Tags:
  1. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0

    Need help with balancing out my character’s facets:

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by John Bender, Jan 21, 2010.

    I’m pondering over a story protagonising a teenage boy against the backdrop of the most recent global economic crisis. Domestic background would be former solid and seemingly (not only but also financially) secure middle class skidding towards serious struggles for existence after the father has lost his job.

    Now, asking myself what emotional reactions this existentially traumatic experience could evoke in my character, what his attitude towards life could be at the point I pick up the story, I end up having two aspects revolving my mind:

    - Battling against the waves

    - Resignation

    - Battling against the waves would come with a lot of probably almost compulsive effort to hold together what’s about to fall apart completely: life as he knew it. It would make him a very energetic and active person, shouldering responsibilities that his parents probably have let slip already. Or they might have accepted the new situation and adapted to it already…

    The protagonist’s development task might be to accept outside help (like from a teacher or youth welfare or whatever…). Or to learn to part with something, and let go of his old life and accept the new one.

    - Resignation on the other hand would mean disillusionment and hopelessness. It would derive from the bitter experience that even if you’re a well educated, reliable, honest and hard-working person, your whole life can still go to pieces from one day to the next.
    You’re not in control of your destiny but at the mercy of some erratic, rapacious deity called (for example) global economics…
    Resignation would come with lethargy and indifference, with a ´what’s the point` or idgaf kind of attitude. He’d be like ´why bother if everything goes down the tubes sooner or later anyways…?

    I definitely prefer the second approach to the first because I have a soft spot for the broken hero. On the other hand it makes the dramaturgical setup way more difficult. First off that kind of character doesn’t have any obvious intrinsic goals so he has to be forced to ´want` something an in the course of obeying find out that he very well ´wants`…
    And for this particular case, I find it really hard to prove him wrong. I mean, life’s a professional woman indeed, isn’t it? And human beings ARE at the mercy of countless sinister higher powers…So in a way you can just say, yeah, man, lean back and decay alive…that’s what it boils down to at the end of the day anyways…

    So what could be his inner development task?

    To learn that you can beat the sinister higher powers after all if you’re just being a good boy and try hard enough? Yuck, no, it’s way too obvious that you can’t and he would have to be pathetically stupid if he came to that conclusion…that would be ´7th Heaven`-material and that series caused me nausea all along…

    Or to learn nothing at all and go down without a fight? Not much to tell about, then, is there…

    Or probably to learn a ´the way is the goal` kind of lesson? That it’s worth flying even if you might crash? That motion is autotelic? An end in itself?

    Writing all this I can see that I’m definitely going for the resignation option, but I not yet clear about where he’s heading – externally as well as internally.

    I would very much appreciate your opinion and your input on that case!

    Thank you in advance for your time and effort

    Regards

    JB

    Oh, and just in case anybody bothers to engage in this thread (or any conversation with me at all): Please feel free to express your opinions on whatever I write pretty much point-blank. I’m not here because I’m looking for polite phrases or even flatteries.
    As I said elsewhere: I’m hoping for constructive criticism.

    So, no need to pamper me or anything. I’m a grown up person, I can put up with quite a bit.
     
  2. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Unless you're rewriting Sartre's "Nausea" then I agree that he has to end up wanting something, but he doesn't have to be "forced" to want it, he can simply discover it. He can encounter something that he finds to give his life meaning even though he thought his life meaningless. The obvious thing in the face of helplessness against economic circumstances would be relationships. Perhaps he meets somebody who needs his help, and in helping them he finds a purpose in life and realises that he needed their help as much as they needed his, maybe more so. Because that's obvious it's perhaps to be avoided (I've just realised that it's the plot of the film "The Fisher King") but maybe it triggers other ideas.
     
  3. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ digitig

    Thank's a lot you for your reply.

    I didn’t mean he has to be forced to ´want`. That would of course have to be something he carries within him all along. He just doesn’t know yet and it has to be revealed by what he learns about himself (and life) throughout the plot.

    I meant if he’s a ´no point-whatever…` kind of guy he has to be forced into action and pushed way more than a ´normal` character because if it was up to him nothing really would happen.

    I mean, he would not be the kind of person who’s like ´I wanna win the match` or ´I wanna get together with that girl` or anything like that. He thinks his life’s pretty much as screwed as it can get AND that it won’t get any better either.

