldier pursues her, and he says that he's running a safety shelter for people nearby, and she goes with him there, but it's sort of like a bunch of paranoid and aggressive men who spent the time drinking and arguing, and the main character realizes to her dread that she's the only female there... So they're not insane, per se, just sort of unhinged and not nice.

    This unnamed country has had a fairly unstable government for several years now, and their foreign policy is quite weak, as in their president isn't taking enough action to hold back the tide of immigrants as well as neighboring countries that have a strong desire for this country's massive land coverage. The president is too indecisive to do anything, and an extremist faction that has a strong influence in the country's military has decided to take action by utilizing scare-tactics by massacring some people and making some threats to demand a change in government.

    She is alone at first, but soon gets chosen by a group of people that want to escape to assist them in this. They think that because she's a girl and young, she won't be suspected of much by the soldiers, so she is essentially recruited (partially against her will) to aid this group in escaping the camp. The main antagonist, if there is one, is a particularly nasty soldier who takes joy in hurting and abusing the female demographic of the prisoners. He is particularly harsh towards the protagonist, and she is pretty seriously messed up by what happens to her. I'm unsure at this point on whether she will take revenge on him or not.

    The actual 'war' parts of the story don't start until well into the story. A lot of the beginning of the story is just showing her day-to-day life and of giving some idea into how this society is on the brink of civil war. The first parts of the story are more like a teen drama than a war story, as it shows how the main character lives at home, her feelings about school, her relationships with other people, etc. Once the war parts do start, that's where her character development sort of takes a backseat for a while, until near the end where it picks back up majorly again.

    I definitely won't be using more than one POV, since I imagined this story from the point of view of this exact character four years ago when I first had the origins of this story in my mind and wrote a short-story for it for school. I've always intended for every single thing to be from her POV with no exception. I've thought too long and hard about this story to drift away from that idea now.

    Thank you.
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't find it unrealistic at all. I find it more unrealistic that a girl living in the middle of a war would go through nothing. Wars are not quiet things. Just last night, I watched a reality show. A contestant told the story of his mother, who lives in Gaza and had to run to the shelter every twenty minutes to avoid getting blasted by bombs. A battleground is a crazy place, and crazy things happen to people who get stuck in them.

    Right off the bat, I'm reminded of the movie War of the Worlds, but without aliens obviously. They leave their home, go to what they think is a safe place only to have it torn apart, get "kidnapped" by a raving lunatic... So it's not an uncommon story you're telling, though I'm certain you'll make yours as original as possible.

    There are several books also that are very action packed. While it's a different kind of book, the Percy Jackson series is full of unfortunate events happening to the same person. The author has a structure. One chapter of build up, one of action, one of winding down. One of build up, one of action, one of winding down. And he does this, continually, for ten books. I never once thought, "How unrealistic." Because someone stuck in a situation like Percy would indeed encounter numerous issues.

    I can say the same for your character. A woman in her situation would be considered lucky to escape a war zone without issue. And "luck" doesn't make a good book.

    Sounds like you're on the right track to me!
     
  5. Jaiyke
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    Jaiyke New Member

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    Thanks for the reply Lea.

    While my main character does survive the story (one thing I will never, ever change is my imagined ending of the story), she has a pretty terrible journey to get there. Pretty much everyone she ever knew is dead, most of them murdered by their own countrymen. She herself has seen numerous atrocities, and has also survived her own (she is pretty horribly abused and harmed in several ways in this story). By the final scene she is a complete wreck and has nothing left in her life, and she's only 17.

    Definitely some bleak stuff lol.
     
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  6. Diablo101
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    Diablo101 Member

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    Only suggestions my friend :)
    As I said, im a fussy reader :p

    Now that you have said that the actual war doesnt start till in the middle or later on makes it a bit more.. realistic... a start to finish novel of just danger and escapes and what not, to me is just boring, personal opinion, so Im happy that it isnt :p

    So you've seem to answer the questions with decent detail, and it seems like youve thought quite a bit, a lot of your in between action youve said in your reply to me. You said you needed to fill your story with something, I believe you've answered your own queries. :p All it takes is some of your writing, and some of your imagination. As above, I am really interested in the story, theres nothing better than a good old action packed war story.

