1. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    when a child isn't a child

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ettina, May 29, 2012.

    OK, in one of my stories, two private detectives get approached by a little girl (4-5 years old) asking them to help her find her Mommy, who has been kidnapped. Fairly soon, they start noticing holes in the girl's story - no one has seen any hint of her mother, the person she claims kidnapped her mother has been missing for several months, etc.

    Which option sounds more convincing?

    a) They realize the girl is actually an unaging supernatural being, and is only a child in appearance. She admits that she lied and says she's been sickened by a magical curse and the supposed 'kidnapper' is the only one who could lift the curse. They agree to help her find her cure.

    b) They realize the girl and her mother were supernatural beings (but the child really is a child of her kind) and her mother actually left in search of that person and told her daughter to claim she'd been kidnapped and get help if she didn't return. They agree to help her follow her mother's tracks and find out what happened to her.

    (The truth is actually closer to the first option, but in order for the plot to keep going, they have to remain willing to help the kid. Right now I'm deciding between her coming clean almost entirely, or making up a new lie.)
     
  2. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Well they are sort of the same scenario really, in my mind.

    It just depends on whether or not you want the mom to be a supe or not -- I kind of find the "b" plot more interesting.
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    No, they're totally different. In b), the girl is still a child, just a non-human one. In a), she's not a child at all - just looks like one. The approach will be completely different depending on whether they believe that this character is a child or not.

    And this is just what the detectives will believe. The real situation is that the protagonist is not a child, just looks like one, and her mother died several hundred years ago and plays no part in the story.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Whichever one you can write in a more convincing manner.

    YOU choose one. Then make the reader believe it.
     
  5. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    *sigh* Maybe I didn't explain this well.

    How likely is it that, having signed on to help a little girl find her mother, they would still be willing to help upon realizing that the little girl isn't really a little girl, and her mother isn't actually missing? Would they be too freaked out by finding out that this 'little girl' actually thinks more like an adult? Would they be upset about being deceived and refuse to help?
     
  6. r3dfoe
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    r3dfoe Member

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    I would say she needs to have something the detectives want and/or need. Like a proposition... because honestly if an average detective learned of a supernatural being lure them for help... my guess is they would start firing.
    That or you could have her lie and keep luring the detectives deeper. Keep the readers with no idea whether what the girl is saying is true or not. It sounds interesting. But I think a lot of suspense and guessing would make the book really stand out. In the end the detective discover the truth and maybe have a twist where its either too late for the detectives to get away from the girl; i.e. she kills them, or whoever the girl is looking for has died or is too far for her to find them. Or when she comes clean/gets found out is around the time the climax occurs and the detectives are forced to aid her.
     
  7. Silhouette
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    I agree with r3dfoe, I think your detectives need something to make this a little more personal. Perhaps helping the 'child' has made them a target of whoever it was that cursed the character in the first place. Or perhaps the 'child' blackmails them in some way to keep them in her services. If they just decide to help her despite her previous lies I would need to believe that these characters had all become friends and that the detectives had a vested interest in lifting her curse.

    Personally I like the first scenario the best, but that's just because it would allow her to have a more adult personality. Nine times out of ten I find child-characters extremely irritating in adult fantasy. In my opinion they tend to be a bit flat and serve only as something to be protected. If making her a mental adult allows her to have more complex thoughts, actions, and relationships then I would go with that.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like the perfect horror story - little girl who's not a little girl comes and ropes humans into searching for "missing" people who aren't really missing and none of the stories match. It sounds quite creepy.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's more likely they'd help a child -- we have an instinct to protect children, even if the child happens to have fearsome supernatural powers.

    Still, someone in that situation would probably need to struggle to deal with it, especially if they didn't believe in the supernatural from the beginning.
     
  10. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    If it were me, as the detective, I would want to help either way. That's just me speaking. I think it would depend on the personalities of the detectives, whether they were proud, or easily frightened, or easily offended, or greedy, or what. And you have to shape that yourself.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Well, she actually is a mental adult, I'm just deciding whether she'll come clean or feed them another lie.

    And she's the protagonist, though come to think of it, maybe I should write another version from the detectives' perspective.
     
  12. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Actually, I find the entire scenereo hard to believe, simply because, a guardian has to back up any contracts made by children. How would she convince them as a five year old to help them in the first place? And who is calling child protective services to "protect" this little girl so she doesn't end up on the streets?
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If these are normal detective, and not supernatural themselves, I find it unlikely that they would come to any of those conclusions just like that. At least not until far ahead in the story, and most reluctantly, because those kind of professionals aren't very likely to believe in things like that.
     
  14. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Sorry, forgot to mention, this is a fantasy setting. Everyone has some degree of magical ability, there's much less of a social safety net, and although they've never met a supernatural creature before, they've heard the stories and believe it's possible.

    Sorry. I really should have mentioned that.
     
  15. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I think B would make a more interesting plot, but don't do it unless you have a really good reason (and "to keep the plot going is not a good reason).
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the "child". It depends on the detectives. It depends on the societal attitude toward children. It depends on what would be more interesting. If the detectives would be more likely to protect an actual child, but it would be interesting to see their conflicts in dealing with an adult child, then that might be a more interesting way to go.

