1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Writing a Rich Kid

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Killer300, May 4, 2011.

    Okay, I have a serious problem. How does one write a rich kid without that person sounding spoiled, yet letting them complain about things? Specifically, in this case a rival in love for a girl. How do I write a person like this, who because of immense wealth could have anything, without them sounding like a whiny person who deserves no sympathy? I just could never sympathize with rich characters in the past, and this has cropped up once again. However, it's so integral to the plot that he has to be wealthy. Also, his rival is an incredibly poor person, and I have the opposite feeling towards characters in total poverty. Now, the plot extends greatly beyond these two character's rivarely over a girl, later they'll hurt each other in ways that include killing siblings and significant others so by then they should be more sympathetic.

    Anyway, I hope I myself don't come off like a whiny rich kid, and that there is a way you guys can help.:)
     
  2. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you seen the movie "Clueless" with Alicia Silverstone? I know it's a kind of girly movie and sounds to be in a completely different genre. And the characters really are spoiled even though they don't think so themselves. However, we really do feel sympathy for the main character, even through the most trivial of her problems. Maybe you could get some clues and inspiration from that.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you make the rich kid genuinely feel stuff it helps a lot. Cliché rich kids are quite selfish. My rich kids, of the two I can think of off the top of my head in my writing, one of them is a tortured kind of writer character, and though she isn't poor she acts no differently from her friends - money never comes up as an issue. She just won't complain about not having any like they do, really. For the most part it isn't an issue, and when she is called out on it, she points out she feels guilty for it, never talks about it, and never uses it as leverage. I haven't written her as a main character yet, though, so I haven't explored it as much as I want to.

    The other rich kid is a bit more spoiled, but events even before the story started had her falling out with her mother so again she's not just floating along in a cushy bubble; she can still have unlimited funds if she wants, but she's mad enough at her mum that being dropped out of her public school and put in the state school instead isn't like, the greatest tragedy in her life, and she doesn't treat the people around her as plebs because they're poorer. It helps that she comes from such a broken home already that all her new friends, despite their problems, have much better home lives, so she has to look up to them, emotionally.
     
  4. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Rich is simply a learned lack of perspective of what it's like not to have money. However, that should never be as a '100%' statement.

    Me, for example: I have been the dirtest if dirt poor divided by two. Currently, though, I make a good living and my back account is comfy enough for me. Not rich, just lucky enough not to be broke. I was talking to friend a few weeks back and pointing out that it was easy to get used to having a little cash and able to make decisions for more than just 'mac n cheese or ramen'. You remember the days but really, you forget them because you get used to being where you are.

    So, in writing a character, you want to focus on that characters lack of understanding about poor. Not a disdainful lack of understanding but more in the sense of as if being poor was like a foreign language. It's borne out of confusion for being poor but not disgust.

    My thought anyway...
     
  5. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Look at it as an inheritance - someone I know, for example, begrudges her dad for spending the money her grandfather willed to him/them. My attitude is more like: it was never her money, she didn't work for it, so why claim it?

    Depending on age and upbringing, some rich people don't take it as a birthright, but as something they work hard at to maintain or further.
     
  6. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    After working in a few private schools in panama, I can tell you that rich kids struggle with understanding what it means to have unconditional love in their lives. They always have to wonder whether someone really cares about them or whether they are just caring about their money, especially when kids get older. Being wealthy many times means that parents travel a lot, are away from home a lot, and that kids are left on their own to deal with life at an early age. These kids act out not just because they're unsupervised but also because they feel lonely and empty inside. They start to wonder whether they're important to their own parents, to anyone, really. Breakups take on a renewed significance. So they try and act carefree and like they don't care, but they really do.

    Oh, yes, and not all rich kids are spoiled brats. In my current school, kids really get it hammered in good that being blessed with wealth means giving it out to the community in service, money and time. Our kids believe in recycling, giving to orphanages, working with poor kids and having a "sister school" that they support. Sometimes, though, the kids that aren't from the wealthy school automatically resent them for having money and give them the cold shoulder. That also happens.

    I've also been in a school where the kids were horrible bullies--to each other and their teachers. They basically felt that having money meant that they could negotiate rules, push adults around by manipulating parents into placing pressure. They clearly had seen their parents work around rules and throw their weight around, so that is what they emulated in their own behavior. Super bad news.