    By the way, the detail you explained.. I pretty much just imagined your whole book on what you just wrote... >.> Sorry XD


    Oh Im not saying that there isnt problems like that in war :p And all this stuff Jaiyke mentioned does happen...(Obviously if we all know war :p)
    I never read Percy, I saw the movie though! But wasnt my cup of tea :p This reminded you of Percy, I was reminded of a hybrid - Tomorrow when The War Began X Dragonlinks xD

    Keep it up, and keep writing is all any of us can do in our own stories. ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2015
  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never judge a book by its movie... Especially Percy Jackson. Worst film adaptation I've seen in a while.
     
  8. Diablo101
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    Diablo101 Member

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    Yeah I hear ya. Movie adaptations are never as good as books :p
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    It wasn't just that it wasn't as good -- it wasn't even the same. They took scenes from the third book and put it into the movie. They completely changed the plot and said Percy was looking for pearls, even though he was given them as a gift in the book... It was just completely wrong.

    Anyway. Enough distraction. Sorry. :p
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    The thing I find far fetched is that there are at least three different groups of villains she randomly encounters so far. Perhaps I should not judge cause I myself came up with a story where WWII soldiers on an island had to fight an army of tribesman, with the MC caught in the middle battling both sides. But maybe as long as you explain each group well? You could switch it so that she goes to school first maybe and then after the school is attacked, she goes home to collect things, but it's too late and the home is burned?

    What is the ending you want for your story, and what themes are you trying to tackle? Is it politically themed?
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The amount of bad luck is not necessarily an unrealistic aspect. I think if I were you, I'd focus on building a solid plot. Give her a clear goal (say, escape from the country) and then pile conflict upon conflict on her (within reason), until she reaches her goal. Perhaps there are also other things for her to uncover as she works towards her objective, questions that much be answered, which will keep your reader interested (it can be anything that's important to your character, e.g. what happened to her little sister, if she had one, or whether she's falling in love with another character, or basically anything that'd help build tension).

    If you do this, try to keep some objectives or goals in mind if you're detailing just everyday life. If your reader feels like the story is not going anywhere, it can get boring, even if the setting your MC operates in is unstable. If you give your MC a problem to solve right off the bat, you won't run the risk, not so easily anyway, of losing your reader.
     
  12. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Not at all! Even in the Civil War, which was America's deadliest war, 1 in 8 died in combat, and 15% died in POW camps. So, someone had a 72% chance of survival. Not unreasonable at all to survive similar conditions.
    What I'm more concerned about is how you say "I need to fill the story with something". Don't get me wrong, I love action and fight scenes a lot, but if it doesn't provide plot or character development, why even have it?
     
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  13. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Without knowing the specifics of each event, I would say it is very improbable to have her survive an attack on her home AND survive an attack on her school AND survive kidnapping by insane survivalists AND survive a labor camp.

    The good news, however, is that you're writing a story and it's your choice where to strictly stick to reality and where to slightly skew reality. So whether you can make this story "grounded in reality" or not depends on what you mean by that. If you've read them or seen the movies, think about the Jason Bourne series. Is that realism? If so, I think you could potentially make your story with that kind of realism.
     
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  14. TheApprentice
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    It's maybe a little unrealistic but not entirely unfeasible.
    Plenty of characters suffer incredibly bad luck in life. Theon Greyjoy was given away to the Starks when very young, never respected when he returned to the Iron Islands, hated by his father, and got tortured, castrated, and made a eunuch manservant to the very man who tortured him. He had ridiculously bad luck but it didn't stop anyone from watching Game of Thrones.
     
  15. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I.... kinda want to read it.
     
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  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Jaiyke,

    1a/ How did these soldiers sneak in so surreptitiously? Couldn't anybody hear the trucks or helicopters as they arrived? The alternative would be something like an SAS-style yomp because there was a problem with the transport, but an army would only, realistically, do that for a major strategic target, which I'm NOT getting the impression of here.
    1b/And why is the "small detachment of friendly soldiers" which directs her to the school not in combat with the enemy?

