1. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    Sources regarding a couple things

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SlayGuy138, Jul 27, 2015.

    Hi there.

    I realize I haven't posted on here in a while and probably don't contribute much to this board but I could use your advice regarding a project that I've been outlining.

    It's entitled A Place Without Sun and my pitch for it is as follows: a twisted coming of age high school romance involving rock music, immigration and a metamorphosis that changes not only the person who initiated it.

    Specifically, its plot follows the Ian, bassist for a local nü metal band who's looking for a guitarist. He's at lunch one day and finds someone sitting against a vending machine all alone. He strikes up a conversation with the girl, whose name is Kim, and finds out that her family just recently emigrated from Sweden and she doesn't know anyone. He invites her to a band practice and to make a long story short the two develop feelings for each other, Ian finds out that Kim was born a male but identifies as a girl, Ian burns her a mix CD as a token of his affection, her parents find it, and her parents try to send her to some whackjob rehab facility run by a corrupt church. Needless to say, Kim's parents' plan fails miserably and the story concludes with the band getting a major label contract and Kim beginning her transition with Ian as her boyfriend forever.

    What I need are some sources to help me create a realistic premise and characterization. Be they first-hand accounts or fictional narratives, I would greatly value any input you have.

    Firstly I would like to craft a transgendered character in a way that is realistic but not over-the-top. I will admit that I do not understand everything there is to know about the transgendered experience, being a cis male myself, but I fully sympathize with the struggles that people have to go through on a daily basis. I could use some help in this regard. Specifically I want to employ the narrative of Kim being the child of two conservative, fundamentalist parents. (If you want a measure of how bigoted these people are, one of the reasons they cite as to why they left Sweden for the 'States is that their home country has become, as they word it, an "egalitarian Babylon".)

    Also I would like to touch upon the social dynamics and interpersonal relations of members in a rock band. I have drafted nebulous and vague personalities of each of the members, for example one is a silent but intelligent type, the singer is passionate and eloquent in his expression, and the drummer could be described as "honest but fair" and "tells it like it is". In order to add more depth to this novel I think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this element.

    That's about all I have left. If you would like to know any more about this project please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have, and I'll answer them to the best of my ability. If I don't have an answer yet, then that's probably for the better because it will prompt me to come up with one that I can incorporate into the story.
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    No particular expertise on the gender/sexuality identity stuff, but I may be able to help with the band/music stuff. I think, as is the usual advice for characterisation, you really just need to make each character a consistent individual, rather than conform to some stereotype of "what a bassist/guitarist/drummer/lagophonist is" (not that that's what you're suggesting).

    If you have specific questions about how characters might interact in the context of a band, feel free to send me a message and I will share experience & opinions.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You could look for blogs by transwomen for some inspiration. Do some lurking and ask questions after you have a better idea of what you're planning to go for with your character. I don't know how many transgendered members we have on WF, but you'll benefit most from their accounts if you want to understand it better.

    Some questions for you to answer (if not in this thread, at least in your head).

    Her religion might also affect her character. She's from Sweden, so is she for example Laestadian? And if she is, do they have reformation camps in the US? What kind of communities are they? How do they feel about nu metal to begin with, so has it been possible for her to do both in her community: play metal and transition/live as a girl?

    It's also very likely that she has siblings. Fundamentalist families tend to be big. Is it feasible for her to still live with them or has she been forced to run away because the environment she seems to be coming from sounds very destructive?

    Does she struggle with faith or has she abandoned God altogether?

    How old was she when they emigrated from Sweden? How did they do that anyway? It's difficult to get a green card let alone citizenship in the US, although it was easier before 9/11 I've understood. Maybe they had church connections.

    How old is Kim? (high school age so a teenager?) Has she transitioned? (probably not) If she has, how has she afforded it because her family has probably not been too supportive. In fact, I wonder if she's now living as a girl, they may have already disowned her.

    Also, Sweden may seem like a small, homogenous place to an American (or maybe you are an immigrant?), but there's still plenty of space there for e.g. those Laestadians to practice their fundamentalist ways, so I'm sure other fundamentalists can exist in peace there, too. Not saying life there is without problems, but I'm pretty sure they aren't persecuted. So is this a strong enough reason to emigrate? I mean, there are loads of perks to living in Sweden. For one, free healthcare! Maybe there were other reasons too for Kim's family to move away (like the family is a member of some distinctively American congregation/branch). @Komposten and @Tesoro can probably comment on that more, though. I'm just their neighbor. :D

    Just some food for thought.
     