    If you wait for him to find something important or desirable enough to actually move his backside, you can wait a good while…
     
  4. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Yes, so the motivation has to come from something powerful and quite out of the ordinary. Powerful, because the character has to be shifted a long way, and out of the ordinary because it hasn't happened yet! Avoiding spoilers: in The Fisher King it's getting dragged into a quest to find the Holy Grail, in As Good as it Gets it's having to look after a dog (well, it is a comedy...). Clearly it can be done!
     
  5. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Oh, it can definitely be done!! I just don’t have clear view on how to structure it so it works out well. That’s why I posted all this.

    I don’t really remember The Fisher King (though I know I’ve seen it) and yes I was thinking of As Good As It Gets in that context as well. But it hasn’t enlightened me yet.

    But maybe there’s a basic error in reasoning on my behalf: maybe even the really and profoundly reluctant hero’s not passive any more from plot point one on. Maybe his action’s just defined by being opposed to what he’s supposed to do. I don’t know…stuff makes my head spinning…
     
  6. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Just speaking as someone who's lived through bancruptcy and seen many of my students struggle with a sudden loss of status/money/comfort etc due to their father's business failing...

    - Battling against the waves
    I agree with you that for most of the kids I've seen, and my daughter, who was 17 at the time when a really bad economic crisis hit Turkey in 1998-9:
    they all want to hold onto life as they know/knew it. But far from making them energetic and active and shouldering responsibilities, it often brought out rage AGAINST THE PARENTS. Because they they could still see people who seemed to be less affected by money problems they felt let down by their families.

    As to adapting, I guess it depends on the age but my daughter NEVER got over suddenly losing her home and wealthy lifestyle. Maybe she was shallow, I don't know, but it dealt her a blow her personality wasn't strong enough to cope with. Now she has married the first wealthy and presentable man she could find--he's a goodlooking boy but dim, and I'm sure she isn't in love with him. I tremble for her marriage in the future, but there you go--these kind of wrong decisions and worship of the security that money brings is another reaction among some kids.

    Since kids in this situation don't want to face up to the change, they rarely seek help from a teacher, although occasionally I've had a student mention things to me.

    - Resignation
    I've found this to be more the reaction of older people. The younger kids I know never totally give up and think it's the end of the world. Like I said, they're more inclined to see their lack of a wealthy lifestyle as someone else's failure, not their own, and they seek solutions to it--either marrying for money or bending the law because they feel entitled (they're not, of course).

    Hope this helps. BTW, I've never been able to get over suddenly having my life broken up, and it's been 10 years. We worked hard for our money, it wasn't inherited, and the nightmare of seeing everything we'd worked for, our children's future education prospects drastically reduced, everything... No, I'll never get over it. But we're working like fiends...it is possible to rise again from the ashes.
     
  7. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ madhoca

    Yes, that really helps in a way. Very interesting contribution and thank you for your frankness!

    I was thinking about both the ´who’s to blame`-aspect and the ´bending the law`-aspect as well.
    And I get the feeling that – in fiction, not in real life probably – I would for example make a difference between the following scenarios:

    a) bankruptcy due to failed stock speculation: to blame either the bank (impersonated by the financial adviser) or the parents. The first for being dishonest, the latter for being gullible and both for being greedy.
    b) bankruptcy due to having lost a job: to blame mainly the company (impersonated by the personal manager), especially if the kids have experienced their parents as hard working, honest people.

    I’m not saying that your daughter’s reaction on your financial problems was justified or characterises you as a greedy or lazy person. Not at all. But in fiction it would feel incoherent to me if a kid who’s dad had been working his backside off to get him into college or whatever would blame his dad for having lost his job…especially if I assumed the kid was smart…but maybe I’m just being too one dimensional…I don’t know…

    And the bending the law thing: I guess there could – maybe even should – be some of that in the guy. I can well see him stealing in supermarkets and chain stores. Not from small shops or ´civilians` though…At least not as long as I want to give him some sense of right or wrong…

    I would really appreciate if you would contribute some more of your opinion!
     
