1. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Would these guys keep this kid?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CMastah, Jun 3, 2015.

    So in my story, the MC's village is massacred, right? He makes a break for it and comes across a dwarven caravan. The dwarves have been trading with a member of the MC's tribe and because of their codes of loyalty choose to rescue and protect the kid. In my original design, they keep the kid with them and give him an education, my beta reader on the other hand has told me what seems like a more likely response:

    They'd rescue him, then drop him off wherever he can be taken care of/can take care of himself. Their relationship with the trader from the MCs village is just as a business partner (ALTHOUGH, my design of dwarves have them as highly valuing loyalty, and it's why they chose to help the kid in the first place, out of loyalty to a business partner).

    Plan B to keep the story on track (because my story design has the kid growing up with them), I was going to have him prove to be extremely useful to the dwarves (he was born with an ability that I ought to be able to use to achieve this) and they decide to keep him around.

    I'd rather stick to my original plan and only take plan B if the first idea is unrealistic.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Important to note that dwarves, in their fantasy guise, not including humans with achondroplasia or other medical situations that cause physical dwarfism, ARE NOT REAL. Your friend has never met them unless your friend does lots and lots of drugs, and even then, the meeting exists only within the solipsistic sphere of his mind and no where else.

    Write a reason for the dwarves to keep the child.

    The same could be said for a caravan of trading humans. They may keep him or they may divest themselves of him depending on any number of factors. There is nothing about their "caravan of humans"-ness that would predetermine this unless you wrote it as such.
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    They're your dwarves, they can do whatever you want them to.

    I mean, fantasy dwarves don't exist, everything they do is going to be unrealistic. If your dwarves are loyal to business partners, that's the way they are. Your beta can't dictate your own characters' proclivities to you.

    Maybe a sympathetic dwarf initially takes the kid in, the rest of the caravan is also sympathetic but isn't entirely sold on it (adding another mouth to feed can't be easy, to be fair, they have to be practical), then this ability the kid has comes to light and makes them go "oh hey you're not dead weight, maybe we can make room for you".

    Or, dwarves are super loyal and they just take this kid on because their society dictates that they should even if it's inconvenient or could bring hardship upon them, because that's how you wrote them.
     
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  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Captain Carrot in Discworld is a dwarf. He's also 6 foot tall. That's because he's the (lost mislaid) king of Ankh-Morpork, taken in by the dwarves at an early age.

    If it's good enough for Terry Pratchett, it's quite good enough for you!
     
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  5. EmptySoul
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    EmptySoul Active Member

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    I would ask you to take an hour and imagine your story without the boy. Let your mind roam over the plot and its development. If you find that the overall pace improves, then toss the boy out like yesterday's trash.

    ~ES
     
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  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think it's a blend of what everyone's saying. The dwarves, the fantasy type, are yours, you decide why and how they'll keep the kid. Even in the real-world, people come up with strange reasons why they'd seemingly go against what to them is basic common sense.

    I think @izzybot has it right. A sympathetic dwarf feels honor-bound to care for the child, the rest of the caravan simply goes along with it because honor and stuff. Then the kid reveals his magical powers and they realize he could be a useful asset to the group.

    But that's one out of hundreds of ways to write how they'll care for the kid. :D It could also be that the kid simply tagged along despite them leaving him in a human village and they're all, "By the gods, you're a persistent one. Fine. Take this spear and watch our backs, got it?"
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with what people are saying, and am back to saying don't write "a dwarf character", write your character, who happens to be a dwarf.

    I think probably what your friend's comment shows is that you didn't do a good enough job (for this specific reader) of showing why the dwarves kept the kid. There are countless reasons you could include in the story to explain the decision. Just make it work.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your beta reader seem to have very 21st century business etiquette in mind. Is your story set in the 21st century in the modern, real world as we know it? I'm gonna assume the answer is a resounding: No.

    To me, it kinda sounds a little like your beta reader wants you to write the story in exactly the way he wants it, rather than necessarily helping you write the story that you want. If he wants the story a certain way, he can go write his own book. Don't let others tell you how your story should be. It's your book, your story, your character, your dwarves. Yours!
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Whatever your characters do should have a reason, and it's up to you to come up with the reason. The more plausible your reason, the more believable (within the world you've created) your story will be.

    I'm with the others on this thread who say do NOT allow a beta reader to throw you off track about the nature of your story. Don't feel obligated to change your story just because a beta reader would rather have read a different one. Your job as a writer is to make the beta reader want to read the story you've written. If they don't like your dwarf adopting the child, you should maybe focus on making the adoption more believable, rather than dumping the idea. The more you ground your story with good reasons for everything that happens, the richer your story will be.

    Also—and I'm a huge advocate of this—use as many beta readers as you can. Using only one other person gives them too much say in how your story develops. You need a general overview, to find out who your target audience is likely to be.