    Does this society see children as mentally and emotionally different and in need of protection for that reason? Does it instead see them as in need of protection merely because they're small and weak? Does it not even see children as particularly in need of protection? (The protect-at-all-costs attitude toward all children is, I believe, a relatively modern attitude. But I might be wrong about that; it could be worth researching.)

    Do the detectives help people merely because they're small and weak? Would their helpful and protective instincts kick in for a physically small but obviously very smart adult woman? If so, then it seems likely that they'd help the child either way. Do the detectives need to feel that those that they help are inferior to them - is the help tied to an ego boost and is that ego boost tied to being superior? Then it seems that they'd be much less likely to help the "adult child".

    Does society, not just the detectives, have a lot invested in women and children being inferior? Would there be a "who does she think she is?" about a female child who is not only intelligent but doesn't even have the decency to hide it? Do they expect a female to be deferential and is she not deferential?

    How adult is the child? Is she fully mature or merely highly intelligent but emotionally immature? I remember a Jim Butcher novel with a highly intelligent child who nevertheless reacted to a kitten with unguarded, childish delight.

    Is she likable? If she is fully adult in manner, is she a cool superior adult, or is she likable, one that a person can form a relationship with? Can you see her laughing at their jokes and them laughing at hers? Does she tell a good story? Would she take the trouble to help the detectives in what ways she can - say, getting one a cup of coffee and giving the other one useful advice for his upcoming divorce hearing?

    It depends.

    ChickenFreak

    (Edited to add: I'm not asking you to answer all of these questions. I'm just saying that they're part of the things worth thinking through while you make this decision.)
     
  17. Lovelina
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    Lovelina Member

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    As a reader, I would prefer option A.

    Though it's not uncommon for a 4-5 years old to have holes in their story. Most kids that age aren't the most reliable story tellers. They are kids after all. ;)
     
  18. Samo
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    Samo Member

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    If the detectives react the same, do you really need both of them in the story?

    The question you are asking is: if I put this man under an intense amount of pressure and force him to make a choice, what does he do?

    If the answer is the same of both detectives, one character is extraneous. If the answer is different, not only do you allow us to glimpse the true character of each of the detectives, you might also generate conflict between them
     
  19. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I have both detectives so they can divide tasks and get more done, and also to have conversations between them that the protagonist overhears. They aren't identical characters, but since one of the defers to the other's decision, they'll decide as one.
     
  20. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Although she isn't a child intellectually, she still is emotionally and physically. They probably have a hard time separating the two especially if she every so often "acts" or "speaks" or "cries" like a child. Maybe they don't quite know what to believe. Children can be very convincing. And manipulative. Use it to your advantage.
     
  21. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    I find the who primus unconvincing and here is why; Why would a child of that age approach private detectives or even know what private detectives were. Unless being super-human makes her super-intelligent, in which case she probably doesn't need the help of the detectives. No, she would cry and go to a neighbors house who would call the cops. The cops would have to take the child and put her in a temporary home (or with a relative) while they attempted to track the kidnapper and find her mother. They wouldn't buckle her up in the backseat and cruise around town looking for her together (They are dealing with a Kidnapper after all). Likewise, if the mother wasn't found after so long she would just be put up in an state adoption home(if no living relatives found). If you are looking for a way to get your super-human child on an adventure on her own, it'll have to be like the Jungle book where the child is actually stranded in the middle of nowhere or a relative that really knows where her mother went took her in and assisted her on her quest...but then I'd want to know why the relative knows and didn't try and stop the mother from doing it. I'd ask myself the bigger question, What am I trying to accomplish with this story. Obviously this is a small scene in a bigger picture, there is probably a better way of getting the end result without all the unbelievable scenarios imo.
     
  22. Boomstick10995
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    Boomstick10995 Member

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    I like the idea of the supernatural being posing as a child and egging the cops on. Could lead to a very interesting story line. But, like everyone has said, the detectives have to honestly believe that this girl is need of help, and there can't be anything that would make them suspicious right away. Maybe she has the ability to mind control other humans and she uses a random person to pose as her aunt or someone bringing her to the detective office. Or, she sets herself up somewhere where the detectives happen to see her and she poses as a stranded, lost girl and the detectives feel compelled to help her once they see her.

    Those probably aren't the best examples, but if you go with this plot, you should really keep her identity hidden. You'll need the little girl to not only fool the detectives, but also the readers.
    Hope that helps.
     
  23. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    She's not actually a child. She just looks like a child. She needs the detectives because people won't take a child seriously and won't answer her questions unless an adult is asking them for her.

    But she's not a child. She's a vampire, turned at the age of 4, and is several hundred years old. She doesn't think like a child, she doesn't feel like a child emotionally, and she's only acting like a child in order to fool the detectives into helping her.

    And she's the perspective character, so the readers do know what she is. The tension in the plot doesn't come from discovering what she is, it comes from her dealing with gaining a soul and her attempts to get rid of it again.
     

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