  8. Cosmos
    Offline

    Cosmos Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    5
    I lost my job--twice--due to the economy so I can tell you how very upsetting it is. Fortunately I'm in a better position than your protagonist is so I can't really tell you how it should go, realistically speaking. It really depends on his character. What have you decided is his character? Is he the sort of person to sit down and take it or does he stand up and fight? The end where he gets ruined by the job loss is more realistic and dramatic, but it's unrewarding for the reader. Perhaps you could show that while they lost many things they might not get back (a car, a house, etc.) they pull together and make it through. Because that's probably the most realistic and rewarding read of all--a person who faces hardship and never completely regains what they lost, but manages to survive despite it.

    Whatever you do I'm rooting for you, since I feel it's a great story to write as it's very near and dear to many people in this day and age.
     
  9. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14

    I don't usually have a real "feeling" for discussions about storyline and character development in potential stories that have yet to be written. But, I do think your question's really thought-provoking. Money issues can complicate the best of relationships (even within oneself) in exceptionally stressful ways, and even when you're not totally aware of that as prime mover of the deconstruction going on around you or under your nose or even within. Given we now have an enormously complicated economic system that's on the verge of apparent implosion, I can see how that could be a huge fictional draw (could, in fact, be the next post-apocalyptic variant in fiction and novel-writing).

    If I'm understanding your question, I think you're looking for personal opinions about a meaningful direction, and I'd certainly vote for discovering the value (whatever that value might look like) of the "journey" itself regardless of how the "end" of the journey might be imagined. Doesn't have to be heroic necessarily, nor "resigned" in the sense that resignation is to a meaningless (nihilistic) inevitable outcome. Something more taoist usually works better for me and adds its own interesting flavor to other possibilities and outcomes that surround it.

    Probably you have to go with your own philosophical leanings and tendencies in order to deliver the story that compels you to write it at all. But that'd be the direction my head would automatically go, although that doesn't mean my imagination would take off in the same direction (somewhere in that mix would probably lie the conflict I'd look for).

    Sounds like an interesting challenge. Good luck with it!
     
  10. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ Cosmos

    Actually, it’s not my main character who lost his job but his father. I would like my protagonist to initially be disillusioned, lethargic and lacking in overall motivation. A ´what’s the point…` kind of person, if you know what I mean. But of course he’d have to go through some kind of change and learning process throughout the plot. Concerning that I’m really leaning towards ´the value of the "journey" itself regardless of how the "end"` idea, like Manhattan Mss put it.

    Still, I don’t see why a dramatic, unhappy end should be unrewarding for the reader. That depends entirely on the plot and the character: If the hero learns his lesson, if he’s, so to speak, being ´enlightened`, he either has to win or die (or go down) a ´martyr`. If he’s stubborn and refuses the lesson and enlightenment, he has to die or go down a looser. That’s kind of an ancient, universal rule in storytelling.

    @ Manhattan Mss

    Hey, the economic apocalypse is an interesting idea!

    And yes, I’m looking for a direction and much more as I’m only at the beginning of developing the whole thing. I’m scanning approaches and ideas and I’m raising questions, hoping that posting them and discussing them in here will help me establish clarity in terms of what I actually want to tell and what makes a good, working plot.

    What I’m mainly pondering over right now, though, is how to handle a lethargic protagonist in the first place. After all, the ´hero` is supposed to push the plot on with his decisions and actions. Or, the other way round, the plot is supposed to be an outgrowth of the ´hero’s` decisions and actions. I’m not at all sure how to write a reluctant, passive hero without ending up with a boring story. But then, if the point is supposed to be that the hero has to learn to act despite adverse conditions and supposed pointlessness, how else can I start off? And he’s not to learn his lesson until somewhere towards the end of act two. So, pages and pages of forlorn teenage refusal? How’s that ever going to work out?

    Any ideas? Or, any suggestions on literature on that topic (novels and/or professional literature)?

    By the way, what exactly do you mean by taoist?


    And thanks to both of you for the contributions and your encouragement!
     
  11. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Well, if he learns his lesson and wins then that's the classic happy ending ("comedy" in the literary sense). If he doesn't learn his lesson and loses then that's the classic tragedy. If he's going to learn his lesson and go down a martyr then to fit with the "ancient universal rule of storytelling" then going down a martyr has to be clearly "winning" in some sense -- the "goal" is accomplished through his death even though the hero may not live to see it.

