1. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    Is this character credible/realistic?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sieglinde, Jul 3, 2010.

    I have a character (a naval officer,in a historical setting) who had been abused/beaten by his superior for about twenty years. He was just a boy when it began.

    He was asked repeatedly why he never tried to kill the bastard, and he answers a) the boss is way stronger than him, he'd have no chance in a fight b) he would be unable to stab him in the back, he has still some principles left.
    (Also, killing a superior would mean execution, but he doesn't fear death.)

    He can't leave either - the boss' colleagues would never dare to take his favourite toy. And he spent his life on sea, couldn't get used to dry land.

    I think no matter how he hates this man, he's still attached to him in a way - like a slave to his master.

    So I just want him to be a credible character. Will he work this way? (He will eventually kill the baddie later - but not for his own good, to save someone else.)

    + info - he's addicted to laudanum, the surgeon always gave it to him after beatings and it's pretty much the only thing that help him endure the constant torture.
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to say that the whole setup sounds wildly unrealistic. But it's hard to tell with no info about the country or period concerned. BTW, I laughed at the 'can't get used to dry land'. Naval officers don't spend their entire career afloat, you know. Or under the same commander for 20 years!
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    He doesn't sound much like a victim of long term abuse, especially abuse beginning in childhood. Such a victim could not only not imagine killing his abuser, he would probably be terrified of living without the abuser. He would be very unlikely to possess any self esteem, as long as he remains under that man's influence.

    Chances are he would not even seek medical attention for his torture-related injuries.

    I think you need to do some serious research if you plan to subject your character to such extreme, long term damage.
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ... But a lot of stories isnt about realism. If you want to do it you can still go with it but just be aware that its not a realistic reaction.
     
  5. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Cogito is right. I knew a woman in a very abusive relationship. She always rationalized her husband's behavior and even defended him on it. She absolutely refused to leave him. It's a sort of Stockholm syndrome type thing I believe. People get this bizarre emotional attachment to their tormentor and can't bear the idea of leaving them let alone hurting them or getting them into trouble. Which is why they often don't seek any kind of medical help. Usually abuse victims believe they deserve the abuse and that they are in the wrong.
     
  6. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    Yeah, that's what I meant. I heard a lot about people who remained with an abuser/kidnapper despite everything.

    (The surgeon is always there, and the whole ship knows what's going on, but they are all afraid. There was a mutiny attempt years ago, but those who participated were in minority, and it didn't end well.)

    He could go to dry land, but all he knows is related to sea and fighting. It would be hard for him to find a job - he'd most likely end up on the streets of London.

    The real point is to keep it believeable why he doesn't kill his abuser for twenty years. After that, he meets someone who finally gives him hope and an alternative.

    I don't think he'll survive the book though.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    For heaven's sake, why would he be on the streets if he is an officer? You need to research what sort of men became naval officers. Of course, you can just set it in never-never land, and turn it into pure fantasy.
     
  8. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    He'd be on half pay. And a Lieutenant's half pay was not much. But I meant he would end there because if his history. How could he have a normal life? (Besides, it never happens. He's too afraid to leave the cage.)

    The question is not how to free him, that will happen, just how to make it reasonable he never tried to rebel.

    Also, he'll live with his rescuer whom he sees as a saint. When his old master attacks this character, he'll strike him down with a heavy object to stop him, not meant to kill him but it does. (At least that's what I plan.)
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Officers in the Royal Navy (or Army) rarely lived off their pay alone. They had family money, or at least a family home to live in. And they had to pay out a sometimes considerable sum of money for their commission in the first place, or they wouldn't be officers. Men couldn't work their way up from seaman to officer status like they (sometimes) do now. Even little boys of 12 yrs old or so going into the navy started as, say, a midshipman, i.e. a junior ranking officer.

    But I guess this isn't the Royal Navy you are thinking of...

    I also think you need to consider how a man could be a successful officer if he had so many problems--this doesn't seem possible to me. An officer needs confidence and leadership qualities. The scenario you propose is too fantastic for reality, but of course, real life or history doesn't need to put off someone from spinning a yarn...
     
  10. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Asking for opinions on something that you've yet to bring into existence is like trying to reap something you haven't sowed. Any thought at this point would just be guesswork. Those who are offering opinions should refrain from generalising, regardless of what experiences they're privy to, as sufferers of long-term abuse act in many different ways.

    Research your history before you start writing, and at least become accustomed with naval tradition...

    - Andy
     
  11. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    I am in writing for about 180 pages now. He already exists in the story. And I've done my historical research.

    He came from a middle-class family, his father, also an officer fell in battle (and he was only a lieutenant on a sloop at that time so his wife didn't get much money) when he was just a boy. He became a midshipman and served a few years on a different ship before he was transferred to his current captain. (Who definitely used him, but he surely didn't spend all the time with abuse.) The boy took the exam and he remained on the same ship, became a lieutenant and with time, he's first lieutenant now. The captain is usually more interested in midshipmen, so in the time of the story he doesn't want him too often, but sometimes gives him a beating just to remind him where his place is (usually when the character disagrees with how he handles the crew). It's not that it's unbearable all the time, but 20 years is long. He's a broken man, but he never became evil like most of his fellow officers. He's the type who tries to remain human even in this hell, not like it would help.