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  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A couple of things jumped out at me.

    Whoa! They develop feelings for each other, then he finds out that Kim is transgendered, and then he burns her a CD? Not even a "wait a second!" or, more likely, a WTF? If Ian is into transgendered girls to begin with, that's one thing. But he probably isn't given that you say "he finds out", which suggests that he expected she was a genetic girl and was attracted to her because of it. Moreover, it suggests that Kim looks like a genetic girl. I see a problem with realism here. At the very least, I would think that Ian would need a lot of time and soul searching to get past Kim's initial deception.

    As @KaTrian pointed out above, I think you need to give careful thought to the age of your characters. There are transgendered folks who transition before adulthood (do a search of "Jazz Jennings" for an example of one person whose parents supported transitioning at puberty), but understand the practice is still considered very controversial, as is the practice of prescribing blockers to delay the onset of puberty to allow the child more time to decide. It's possible she might be living as a girl without actually transitioning (ie. beginning hormone therapy), but that also means that, unless she is taking blockers, male secondary sex characteristics would be in place. And in the US, she would need parental consent to take blockers if under 18.

    Do a search on "Reparative therapy" or "conversion therapy". It is regarded as aversive by the medical community and, in some states, is considered child abuse. But, in the context of the story, I don't see a logical connection between the discovery of a CD and Kim's parents deciding to send her for "treatment". If she was sufficiently able to pass to convince Ian she was a girl, how could her parents not know? And if they already knew, why would the CD make a difference?

    A more realistic approach might be that Ian already knows from the beginning that Kim is transgendered, they start out as friends, get involved in the band, and then the attraction develops, setting up a huge internal conflict in Ian. Just a thought.

    It sounds like an interesting idea. Good luck with it.
     
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  5. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    For the record, your concern is completely justified. I made the original post at almost 2 in the morning and will admit that I didn't exactly have all my mental capacity. I listed events in the wrong sequence. I apologize for the confusion.

    Point taken. I'm thinking that Kim is in the same year as Ian; they're both seniors in high school. That way it just so happens that she conveniently has not very long to wait to become of legal age to begin her transformation. When Ian meets her she is pre-transition but does adopt a couple of the aesthetic characteristics of her gender identity; such as wearing her hair down. She has a petite frame and some effeminate qualities (such as a soft, high-pitched voice) to begin with. Furthermore, Kim is a male name in Sweden, so she doesn't even need to come up with a female name considering that the name is given to female babies elsewhere.

    Indeed, that is the nature of the program that she is sent to. I omitted an important connecting detail that should answer your question: After some time of Ian and Kim being in a relationship, Ian burns a mix CD for her. The purpose of this gesture is twofold: first, as a token of his affection, obviously. And second, it serves a more functional purpose of presenting to Kim the musical style of the band that they're in so that she better understands it and can compose music in the genre.

    The CD comes with a note from Ian that has a heart and Xs and Os at the end. Kim leaves the package on the kitchen table after she gets home from school. Her bigoted and fundamentalist parents find it and, needless to say, a huge blowout ensues which results in their decision to send Kim away.

    That's what I have in mind, yes. After a couple of practice sessions Ian starts to feel for her. That seems like the best sequence of events. As far as the huge internal conflict goes, I'm not exactly sure about that. He definitely feels some trepidation and by no means are his feelings for Kim without some doubt. But he ultimately entertains the idea of helping a transgendered girl through this strange and messed-up world as something that's enormously gratifying and beautiful, through their romantic relationship. The real conflict arises from how to convey his feelings.

    My idea is that the family is Pentecostal. As far as Sweden goes, one of their biggest cultural exports is heavy / extreme metal music in a variety of different subgenres (and ABBA for that matter...) but I'm pretty sure nu metal is not one of them. Nu metal is more of an American phenomenon, even so it was only popular for a brief window of time during the late '90s to early 2000s. One of the purposes of the band to act as a nostalgic revival of the genre. As far as Kim herself is concerned, her favorite band is Katatonia, from her home country. Their album Last Fair Deal Gone Down is about the closest thing to nu metal they have done. (As an aside: it's a masterpiece in my opinion.) She isn't particularly well versed in the musical style before meeting Ian, which is partially the reason for Ian burning the mix CD for her.