    That's not to say that it has to be that way. If he doesn't learn his lesson but still wins, or he learns his lesson but still dies in vain (martyr or not) then you're subverting the "ancient universal rule of storytelling". That can make for a more interesting story because it goes against expectations, but is far harder to pull off. The reader will need some answer to the question "why are you telling us this story, then" or, as has been suggested already, they will be left unsatisfied.
     
  12. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @digit

    Of course you can subvert any rules and write whatever you want. But I doubt that in this particular case it would actually make for a more interesting story. I think that chances are that it leaves the reader unsatisfied in a ´**** story` kind of way. And that’s not something I would actually seek to write. At least I don’t consider myself a good enough writer to pull that off without ruining everything. And I’m not a fan of acting in opposition to something just for the sake of being different or arousing attention either. To start with I’d rather deliver a solid piece of conventional work than an incoherent twister…
     
  13. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    Actually, it’s not my main character who lost his job but his father. I would like my protagonist to initially be disillusioned, lethargic and lacking in overall motivation. [I think you could grow a gradual understanding of the circumstances that are surrounding him--maybe through his incidental association with a friend or even an unlikely stranger whose circumstances are similar or even entirely different, for that matter.]A ´what’s the point…` kind of person, if you know what I mean. [I think it's not too unusual for a teenager, say, to be somewhat lethargic and disinterested in "the larger picture" surrounding him. I also don't think it's too unusual for parents to try to shield their children from the realities they face in their own circumstances. Somewhere in there is a mixture that impacts everyone, really. Stress messes with emotion, with energy, with psyche--all kinds of things in ways that are not necessarily obvious. So, the potential for change (in all kinds of directions) is huge.] But of course he’d have to go through some kind of change and learning process throughout the plot [Exactly]. Concerning that I’m really leaning towards ´the value of the "journey" itself regardless of how the "end"` idea, like Manhattan Mss put it. [Yes, I think there are ways to come to recognize the value of the "journey" without being either a "hero," per se, or an unconcerned bystander.]

    Still, I don’t see why a dramatic, unhappy end should be unrewarding for the reader Unless you're bound to write a heroic story where the good guy wins and the bad guy loses, or a tragedy in which the good guy doesn't make it, an "end" needn't be either unappy or happy. There are lots of ways to "end" a completely compelling novel-length story. . That depends entirely on the plot and the character: If the hero learns his lesson, if he’s, so to speak, being ´enlightened`, he either has to win or die (or go down) a ´martyr`[Not really. He needs to show some shift from dissatisfaction to a peaceful agreement with life--however un-ideal life happens to be. Or vice versa--maybe he becomes hopelessly mentally ill, poorly treated, and draws some conclusion from the treatment he gets, or doesn't because he can no longer think.]. If he’s stubborn and refuses the lesson and enlightenment, he has to die or go down a looser. That’s kind of an ancient, universal rule in storytelling. If it's ancient and universal, I didn't know that. Maybe in certain kinds of genres, that's important. But not necessarily in fiction, per se. There are other kinds of change and value that are illustrated in many works of fiction. Things like "redemption" or even simply discovering "meaning" are perfectly acceptable kinds of fictional premises or storyline outcomes. I'm thinking maybe a story like Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN is a good example of what I thought was a spellbinding story throughout the epic narrative, simply incorporating both goodness and badness into a realistic fictional scneario.

    @ Manhattan Mss

    Hey, the economic apocalypse is an interesting idea!

    And yes, I’m looking for a direction and much more as I’m only at the beginning of developing the whole thing. I’m scanning approaches and ideas and I’m raising questions, hoping that posting them and discussing them in here will help me establish clarity in terms of what I actually want to tell and what makes a good, working plot.

    What I’m mainly pondering over right now, though, is how to handle a lethargic protagonist in the first place. After all, the ´hero` is supposed to push the plot on with his decisions and actions. Or, the other way round, the plot is supposed to be an outgrowth of the ´hero’s` decisions and actions. I’m not at all sure how to write a reluctant, passive hero without ending up with a boring story. But then, if the point is supposed to be that the hero has to learn to act despite adverse conditions and supposed pointlessness, how else can I start off? And he’s not to learn his lesson until somewhere towards the end of act two. So, pages and pages of forlorn teenage refusal? How’s that ever going to work out?

