1. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC

    Shooting a child?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by James Berkley, Jan 27, 2012.

    Ok so the general question is what do you think about violence done to children in stories? Can a protagonist do it or does it have to be a side character or villain do the harm.
    So I have hit a slight snag as far as how my characters act. For background it’s a science fiction. A group finds themselves standard on a more primitive section of a planet. The group is made up of two factions. One is the government bureaucrats and students in school for those positions and their bodyguards. The other is the two protagonists, ( Lapis, a former operator turned diplomat and Portia, his genetic super soldier body guard) and special forces operators who are cultural minorities.
    Ok so the situation is that they take shelter from the environment ( planet is in a ice age) in this primitive village. The primitive society has a resistant group that opposes the government, to communicate they use runners who are often children orphaned by the conflict. so when they move into the village a runner is sent to go contact the resistance army. Anywise to stop the runners someone shoots the runner. This creates a division and distrust between the two factions.
    The shooter is from the faction the two protagonists belong to. I don’t think I can have either of my protagonist shoot and have an audience still like them. So I guessing I can not have one of the operators shoot. Could I have Lapis order a operator to shoot the runner?
     
  2. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Whether he shoots or has an operator shoot wouldn't make a difference to me. Either way, he's deliberately responsible.

    I wouldn't hate the protag automatically for the shooting, but it depends on the circumstances. I'm a little bit confused - I"m assuming Lapis and Portia are part of the resistance? How are the runners a threat, then, if they're part of the resistance as well? It is a genuine mistake of who is on whose side?
     
  3. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    Lapis and Portia are not part of the resistance. The runner would alert the resistance members that want to capture all the people that where stranded. The group of people that are stranded have drawn themselves into two factions. Lapis and Portia are in one of them with the soldiers, most of the civilians are in another.
    Sorry for the confusion
     
  4. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    What is the resistance against? What do Lapis and Portia stand for?

    While killing children is obviously not desirable in real life, I wouldn't automatically hate a book just because a major character is responsible for a child's death, esp. not if it's an accident. Adult characters die all the time, and in some cases, the death could have been prevented by the protag (occasionally the protag is actually responsible). I think character deaths are major tools to work with, have pros and cons, and must be done correctly and in a way that's best for the story, whether it's an adult or a kid. When you're torn between doing what's best for the story and character development, or making sure no kid characters die, pick the former. It's fiction, not real life, after all.

    However, when I hear "resistance group" I usually associate that with anti-fascist efforts (like in V for Vendetta and the like). If a protag is part of a restrictive, oppressive, gov.t, this would make me dislike the character. But I'm not sure what the setup is for your story.
     
  5. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    the resistance is in opposition to the interplanetary government ( I don’t have a name for it so lets call it the “State”) . the resistance where humans that where brought to the planet by the state, who then went into the wilderness to establish their own society. the colony on the planet keeps expanding taking over their territory. Hence they find themselves at a little disagreement.
    Lapis and Portia are both citizens of the state. However the state is not monolithic. There are some separate, semi autonomous regions inside the state. Lapis and the operators come from one of these, that wishes to eventfully regain control of its own destiny. Fighting for the state is a job, allows them more personal freedoms and it lets them keep some amount of autonomous power for now.
    The state is sort of a socialist autocracy. It is more a police then a military state. Even then they try not to be too blatant about it, preferring passive stuff (cameras), education, propaganda to keep the population in line.
     
  6. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    I'd honestly be more likely to side with the resistance than with Lapis and Portia, but that's just because I'm not a fan of government spy cams and propaganda. ;)

    But if the child thing is all you're concerned about, I don't think you'll automatically lose readers. Especially as it's probably an accident - did Lapis mean to do it (knowing it was a kid) or not? How did he feel afterward, and what actions did he take, if any? Answers to those are probably more important than just the fact of shooting the kid, in terms of fiction at least (not in real life obviously)
     
  7. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    The story is more from the view of the traditional “bad guy”, yet deals with their own issues and dilemmas. The shooting was on purpose so that their position was not compromised. I don’t know how they will react yet but I know that Lapis and his faction will feel it was necessary for survival of themselves and for the civilians.
     
  8. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    Honestly I would have the protagonist (Lapis is it?) shoot the child himself, after a moment of terrible indecision. Then I would spend the rest of the book making Lapis pay for it, especially emotionally. If Lapis is horrified by his own actions, tortured by them even, it makes for compelling drama.
     
  9. dasylum
    Offline

    dasylum Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2011
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    I agree with TDF, he should shoot the child, but pay for it in someway. After paying for it, he uses it as inspiration to save the day or to help the story along later.
     
  10. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    What's important is also whether the children are still 'children' or 'child soldiers' - a child won't kill you, but a child soldier will kill you without hesitation. While a protagonist wouldn't kill a child, a threat in the form of a child is still a threat that has to be dealt with. If the only option is killing, the threat has to be killed, whether it's a child or dog or unicorn. That does not preclude sadness/guilt/regret on the part of the protagonist, but with most threats you don't have a lot of time to think about your options on dealing with them.
     
  11. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    I agree that getting someone else to shoot thew child would be a rather vain attempt to keep their hands clean, and it would be kind of hypocritical. But then if that's in line with your character than that's what you should write. Most people would probably want to shift that responsibility to someone else. But if the protag is more of a ruthless type then don't chicken out on him doing the deed himself just because it might make the character less likeable. Characters should be three-dimensional beings and as this is fiction I think it's more important that a character is interesting rather than likeable if you met them in real life (though it can certainly be both.).
     
