1. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Social Justice related to real estate...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by BayView, Apr 12, 2016.

    I have some late-teen/early-twenties characters in Seattle, living right on the edge of homelessness, and they've all kind of bonded around a joint veterinary clinic/social assistance facility. (The idea is that hard-to-reach homeless people will come to the facility to get low-cost help for their pets and then also get some help for themselves). Not really looking for input on that facility, but...

    I want some sort of threat to the facility, one that clarifies some of the rich vs. poor themes of the story. The characters will bond together to protest/fight back against this threat. I want readers to sympathize with the kids, but I also want things to be fairly realistic, so the "villains" can't be too over-the-top villainous. Like, they can't be planning to bulldoze the facility just to make coats out of the fur of the animals or anything.

    At the same time, I'd like the young characters to have more to complain about than just "the landlord has chosen to not renew the lease." Something shady or unethical but not quite illegal. Something they could use to rally popular outrage and support for their cause, but not something they could report to the police. I'd be fine with something that was probably illegal but that would take an expensive, long, and risky court case to prove was illegal.

    Any ideas? Any anecdotes from local news in your area? Anything?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Gentrification. Not just the landlord refusing to renew the lease but why he's refusing to do so. Property values going up, and he knows he can sell the property for a lot more. This just happened here with a small, immigrant store owner kicked out of his store after a couple decades. Not illegal, but leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths. Could also give him a personal tie to a developer who wants the property - again, not illegal but starts to look like back door dealing.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought is some sort of zoning or other regulatory complaint, intended to get them shut down. Insufficient parking, claiming (based, say, on a single emergency procedure) that they do animal surgery and they're not zoned for it, claiming (based on, say, taking in extra people during a blizzard) that they're exceeding their residential limits, constant unannounced health inspections of the kitchen, a plumbing issue (maybe taking out one of the bathrooms) that means that they can't legally house all their residents but they can't afford to fix it, something like that.
     
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  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Tricky thing about those two suggestions is that they aren't really villainous as such. They are just kinda force of nature stuff; things that's going to be hard to rally around because no-one is really to blame. They just kinda happen. Unless you want a kinda marxist message where the enemy is just 'the middle classes' then you'll need to look somewhere else. Don't get me wrong; if I was writing it then I'd absolutely roll with 'the enemy you were fighting doesn't exist, the cause can't be saved and they all find solace in crack' but somehow I doubt that's the kind of story you want to tell.

    I see a few options here:

    1. Personify the forces of gentrification/property development. It may be a bit too 80s movie but you could try having someone to be the face of the company or the property developer or whatever who just doesn't care about the good being done in the community; he's going to build his own one. You can make him overtly evil or just apathetic, whatever works.

    2. Who is a better portrait of the opulent, uncaring, class traitorous types than an inner city gang? Maybe someone wants to tear down a building in the old neighborhood to build a dope pimp crib or a recording studio; maybe they just think its a good place to run guns and drugs and such. Their uncaring nihilistic excess would be a good foil for the earnest, hardworking kids you're writing with the added benefit that no-one is ever going to sympathize with them.

    3. If you insist on being political then make the antagonist a local councilman (or something) who was voted in by the local people then immediately tried to fill his own pockets by getting his construction company some fat city contracts. That'd be a nice compromise between a straight social commentary (which I think in this case would be a weak antagonist) and an actual evil guy to fight against.
     
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  5. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    How are homeless people treated in Seattle? I used to live in a town where the local government thought homeless people would drive off tourists and treated them as a nuisance on par with rats or pigeons. Seattle seems a bit better in terms of government support, but if there's a vocal group that approaches homeless people as a problem rather than as human beings, it would be good to pick your villain from that group.
     
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  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Assuming the facility is either run by the government or a nonprofit that is substantially or fully funded by the government or a foundation, the threat could be as simple as the facility funding will be cut from the budget and they can't afford to run it anymore. The unethical thing could be that although the budget "had" to cut the costs of the facility, the budget still includes extravagant spending on luxuries for top-level officials or spending on political causes that would be illegal if confirmed.
     
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  7. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Certainly a very realistic problem; but also one that'll be almost impossible for the normal citizens to change. Nothing wrong with a good, hard downer ending but again; I don't think that's what Bay is after. The problem is that while it's theoretically dreadful that public services get their budgets cut while politicians keep their fancy lunches and drivers it's only unethical if someone if deliberately choosing to keep their luxury over the general populace. Mayors need to do their job too you know?

    There's no bad person here. And the contention that it's a bad system is kinda literally advocating communism. An actively corrupt official who is hijacking the system brings those two together; an enemy to rally against without saying that democracy needs to be pulled down.
     
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  8. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    If it's a story about Seattle, then it comes back to whether Bayview thinks Seattle has bad leaders or a bad system. I don't live there, so I don't know, but all Bayview really has to do is show what he's seen. That doesn't necessarily mean condemnation, just honesty. Consider The Grapes of Wrath, which showed exactly what people were angry about, but also showed why the government was powerless to fix their problems.

    (Not gonna lie; seeing "advocating communism" framed as a bad thing makes me feel like I fell through a portal to the 1950s.)
     
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  9. Sidetrack
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    Sidetrack Member

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    The people who want to evict them have done it illegally by setting them up to look like they are abusing animals. The teens have a checkered past, so their word in court will not be trusted. They have no money to hire lawyers. So now they are being shut down. They go see a lawyer, none will do it pro bono. Finally, they find a lawyer that will do their case, but the lawyer requires evidence. It's up to the teens to find that evidence. You don't need a courtroom battle for that. Just stay out of the court. Keep the legal consultation short and to the point. You'll be safe with just a little research. They finally get the evidence they need and bamm, they get to keep the clinic open. Surprise the readers in the resolution with the teens getting awarded money from the case or local donation to buy the clinic! Give the puppies a kiss and say we'll always be here you!
     
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