    Any ideas? [I'd start writing the story and think about what happens from one moment to the next, something that's unexpected and creates or enhances some kind of conflict in the perception of the main character (and reader). Let one such moment lead on to the next till you begin to get a picture of what kind of changes this guy's likely to make (let your story tell you some things, too, in addition to what you're trying to figure out before the story is written.)]Or, any suggestions on literature on that topic (novels and/or professional literature)?

    By the way, what exactly do you mean by taoist? [A kind of peaceful, even proactive acceptance of the conditions in which one finds oneself, a discovery and learning experience about what's swirling around the character's lethargy, and an inevitable vitality that arises because things become clearer as the character experiences some growth.]


    And thanks to both of you for the contributions and your encouragement!

    IOW, your story can grow out of itself in many different ways. If you want your main character to be a hero, that's workable. If you want him to become more disturbed and remote from his own existence, that, too, is doable. If you want to write a story that rewards the reader in some other way, that, too, is entirely possible in fiction. But that last possibility lies more outside the realm of genre fiction and more toward literary fiction. I think reading literary fiction is even helpful in defining storylines that are more broadly accessible, too. Stephen King is one good example of a writer who's well connected to literary fiction, yet writes popular fiction that works pretty well on the scale of success.
     
  14. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Hi there
    I've found the ideas here really interesting, and I think it goes to show what a good premise for a novel you have, John!

    There is one other aspect that needs to be taken more into account in shaping the MC's reaction to his father's losses--his friends and family. And, do the kid's parents have a strong relationship, or does this rock their marriage, adding another element of chaos to the situation?

    Is the guy a loner, or does he have a crowd he hangs out with? Are they wealthy kids going on expensive holidays a lot or going to private schools, and do they have the kind of families that tend to map out their future? What happens to his relationships with them when the family lose their money? BTW, did the MC have plans for his future that will now no longer be possible? You say he is a bit apathetic, but that may have been a gameplan in itself--to bum around a bit more--but that's not going to be easy if he loses the allowance from his father!

    I really discovered who my 'friends' were when we lost everything. Also, it was impossible (I felt) to continue to be friends with some people, not because they treated me badly, but because they felt guilty talking about holidays, new clothes etc in front of me. I also didn't feel comfortable with being the 'poor relation' among my relations, so I lied a lot about my situation and isolated myself even more (easy when you're living in another country anyway). Even teenagers have their pride so I guess they'd sometimes react like this as well.

    Perhaps the father has hidden the situation from his family, about how the business is failing and the risky loans he's taken? Or did he suddenly lose everything all at once? This could also be a factor in the kid's reaction to the situation. I mean, how much warning was there?
     
  15. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ Manhattan Mss

    “If it's ancient and universal, I didn't know that. Maybe in certain kinds of genres, that's important. But not necessarily in fiction, per se. There are other kinds of change and value that are illustrated in many works of fiction.”

    I meant that as a wide generalisation. To ´win` would just mean to overcome the antagonising force and to be rewarded – or probably rather released – in some kind of way and to ´go down` would mean to fall against the antagonising force and to not be rewarded or released. And yes, it’s kind of ancient and universal. It’s the concept of the ´hero’s journey` and it works similar worldwide and throughout history. I’m not saying this is the only way to go in storytelling, I’m just saying that there has to be a reason why these kinds of plots have been constructed all over the globe since the ancient Greeks (and earlier) up to now. I think it’s a psychological, in fact kind of a cathartic kind of thing…

    “I'd start writing the story and think about what happens from one moment to the next,…”

    I get the feeling that hat’s not really how I approach writing. I find it really hard to start writing without having a concrete concept on who the protagonist really is or on where I come from and where I go. I think I need to define the characters and the dramaturgic plot structure before I can give the actual writing a shot. All I can do up to then is write kind of finger exercises or trial balloons…

    “…something that's unexpected and creates or enhances some kind of conflict in the perception of the main character (and reader).”

    Yeah, these universal and ancient basics of storytelling as well. It’s just so much easier said than done…

    You know what I keep thinking about? I should probably do an interview with my character…It just feels kind of stupid and strangely reflexive to ask myself questions…However, I think that would definitely be a way of finding out more about him (and me, I guess…:rolleyes:)

    @ madhoca

    Cool!!! I was just posting to MMSS that I was thinking of doing an interview with my character and next thing I see is that you give me questions that kind of do that already!

    And that gives me an idea!