    I'll admit I haven't put much thought into this. I would like to though, perhaps a nerdy younger brother who's an avid evolution-denier and / or a sister who wants to attend a Bible college. Given that she's around Ian's age (he's a senior in high school) she doesn't have much time left in her family's house anyway.

    I think when Kim started out she had some degree of enthusiasm for religion, given that she was raised in the Christian tradition. But my thought is that once puberty hit and her gender identity crisis began, she grew disillusioned with the family environment, realizing that her mere existence was in conflict with "God's will", as her parents would put it. Furthermore she must feel a ton of cognitive dissonance having to fulfill her family's expectations and pretty much deny her true self for fear that she's disowned or subjected to humiliation from her family members. To answer your question more accurately I think that she does indeed struggle with faith. She believes in God as a non-interventionist deity in a climate that postures Him as benevolent all while His intentions (as declared by humans) are extremely malevolent.

    As aforementioned she's pre-transition and in her last year of high school at the time when she comes to America.

    The primary reason that Kim's family cites as emigrating to the 'States is that the patriarch of their household is given a promotion to the American office of some vacuum cleaner company. A secondary reason is that they perceive Sweden as plummeting into, as they word it, an "egalitarian Babylon". I'm prettttttttty sure that the religious right doesn't have as much influence there as they do here in the USA, so they probably do feel "persecuted". The well-intentioned measures instituted there are regarded by Kim's family as signs of "Satan's influence".

    I hope these answers are sufficient! Thank you all for the insight and constructive criticism. I value these questions, as they are insightful in my aim to craft a more logical narrative. If you have any more questions then please feel free to ask them. Also if you have any original, creative ideas that you feel would help contribute to the story and make it better, do not hesitate to tell me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
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  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, seems like you've given this quite a bit of thought. That's good. And you're right, nu metal isn't a huge thing in Sweden. I think it was Göteborg metal that Swedes really became famous of in the metal scene. But I think it's refreshing you don't go the obvious way there.

    Would Ian mistake Kim for a girl or would e.g. her voice and lack of breasts give it away? Of course, he could start feeling for her even when thinking she's a he if he's bisexual and actually truly doesn't mind the gender as long as Kim is happy.

    Kim's family situation sounds absolutely horrible, so you'll definitely have a lot to discuss when she's struggling to find her own feet and get rid of the toxic environment. Ian will be of great help, although he's probably still growing too? So it'll likely be a rollercoaster for them both.
     
  7. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    I think initially Ian would mistake Kim for a girl, albeit a tomboyish one. The fact that Kim is a female name outside of Scandinavia doesn't help matters. But after talking with "him" for a while, it would be fairly obvious to Ian that Kim was born a male. Furthermore, during one of their first hang-outs outside of school Kim reveals to Ian that she identifies as a female. Ian isn't really surprised by this revelation, and while he doesn't understand the transgender experience entirely (being cisgendered himself), he does keep an open mind and doesn't think any less of Kim. (In addition, maybe Kim secretly develops some romantic feelings of her own toward Ian, considering that she is so un-accustomed to such acceptance.)

    My perception is that a lot of straight guys aren't attracted (romantically, sexually, or otherwise) to MtFs in the first place, so it's probably a given that Ian is at least somewhat bisexual.

    Ian definitely has his own troubles to put up with on the home front. He lives with his single mother who alternates between short periods of being enthusiastic and loving (almost to a manic extent) and long expanses of being manipulative, emotionally abusive and viciously critical of pretty much everything about Ian. He hasn't taken it all too well but has begun to realize that he needs to minimize contact and separate himself from his mom's toxic existence, whether by slamming his bedroom door and screaming into a pillow, going to band practice - or, best of all, hanging out with Kim.

    While I'm not the most socially active or knowledgeable person in the world, I'm a firm believer in the notion that to relate to one's fellow (wo)man, to share one's experience in solidarity and respect, is one of the most basic and universal human needs.
     
  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Despite all the noise and public disgust expressed by many men regarding TS women, Ladyboys in Thailand are incredibly popular with male tourists, so I would take such protestations with a grain of salt. In my opinion it is the public stigma of being seen with a TS woman that is the problem.
     
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