    As for why this captain is feared even by others in his rank: he's super wealthy, that's why. He came from a rich baron family, he made even more with prizes and a lot of his colleagues are in his power because he lent them money. Also, his brother is a lead judge in the Old Bailey and his daughter is a favourite in the court. Nobody likes to mess with him, so they play blind.
     
  12. Katherina
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    Katherina Member

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    Alright.

    Reading the other comments people have made, I have to say I agree with some of them so here´s my suggestion on how you can turn the story a bit so that the events will lead to where you want it to go.

    What "madhoca" said its true, they don´t spend all their life afloat or serving under the same officer...

    Unless that officer is in fact the main character´s uncle who, being in charge of the boy´s tutoring, forced him to serve under him for as long as he liked.

    Also he couldn´t get used to dry land because his father was an ex-marine and loved the sea so he made it his home, living with the kid until he was of certain age. And getting their supplies and food once in a while in ports, but of course never staying long so that explains why the main character can of course live on earth but only for a limited period of time because his home has always been the sea. Then the father dies, the uncle takes over and so starts the misery.

    About the abuse,the boy (now a man) got so used to it that he no longer plans to do anything about it. And whenever the crew went back to port to change captains or move, he must stay with his uncle until its time to part again.

    Another twist of the story is that, the naval officer found the man when he was a kid who had been victim of a boat disaster. He rescued the little one and forced him to serve under him because what other choice has he got? The man pays the bills.

    That´s all for now because if I continue, my imagination might run wild :p

    Good luck with your story!
     
  13. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    Wow, this is a good idea! Never thought they could be related. It would make it even more wicked, and also explains why he couldn't bring himself to kill the bastard.

    No, he's not the main character, he's just one of the "also starring" types.
     
  14. Oscar Rat
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    Oscar Rat Member

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    As Fantasy of You, I think you should stop generalizing the problem. People are individuals and don’t always act in specified ways.

    The easiest way, I think, would be to try for an image in your mind. Look back at others you have known and read about, sorting out their traits into your own composite character. Try to put yourself in his place, firming him up in your own mind. People are complex. His life probably wouldn’t have revolved around pleasing his boss, though that would be a good part of it. He’s also have his own life to live. If he’s married, what kind of a wife would he choose. I’d say probably a domineering one. Or, conversely, one he could dominate to pass off his frustration with his boss. The same would apply to girlfriends.

    Once you have his character firmly in your own mind, your problems will be solved. You’ll find he takes on a life of his own. And, I’d throw in a few aberrations to interest the reader. Occasionally, he could confront his boss in a brief fit of rebellion.

    You say he’s not the Main Character, so don’t spend a lot of time on him. A lot of other things are more important.

    Such as deciding what navy, and what time period, then study it intensely. I’m ex-army, from the late ‘50s to mid ‘70s, which means I always pick those attributes when writing war stories.

    I also spend a lot of time correcting other writers when they write on that subject. You have to have your facts straight. You WILL have people who know more about it complaining to you. That’s good. When they do, pump them for their knowledge.

    I once found a writer that was one chapter ten or twelve on a novel about WWII. It was on an *Ugh!* vanity site, where he was getting all sorts of plaudits about his story. The guy had a master’s degree in history and had studied the facts of that war. But, and a big but, he neglected to study how the army actually operated. I took it upon myself to set him straight.

    For example, he had his first sergeant out drinking with privates. Except for an occasional drink or two, first sergeants do not do that. Nor do they borrow money from privates. Both acts could bring complications in their work. He also specified that the officers never told him what was planned. Wrong! In order to to their jobs, first sergeants have to know what’s going on in their company.

    You should pick your navy and your time period, then really study the subject, getting a feel for both.

    Since I was an enlisted man, I write my war stories from that perspective. As an enlisted man, I’m not privy to top level decisions. That makes it easier to write, since I don’t get into facts high-level officers know. If I’d name a real general, one some readers will know better than I do, there would be more complaints. If you were to say something about Admiral Nelson, for instance, Nelson addicts would be contradicting you. Try a fictional Roman general, and you’re in the clear.

    As for the twenty-years at sea bit, sure you can do it. Make your setting in the 1600s and your Boss the son or brother of a politician. Political pull can explain a lot of things, like him picking his assignment and keeping it, as well as his favorite junior officer’s. Give all your speaking roles to fictional characters that can’t be checked on, during a period where a detractor would have to dig deep to catch you in an error.

    They don’t even have to be officers, really. A chief petty officer and a junior one might work. When I was in the army I knew one master sergeant that did just that. He managed to get a plum assignment near his home. His brother was a politician and the sergeant spent the rest of his career there. It does happen.

    Oscar Rat
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My two cents is that if the victim of abuse were an officer and also his abuser, the other officers in their circle of work would have an obligation to report such behavior. If they were questioned and let it be known that they were aware of the situation and did nothing, they would also face a penalty.
     
  16. Writing.Geek.
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    Writing.Geek. Member

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    Yes. I think this character is realistic.

    He's well developed and you thought it out well.
     

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