    Would you guys want to kind of do a bit of role playing with me? Like, give it a shot and ask the dumbo kid whatever you feel could be important? That would totally add megaprecious extra aspects and input to whatever I can come up with!!!

    (Oh, and without implying anything but just to get this straight: whatever I’m posting in here story-wise has already been copyrighted. Ideas, Names, dialogues etc, etc…so, just don’t borrow or I’ll sue your lovely posteriors off)


    Ok, so, if you still want to give it a try, let’s see if the boy’s got something to say to all that:


    Me: “All right, boy, there’s somebody who wants to ask you some questions. Please answer them in the best of your knowledge and believe, will you?”

    Boy (grumpy): “Jesus Christ…”

    Me: “What? You got something better to do, or what?”

    Boy moans and rolls his eyes.

    Me: “That’s what I thought. Now sit down and say hello.”

    Boy slumps down

    Boy: “Hello...”

    Me: “Hello what? Got no name, poor soul?”

    Boy gives me a ´f**k you` kinda look
    I return him an ´I warn you` kinda look
    Boy defiantly crosses his arms before his chest.
    I clout him one

    Boy: “Hey!”

    Me: “Yeah, that wakes you up! Now, go ahead, bimbo, I haven’t got all day.”

    Boy (sulky): “Jules…”

    Me (flaring): “Jules f**king full name WHAT!?”

    Boy (flaring back): “Jules f**king full name Julian Ascot!” (redeflating to sulk) “Jesus f**king Christ…”

    Me: “You shalt not swear, kiddo! Or you’ll go straightissimo to hell in your rotten leather jacket!”

    Julian: “Go f**k your-“

    Madhoca (interrupting): “Excuse me..?”

    Julian and me: “What!?”

    Madhoca: “Um…the interview…remember…?

    Julian: “Pshaw…”

    Me: “Yeah, right…I’m sorry. Ok, then, let’s get this rolling: Julian, this is Madhoca and he/she wants to ask you blah-blah-blah and you please answer blah-see above. Madhoca, this is Julian ´ life’s for the birds` Ascot.”

    Julian flips me one of his birds.
    I give him a last, warning ´if you don’t watch it I’ll dump you for a more cooperative fictional character` look and hand over to Madhoca.

    Madhoca: “Hello Julian, unpleasant little pri*k. Let’s come to business right away: Do your parents have a strong relationship, or does this rock their marriage, adding another element of chaos to the situation?”

    Julian (staring off into space): “…Element of chaos…sounds like a cool name for a band…”

    Madhoca: “Yes, sure…but that’s not exactly what I asked, is it…IS IT?”

    Julian (zooming back in): “What?...Yeah, well…no…(heaves a deep sigh)…s**t, what you want me to say? Yeah, chaos…that’s pretty much it…”

    Madhoca looks at Julian in patient expectation
    I bend down to him

    Me (hissing in his ear): “I instantly and irrevocably trade you for f**king Prince Charming if you don’t come alive right here and now.”

    Julian: “Man…all right, then…Let’s see…´Do your parents have a strong relationship?`…I don’t know…I guess so, in some kind of way…otherwise they wouldn’t be married still, after all that has happened, would they?”

    Me: “Excuse me, Mad, if I interfere, but just for a bit of basic background information: What has happened?”

    Julian: “My dad lost his job about two years ago.”

    Me: “What was his job?”

    Julian: “He was an electronic engineer at General Motors”

    Me: “So he made decent money, could provide the family with a certain standard of living, couldn’t he?”

    Julian: “I guess so, yeah. We had everything we needed and quite a bit more, if that’s what you mean.”

    Me: “Kind of...would you agree if I said you guys were solid, educated middle class?”

    Julian: “I guess…”

    Me: “How many children are you?”

    Julian: “Two.”

    Me: “You and…?”

    Julian: “Me and my sister.”

    Me: “Age? Both?”

    Julian: “I’m 17 and she’s 14.”

    Me: “Did you both plan on going to College?”

    Julian: “Yes.”

    Me: “What was your mom’s job?”

    Julian: “Housewife."

    Me: “Is she still?”

    Julian: “No, she’s working now…part-time…”

    Me: “What job?”

    Julian (mumbles): “Cleaner…”

    Me: “Pardon me…?”

    Julian: “Cleaner!”