  12. Cacian
    Offline

    Cacian Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    5
    I think it i quite a powerful image and I myself (as you propablyknow already) think it is unecessary in a story.
    The reason I say is because I don't know who my reader and what their lives/experiences and their past is like and so going by this I would not want to upset say a reader who has perhaps has lost a kid or children.
    I am prefer to keep the theme of children and violence totally separate. I do not associate the two.
    That is my humble opinion.
     
  13. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    I think that would apply to just about every good character in a story. ;)

    One thing the OP should remember is that people get very finicky about killing children in stories. So it's shaky ground if the protagonist is even remotely responsible for a deliberate death. An accident might be more forgiving, but still, tread cautiously. Think through the ramifications of a decision before going through with it and make sure, whatever happens, there's an appropriate emotional fallout in the story.
     
  14. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    Someone's always going to be offended about something in your story so it's best not to worry about pleasing everybody. Someone could have experienced a deadly dull life were everything is frustratingly perfect and there is no excitement. Would you not write stories for fear of offending them?
     
  15. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    @ Amsterdam. The child is not a child soldier in the sense that they are trying to kill them. instead the child is trying to give away their position to those that do.
    @Cacian. the story already involves the resistance group resorting to terrorism, purposeful shooting of civilians to go with the usual gunfights, and close quarters combat. So it already is pretty dark
    @ Show. part of the story involves the reactions and division between those that agree with the shooting and those that disagree.
     
  16. jonsnana
    Offline

    jonsnana Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2012
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Arizona
    If you write it, you will be stuck with trying to answer the question: Are the lives of the many more important than the life of the one? Was there no way for them to evacuate to another position? Is their bigotry such that they do not regard children as innocents? You say that the action will cause division, I see these other questions becoming a part of your plot line that you will have to handle. It could be done. In real life it would cause emotional reactions in the shooter. If you could determine these from research and use them in your story it could make your character stronger. Best of luck writing it.
     
  17. GillySoose
    Offline

    GillySoose Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2011
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    1
    You can always go the slightly cliche route to keep your protagonist's hands clean and have him order one of the other characters to *stop* the runner and it ending with a shooting. You know-
    "Stop that person!"
    "Okay." *BLAM*
    "I said stop, not kill! Now I hold myself directly responsible, woe is me!"
     
  18. Superevil225
    Offline

    Superevil225 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    I would stick with the protag, personally, but only if he felt a tonne of regret post-shooting.

    So say your protag kills the kid, I'd be a bit like: "WHYYYY!?!?!?" but then when he gets all mopey about killing the child, and starts to wonder if he should have, I would be more like: "Let me hug you adorable. We can forgive you."
     
  19. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    @ jonsnana, because of injuries, and the weather I think it is pretty clear at least in the Protagonists and the operators minds that leavening the village is not an option without suffering unacceptable loss of life. Could be something some characters question latter. Hence they would see it as an acceptable action. The civilians in the group will see it otherwise, hence division. Also I am not interested in my story becoming one about conflicting moral stances.
    Like the reaction idea. Lapis has been in combat before and has killed on previous occasions. His back story also involves alcohol issues related to PTSD. So it could be interesting to show how he feels a lot different about shooting the kid. It’s part of the reason I know I cannot have the other protagonist (Portia) do the shooting. She is psychopath that likes killing, so this would only make her look even worse.
     
  20. Cacian
    Offline

    Cacian Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    5
    indeed so I am the type of writer that would make sure this would not happen.
    I do not take risks like this in case I lose my readers.
    Other writers will do and I will learn from what they do and will offer my readers another sytle.
    the problem is I do because I want my readers to keep reading me.
    I am entirely 100% with you here.
    I understand excitement different from yours.
    Whilst you offer them a violentish sytle I will offer them a calmer,relaxed style.
    Believe there is a lot of people who enjoy escaping all genres. They prefer a perfect world.
    that is not the reason why I write.
    I write because I want to make them feel good/energised by feeling intrigued but good inside.
    It takes all sorts of writers and so it takes all sorts of readers.
     
  21. TheIllustratedMan
    Offline

    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Messages:
    170
    Likes Received:
    6
    I think that as long as I can understand a character's actions, even if I don't agree with them, I can empathize with them.

    Try taking the situation and turning it around in a couple of ways:

    A) What if he lets the child go? What happens to the group? Could we forgive him for allowing his people to be slaughtered just because he didn't want to shoot a child?

    B) What if some character (not in your current story, brand new set of circumstances) was constantly wronged by someone? Some great malevolent force is knocking him down at every turn, and the reader is screaming for blood, but the character just walks away? Can we understand why he did it? Can we forgive him for it?

    I think that if it's what the character needs to do, he should do it. If he's a little less likable afterward, so be it. Just make sure that he has a reason to do it, and it's not just some whim. If he's senselessly killing children, most of your readers aren't going to like him.
     
  22. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    Well, then it sounds like it can work. I'd write it and see how it turns out. If you feel driven to write it, then it's gotta be written. Violence done to young children is rarely gonna not draw intense emotions, but I'd think that is what you want. I think you need to decide where you want your characters to fall cause it likely will be a big defining moment for them. There's lots of juicy possibilities.
     
  23. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    Read the death scene of Gavroche in Les Miserables. Neither party was inherently evil. One side did, however shoot the boy and repeatedly. Given, he was a pompous little cuss and didn't care that they heard him, but it presents the possibility of killing the child without either party being the villain.
     
  24. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    Thanks everyone, I am going to write it with Lapis doing the shooting and see how it goes.
     
  25. AmsterdamAssassin
    Offline

    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2011
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Shooting a child [soldier] that's endangering your life could be considered righteous, depending on the circumstances.
     

Share This Page