    It's also a good idea, in my opinion, not to give your story to ANY beta readers until it's done. Their feedback will influence it, even if they don't mean to. The LAST thing you need is somebody horning in and taking over before you're finished. If you want feedback on a couple of pages, just to make sure your style is working, that won't hurt. But beyond that, I'd say no.

    Even you won't know what's essential to your story and what isn't, until you get it finished. Your betas certainly won't. For example, you need to keep your boy with the dwarves because of what happens later in the story ...the bit you haven't written yet? Your beta reader doesn't know this. If they were reading your finished story, they'd just keep going and the reason for the adoption would eventually become plain. But because they don't get to this point yet, they get hung up on it—and their hangup is causing you to doubt yourself. If they finish the story and say that the adoption wasn't believable, then go back and make it believable. That's easier to do than it looks. But don't let them make you change your story. You do that, and the next reader is going to say the dwarves should have adopted the boy ...and there you are, flip-flopping all over the place. Trust me. This will happen. :)
     
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  10. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys.

    Heheh, I should've also pointed out that the boy is (one of) the MC(s). If it helps add any further context, he's also not human (and couldn't be mistaken for one by appearances, so not elf, dwarf, or anything near such).

    The first draft of the story itself is finished, but I'm slightly worried about 'author blindness' in that characters could have really bad flaws or that there might be plot holes that I miss. I am also worried about having the one beta reader, because in some places I feel his advice would make a character that would better suit him. My two MCs (both eight) are emotional for the first few days after the massacre and they react with it a few times, but to him it's coming off as whiny (even though they are both eight and it's only a few days after the event). Thankfully I still have my first draft saved, so if I end up feeling that they're too detached from the killing of their tribe, I can go back and change it back. So far my second draft is reducing the male kid's trauma and a little of the female's (who was supposed to be a strong character and who was recovering better).

    I remember when he read the very first few pages of wolf brother he also felt the MC was being slightly whiny (context: the character was with his dying father who was telling him to leave), it's why I'm going to try and get a few more beta readers.

    I've put in some dialogue and exposition about dwarven loyalty but....I feel like it's unnecessary. Mckk said exactly what I thought at the time, trying to dump the kid rather than take him along was quite 21st century coldness. They're also giving him an education (ie, teaching him to read) but I still feel like it isn't going much out of their way.
     
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  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    But, and just to play devil's advocate, shushing it away with "dwarves are loyal to a bloody fault and that's that" is a broad stroke of a rather dull brush. It misses, in my opinion, a great deal of opportunity for individual character building that would be present if you at least gave some more specific reason for this happening. I can think of a dozen things that would create a wealth of opportunity to grow your individual dwarves (not just dwarves as some homogenous whole) in the eyes and mind of the reader. Could there be someone in the caravan who: recently lost a loved one and is cleaving to this child as replacement, has some special tie to the people in question of which this child is one, is at odds with another dwarf so much that she/he votes vociferously to keep the child (the other dwarf voted for dumping him) if only to gain a WIN over the other dwarf because, ugh, I hate him so much that whatever he wants I automatically want the opposite and shit now I'm stuck taking care of this whining (fill in whatever race he is).

    Humans in the real world are anything but homogenous. We are as different, one from another, as a puppy is from a pogo-stick. I side back with @BayView who sided with me earlier, don't be lazy and just paint all the dwarves the same. You cheat yourself out of so much opportunity in doing that.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like you're worrying too much perhaps. I'd echo Jannert's advice and say don't let people read it until your draft is finished. It's not a good thing to have too many cooks. And changing characters and their reactions based on betas' feedback can be a bit of a grey area - on the one hand yes, you have to make sure they don't come off as too whiny, but on the other hand you should have your character react appropriately to how you feel he would. Eg. the character's reaction should match the character's personality. The solution may not be to have them recover quicker than you feel they should, but perhaps to do a time lapse, or emphasise the trauma a little less - so it's there but not the focus for a lengthy period. There're other ways around these things other than just changing it all.

    Make sure you stay true to 1. who your character is and 2. your vision of the story. Feel free to change things as long as they help you improve the story you want to tell, and ignore advice that doesn't do that. It doesn't mean the advice was bad - it just means the advice wasn't suitable for your story. Learn to trust your own instincts, otherwise you'll keep changing every last thing according to every single reader and you'll end up with a mess.