    Me (the-Simpson's-Nelson-like): “Haha!...And what about your father? Has he found another job yet?”

    Julian: “No…”

    Me: “Lazy bum…How’s your family getting by then?”

    Julian: “Mom’s job, welfare and my job.”

    Me: “Your job? But aren’t you still going to school?”

    Julian: ”I am...technically...”

    Me: “I see…What’s your job?”

    Julian: “Part time low wage stuff…assembly line work.”

    Me: “Thrilling…and where do you work?”

    Julian: “At General Motors.”

    Me: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah*gasp*…”


    This is getting long, I can see that. Is that a problem in here? I don't wanna spam the thread or whatever...

    And I detect another little problem: I don't really know if the background I make up is realistic for let's say the USA. Like, can a family life on an engineer's wage with mother housewife and still get the two kids into college? And would they have to pay that out of their own pocket or get a scholarship? Or a mix of both?

    Can anybody help me on stuff like that?
     
  16. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Perhaps it would be easier if we knew where YOU come from? Are you actually from the US? If so, none of the well-off American kids I used to hang out with when I was a child/teenager swore like this, especially when talking to an adult--times have surely changed.
    And this is a very strange way to 'interview' anyone, fictional or not. How much reality are you after?
     
  17. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    I get the feeling that hat’s not really how I approach writing. I find it really hard to start writing without having a concrete concept on who the protagonist really is or on where I come from and where I go. I think I need to define the characters and the dramaturgic plot structure before I can give the actual writing a shot. All I can do up to then is write kind of finger exercises or trial balloons…

    I think you macromanage your fiction, while I micromanage my own. There's nothing at all wrong with either approach, as far as I can see. You'll probably get lots of ideas from your "interview" approach. Me, I'd be both Q-ing and A-ing from my own imaginative storehouse.

    And I detect another little problem: I don't really know if the background I make up is realistic for let's say the USA. Like, can a family life on an engineer's wage with mother housewife and still get the two kids into college? And would they have to pay that out of their own pocket or get a scholarship? Or a mix of both?

    Can anybody help me on stuff like that?

    A fictional family can do anything you want them to do, just like real families can if all the stars align right. My two kids went to college, while my husband worked as an artist (a starving one) and I developed my own service-oriented business. I got lucky. My own business boomed in the years my boys were in college, before the consequences of 9/11 sucked dry the funding resources responsible for much of my research-driven business. Point is, just as in real life, imagination, inventiveness, and a dose of being in the right place at the right time also count for a lot.

    Good luck with it all. I'm sure you'll do fine. I think you have a well-organized approach and a smart mind, which can serve you well in your storytelling.
     
  18. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    I come from Europe (not even from an English speaking country, to be perfectly honest…) so I don’t really know all that much about the USA’s education, work and social system. I want to keep it reasonably realistic in a global kind of way without having to go into any specific political or regional details. But the overall situation should look the part, of course. I want to make the plot kind of universal as well, so it should not really matter if this or that is exactly like this in, say, Idaho or new Jersey or England or wherever in any anglo-australo-american region. But it still wanna manoeuvre within the bounds of credibility so any info and feedback on that is highly welcome.


    Concerning the swearing:

    1) I guess kids swear way more nowadays than they did like, 20 years ago. I don’t know when you were young but I detect a massive change in how kids behave now compared to when I was a kid…
    2) Jules is of course way more cheeky to me than to other adults (except when he’s boozy or pissed off probably…). After all, we have this really nerve-racking relationship where he tries everything to avoid having to expose his innermost feelings and thoughts to me (and the rest of the world) while I try everything to strip him down to his emotional bowels.

    And please…why is this a strange way to start an interview??? I hope the swearing doesn't offend you, but that's just the way Jules is...at least with me...

    by the way, I have added a bit to the interview, you might not have seen that yet...
     
  19. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ Manhattan MSS

    What does Q-ing and A-ing mean? I’m not a native speaker so I sometimes don’t get it all…

    Thanks for your info on your situation! I’m sorry to hear that you had troubles as well.

    And concerning “A fictional family can do anything you want them to do” – Sure they can, but I’d like to kind of follow the situation in the USA – as general as can be – to avoid to entirely take off to pipe dream land. So if I’m thinking of how the economic crises and a job loss could have affected a teenage boy and his family, I have to try to keep a grip on reality of live ´before` and ´after`. I wouldn’t like to start off with mistakes like “no way can an engineer be a sole earner and still have a house and send his kids to college!”