    2a/ Why is a country with an unstable government being flooded with immigrants?
    2b/And why is a military faction "using scare tactics"? Why don't they just form a junta and take over - that's happened often enough, especially in Latin America.
    2c/ How is "massacring people" going to force a change in government? Are you going to see popular marches saying "President X must go! Replace him with General Y!"? Would you take to the streets in SUPPORT of the military that is killing people? You'd need a VERY strong reason to take to the streets at all when the military has no compunction in killing civilians.

    3/ This sounds a bit like a book that breaks its promises. You start with a sweet YA about a young girl and her apple pie and boyfriend disappointments, and then you suddenly throw her into a civil war with countless dangers. That wasn't the book I was expecting when I read the first few pages in the bookstore!

    4/ If the military faction has had time to organise prison camps, this war has been going on for some time, so it's hardly surprising that the "extreme preppers" were anticipating war. What is surprising is that the general population hasn't noticed that people are dying, and started trying to get out - like people from any number of wartorn countries trying to get into the UK.
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One of the ways to make this plausible—not the horrors of war, which are plausible enough, unfortunately, but the fact that she survives so much of the horror—is to give her personality/character that helps her do this. While luck will be a factor—not much a personality can do to survive an unexpected bomb—so much of the other things you mention MIGHT be survivable if the girl has the right mental attitude and some skills. Even if the skill is as basic as knowing when to stay and when to run.

    If you create a character who is strong within herself, you will not only create empathy with the reader, but you'll make her survival (and presumably progress) more plausible. She is obviously vulnerable, being young and on her own, but if she can somehow work herself free of bad situations, that makes her a strong character. (She may be a weak person, but a strong character, if you know what I mean.)

    It is important, though, from a story point of view, to give her something she's working towards. Her ultimate goal. Is it simply escape? If so, how does she envision this escape? End of the war? Another place to live? Crossing a border? Finding another family to protect her? Getting together with people who can fight, and becoming a fighter?

    I would also say it's very important that the events she's experienced do change her. Maybe for the better, maybe not. Does she become calloused to the suffering of others as well as herself? Does she cease to feel pity for people who don't resist, don't fight, don't try to save themselves? If she does escape ...and I'm not sure if this is presented as an ongoing story, or as her memories of a bad time ....does she ever achieve happiness, or is she constantly haunted by her experiences?

    All sorts of questions. It's also interesting that this topic is so timely. So many people in so many places in the world today are experiencing this kind of upheaval. Not only is there the initial disconnection with normal life, but the environment is no longer normal either, and things will have changed permanently as most people take selfish paths to survival. It's not the same as a flood or hurricane in the USA, where there is initial destruction and upheaval, but then there is a gradual return to normalcy, accompanied by help from all over the place. These war zones just get worse and worse. So this is very topical. Good for you, in tackling a subject as difficult and unresolved as this one.
     
  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it will be unrealistic as long as all the people she meets have convincing motivations to harm her - which, in a country in the middle of a violent war where everybody's fighting to survive, is not implausible at all. She isn't randomly running into different groups of insane sociopaths, which would definitely be unrealistic; she's repeatedly meeting the same threat (soldiers with blood-lust or desperate people just trying to live) because she's in a country full of them.

    It sounds like an interesting story where I would be fighting for the main character to live.

    The part I might struggle with as a reader is the physical harm it sounds like she suffers. Don't we all hate it in horror books/movies there the villain is shot 12 times in the head, stabbed through the eye with a poker AND falls down a ravine, then in the next scene we see him climbing out and chasing after the protagonists again? The body can only go through so much before it shuts down. The mind is much stronger and a character under mental pressure is much more interesting than one with a bullet wound, anyway.

    I also think it's important that she takes sensible action, within the constraints of her setting, to avoid these confrontations. Again, don't we all roll our eyes at the horror movie protagonist who chooses to take a walk in the woods in the middle of night despite knowing there is an active serial killer on the loose? Don't we feel a bit of "I told you so" when the serial killer captures them? Yet if a character is attacked, escapes through her own ingenuity, and runs to a police station, then the police officer she begs for help turns out to be the serial killer's devoted brother... well, that's not her fault and we want her to escape.
     

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