    I actually did something similar with my very first novel (still working on it) - when 2 readers told me they don't like the female MC and love interest, I promptly changed things so she was no longer the love interest. When another reader told me that second girl was no good for my male MC, I invented a brand new character to step into the role. (I was not surprised when still another reader told me he found the new character extremely dull in her perfection - my only reaction to that was: well, she was created that way, so I'm not surprised.) When yet another reader told me the opening didn't interest him, I wrote a brand new opening and ditched the original completely. (I ended up with at least 5 different openings, probably more, none of which had much direction at all)

    By the end of it, I had God only knew how many drafts, several of them completed, and I'd completely lost the plot lol. Now, I'm writing what I hope to be my last version of the same book, and I'm ridiculously protective of being told to change anything. In fact, I don't particularly want anyone to read it until it's done. And this time, it's gonna be awesome :D

    In short, don't change something just because one reader didn't like it!! Don't doubt yourself so much. Go with your gut. It's usually right!
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Although, not changing something just cus one reader didn't like it is not the same thing as not giving a good enough reason for the behaviour of characters. I actually don't find the reason of loyalty to be so far-fetched but it's got to be presented right so it doesn't come off as a cheap cop-out. My advice is to get more people to read it. When only one person doesn't like something, you're probably fine. But if 5 different readers are all complaining about the same thing, very likely you have a problem and it should probably be changed :) You gotta use your common sense!
     
  14. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Goodness that's a bit harsh. This is the kind of trauma that's going to follow these character into adulthood and shape them as people, it's definitely okay for them to still be messed up over it a few days after it happens.

    It kinda sounds like your beta just wants everyone to be more hardcore - kids unbothered by trauma, dwarves unsympathetic to them. IMO this is just a less realistic-sounding universe, though if you're wanting to create one where there's just less empathy and emotional affect, hey, go for it. If that's not what you're wanting though, yeah, maybe be wary of this beta's other commentary on this kind of thing and take it with a grain of salt.

    As for the dwarves' loyalty, I do think it'd be worth mentioning in dialogue or whatever if it's important to you to build up the dwarven culture. Is their loyalty relevant at some other point? Does it rub off on the kids, influencing some important decision they make down the line? If not the reader could probably just assume that like, these traders vaguely know the kids so they're inclined to not just leave them to die or drop them off with some random other people. If dwarven loyalty isn't something that's really important, there's no real need to make an issue of it, and my feeling is that if you think the exposition is unneeded or clunky, it at least needs to be worked in a little more organically if not cut.

    I'd also echo the earlier sentiments about not painting all your dwarves with the same brush - maybe these are especially loyal traders, maybe dwarven business practices dictate this kind of loyalty but it's not something that's widespread in their culture, etc.
     
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  15. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Thanks guys, to give further context:

    The truth is the dwarves are being written pretty homogenized, the few human characters that show up are far better defined. The dwarves' culture highly values loyalty, and until about three generations past, all clans were united in a single kingdom with a single culture throughout. One of the things about them is that they're emotionally stunted (they're not affectionate, nor compassionate, and they follow their values closely). Dwarven loyalty plays a role in a later story because they hold him in a closer position than simply the kin of a business partner and even end up putting their lives on the line for him. Dwarves actually have a very close relationship to the other races of the world due to saving them during human expansion efforts. They can be nice people, but they wouldn't even shed a tear over the death of their own children (and it makes me think I ought to place a scene like this that emphasizes this fact). Their race has also historically been known for its excellent relationships with the other races (as opposed to the violent history between humans and the other races).

    One of the important aspects of this story as well, is that because he gets raised by cold, unfeeling dwarves, it screws him up later in life and he becomes a nastier person (for years he relies on something like a drug to keep him happy go lucky so to speak, when he realizes the dark truth behind drug-like matter and drops it, his stunted emotional growth comes to the fore). The female MC on the other hand is raised by a loving person and becomes a better person. Showing how the people in their midst help them through their trauma (or a lack of help in the case of the male MC) is also an important part. Dwarves grant loyalty to the male MC but have no love for him, the female MC is raised by a loving woman who is disloyal, and each become vastly different people because of it. The male MC having no human (and by that I mean humane) contact and relying completely on a drug-like substance becomes a downright nasty person when he inevitably abandons the substance, and showing his trauma prior to his usage of it was important and I'm trying to find good ground between 'broken' and 'strong'. The dwarves' biological incapability of empathy and sympathy plays a major part in his psychological development.
     
  16. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Actually, another point on dwarves is that they value justice and don't accept murder either. Even though their race is lacking in compassion, they still have humane values. One of the important facets of my setting is that there are no evil races, but most humans believe that anything not human/dwarven IS evil, and dwarves have had a history of helping the other races out from human aggression (it's also why they can't just leave him in a human town).
     
  17. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Hmm You could do a mix of both. They could try to drop the kid off but then realize it's a mistake later on.
     
  18. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You said they did business with the tribe. I assume he had some sort of parent or guardian?

    One of the dwarves could have been friends with the parent/guardian. Maybe meeting up with his friend was one of things that dwarf really looked forward to when visiting the boys tribe. Maybe they were more like brothers.

    So this dwarf takes him in because he can't just let his best friends kid fend for himself or just drop him off anywhere.

    This with dwarves loyalty? I'd buy that in a heart beat. Of course I'd buy it with just the loyalty. Though might help if you showed how much the two groups got along.

    Just my thoughts.
     

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