    So research is important, I think, and I would really appreciate if anybody from the USA would give me feedback on that stuff. Just in an overall ´is this scenario possible/likely or not` kind of sense…
     
  20. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    Q&A refers to Questions and Answers (your interview, e.g.) I'm just saying Questioning (Q-ing) and Answering (A-ing). That's all.

    I never really thought of my business problems as terribly farfetched or anything to look back on with much disappointment. My success, on the other hand, was fortuitous in its timing (related to getting my boys through school), although it wasn't any picnic, even so. I think of the whole mixture really as just part of life--which is what I was trying to point out. In the U.S., there are endless ways to get your kids through college--most of which will be challenging and difficult one way or another, even for the independently wealthy. So, yes, your engineer dad and stay-at-home mom could as likely send their kids to college as anyone else and could be seriously impacted by having the dad lose his job, which might make it necessary for the student to drop out or go get a job (if he was so motivated) or something more imaginative than that (if he wasn't quite so ambitious). But in my world, such a scenario could create dire straits for even the most well-endowed family, depending.

    In the U.S. (and I don't know, maybe elsewhere) there are tons of college students (even well-heeled ones) working their own way through. My boys didn't do that, though I don't doubt they would have benefitted in some ways from the experience, and I'm sure there would also have been downsides. I believe life works best with some dosage of both (and there never seems to be a shortage of either). Here, we have an array of college opportunities to suit almost anyone's budget, as well as many different financing avenues (although that could easily be changing, even as we speak). So, my thought is that whatever might once have been reflective of "average," or "typical" probably doesn't describe any more than the slimmest minority of actual experiences here in the U.S. (which, in my view, opens up most any possible scenario for the story you're describing).

    Both in fiction and in reality, we usually love a story that reflects a plausible struggle. But that struggle can be financial, social, emotional, psychological, or physical--better yet (and more realistically), some combination.:)
     
  21. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    I think the problem is, this dialog doesn't quite ring true. Even though I'm not American, I've grown up with enough Americans to know this isn't how educated people normally communicate each other, unless they are disturbed (or aspiring rap artists).

    I have teenagers of my own, many relatives with kids this age, and I work with students aged 18-23 mostly. We have exchange programes with the US, so I think I have some idea how cultured families bring up their children.

    I strongly advise you to write about the environment you're living in, or alternatively, to research further. Since I live abroad myself I can appreciate how it's hard to compete against the 'real thing' when trying to portray the US (or Britain) as an outsider. (For this very reason, I mainly stick to writing historical romances these days.) BTW, the standard of your writing is amazing if you're not a native speaker.
     
  22. John Bender
    Offline

    John Bender Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    @ madhoca

    "I strongly advise you to write about the environment you're living in"

    Jeez, there's not much to write about that one, really! :):):)

    “I think the problem is, this dialog doesn't quite ring true.”

    It is of course an extremely demanding, if not to say daunting task to write in a foreign language and still ring true all over. Actually, I think it’s quite impossible. That’s why I would get myself a native betareader if I ever got further than a stupid interview…

    But in this particular case I don’t really see your problem. All Julian does is to say ´f**k` like three or four times and to flip me the bird. And I find he has good reason to do so because I’m being rather impolite and harsh towards him. Initially he’s mainly sulky, reluctant and disinterested in the whole interview affair. It’s ´Me` who starts the whole dissing. And he merely snaps back.

    Apart from that he IS disturbed! Pretty much so! He has spent two years watching his former life go down the drain and basically losing his will to ´life` as in caring much about anything. He’s become a rather hopeless idgaf kind of boy. He’s not the nice guy next door any more…

    But don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing with – or rather against you – because I don’t appreciate your input. Quite on the contrary! That is what makes me think and dig deeper into my character. It’s basically exactly what I was looking for! So again: thank you very much!

    “BTW, the standard of your writing is amazing if you're not a native speaker.”

    Thanks. It’s drudgery, really. And I definitely couldn’t do it without the grate dictionaries available in the WWW.

    Please, continue to contribute as long as you feel like it. It’s extremely helpful, really!
     

Share This Page