    Bottom line: not all rich kids are bad and spoiled. It is possible to be sympathetic. Money isn't everything.
     
  7. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Thanks guys, for this is a very tricky character to write to say the least. Not only is he wealthy, but he believes his family earned that wealth. What actually happened was quite different to say the least. Also, wealth difference is actually a central part of the plot at parts, because his rival in love who is dirt poor. Yet, despite this, his rival is actually happier and gives off the effort of putting effort into nothing. This rival gives off the social charm of someone who has nothing, but enjoys life despite it. In reality, he too gives off a fake appearance, but by the time both parties really figure this out, they are hated enemies on a level that would make most enemies look like close pals. They've torn off each other limbs, killed the other's siblings, and even killed the other's significant others.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One problem faced by a kid growing up with money is having to deal with people. Does Frankie hang around me because he likes me, or does he hoping I'll be generous to my friends? Is there anyone who doesn't have an ulterior motive? Are they all laughing at me behind my back?

    Even kids who AREN'T rich have to worry about suck0ups and other false friends, so imagine how mush worse it is for someone who can't easily believe anyone sees him or her instead of the money.

    There are also plenty of inscurities that have nothing to do with money. Everyone has to deal with them as part of growing up and finding one's identity.
     
  9. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    True, very true. Well, this character now shouldn't be as hard to write after all.
     
  10. Jigen
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    Jigen Member

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    It's pretty easy to fall into the sort of selfish thinking that we imagine with the most spoiled rich jerks. All of us have access to a computer right now, we're probably not starving, we probably have shelter.

    I talk to some people that are worse off than myself and it's really easy to forget small differences even a relatively minimal difference in money can make.

    Maybe you like certain foods that other people would consider a rarity and that might make a poorer person jealous.

    So then you just extrapolate that sort of thinking to a different scale. It's not that guy's fault that he can afford the Ferrari and doesn't have to worry about his mortgage.

    If your rich kid thinks girls should love him or other such self-centered thoughts you might have a complete jerk on your hands that will be harder to love.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    "How does one write a rich kid without that person sounding spoiled, yet letting them complain about things? Specifically, in this case a rival in love for a girl. How do I write a person like this, who because of immense wealth could have anything, without them sounding like a whiny person who deserves no sympathy?"

    People are people regardless of how much money their parents have. Most--I could even say all--rich people I have known have been really well adjusted people, well travelled, unbiased, sensitive to race and problems of deprived backgrounds, you name it. The ex-Etonians I have known are the most charming and interesting men you could wish to spend time with.

    " I just could never sympathize with rich characters in the past, and this has cropped up once again."

    I think that it is your prejudice which is the problem here. Or maybe you have been unlucky.


    I don't think that you are familiar in the main with how well-heeled people behave. I'm not sure how rich you mean by 'rich'. You have likely met one or two newly rich people who don't have the upbringing to behave in a considerate and responsible way. If your rich protagonist is like this, well, nothing you can do will make them appealing. But if you think that all children from rich families are 'whiny' or insensitive, you are very, very, mistaken. Many rich children are brought up in lovely families, and are not deprived of attention either. The 'poor little rich girl' is another cliche--although of course there are rich children like this.

    Just think of your character as a person with a comfortable background, and don't focus on labels.
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    ----
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can make sure to establish early in the story that the rich kid has problems too, and show them acting with selflessness or sensitivity. For example, standing up to a bully for someone else's sake, or taking the blame for something to protect someone weaker.

    Preferably, make it something anyone can do, or the reader may think, "That's easy to do when you're rich! Other people don't have the luxury of acting that 'selflessly'!" I.e, don't make them give away wads of money or use their connections to help someone.

    You don't even need to let the reader know they're rich until you've already established sympathy.
     
  14. Charmichan
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    Charmichan Member

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    You might be interested with this, "Born Rich" a documentary by Johnson and Johnson's heir, Jamie Johnson. You'll see the real rich kids there, from the humble to top class jerks.
     
  15. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Looking at your story - if the girl doesn't go for the rich guy, he wonders why, right, because he has so much to offer. If she does choose him, he wonders if it is just because of his wealth.
    It's really a no win situation...
     
  16. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah. Really, this has been enlightening. As for his wealth, to judge, his family owns a corporation that is as wealthy as exxon in equivlanent cash in the year 2080.
     

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