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  1. MartinWellow

    MartinWellow Member

    Aug 14, 2016
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    Age of young characters witnessing bad things

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MartinWellow, Aug 16, 2016.

    Any opinions would be appreciated:

    Imagine a child X witnessing something bad like child A deliberately pushing child B, so child B gets knocked by an opening door and passes out, then dies later out of sight of the children.

    What I'm saying here is that the thing that needs to stick in their memory is the fact that it was a _deliberate, vindictive act_, not the imagery of the consequences - there are no blood and guts etc.

    All child X witnesses is child B getting a pushed and then bonked on the head, no blood. Then they find out later (the same day) that the other child died.

    I'm looking for an age to pick for child X that is young, but not so young that they are able to just discount the incident and move on.

    I have a 9 year old and a 10 year old (in real life). I'm pretty sure in this situation I could convince my 9 year old that they had been mistaken in what they thought they had seen (if I was a bad person in a novel). My ten year old on the other hand, seems so much more mature and self-assured that no matter how hard I worked, I think they would always know in their heart of hearts what they saw.

    I need what happened to stick with the characters throughout their lives.

    I was going to pick 10ish as the age of the children, but if anyone has any other thoughts that would be cool.

    ps. Seeing this in writing at all sounds a bit morbid, even when I know it's just for a story. :)
    Terathorn likes this.
  2. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I think ten-ish would work. It would depend a lot on the individual child, prior and later experiences, etc., but age-wise ten seems reasonable. I think you could go a few years earlier if you wanted... I've known some six-year-olds who had a pretty firm grip on things. Others, less so.
    Terathorn likes this.
  3. theamorset

    theamorset Contributing Member

    Aug 7, 2016
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    You might want to do some research on how children and adults experience and recall traumatic events.

    I saw something very traumatic when I was 8. I did not remember it at all. At all. Until I was around 19, and my sister began recounting the event, and I remembered it, but only bits and pieces of it, and it seemed very foggy, and what I remembered, was a 'bearable' version of it without all the details, not a complete memory at all, and without the true significance of what I saw.

    The details I did remember, were absolutely inconsequential and irrelevant.

    For example, I remembered the name of the paper back sci fi I was reading: 'The War of the Newts'. And very, very little else. Nothing of the situation as to the gravity of the situation.

    That is very common and normal. Children, even adults, tend to remember not the entire thing with all its significance, but a 'bearable' version, often completely devoid of the event's real horror, and full of the perpetrator's version, not their own.

    Example, an adult I knew who had been sexually and physically abused, and told to die every day of his young life, by his mother, did not remember his mother doing any of it, at all. As he remembered it, that was done by his grandmother. Any physical beatings he got, he 'deserved' and it 'didn't hurt him any' (which is exactly what his mother told him....you see what I mean?)

    Another adult I knew who was beaten so badly by his father from age 18 months to 8 years, that his sister would pass him out the back window to the neighbor every time dad came home, beaten so badly he had permanent neurological damage and seizures, thought his dad was great. Dad never touched a hair on his head, too.

    Generally, the child won't deal with the whole thing until he's an adult and is ready to do so. And unless something extraordinary happens he may never find out the truth of it or deal with the true significance of it.
  4. Insearchof

    Insearchof New Member

    Aug 28, 2016
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    It really does depend on the child and how the situation was handled afterwords. I can't say I remember the situation with absolute clarity, but I do remember the day my older sister pushed my younger sister through a window. I was 7. To my over imaginative mind, there was blood everywhere and my elder sister came off as quite the fiend. My younger sister's scar from wrist to elbow was constant reaffirmation of those feelings for years, despite how everyone else said it was an accident or that they were just playing.
    Terathorn likes this.
  5. Terathorn

    Terathorn Member

    Aug 28, 2016
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    Ok, forgive me, Im gonna play Psychologist for a second.

    The age of the child may be inconsequental.
    How 'mature' is the child in the story? (By social 'norm' standards?)
    How close were the children?
    (I.e. friends, best friends, blood bros, etc......)

    By socialogical standards today, the "age of understanding" is, i believe, age 9. But who's kid fit into ANY standard mold. None.

    If you are convincing enough, your readers won't question if the child remembers it. They will; and henceforth, any time the child is in thought, the readers will remember the event for themselves.

    Just my few cents :)

    Insearchof likes this.
  6. cydney

    cydney Banned

    Jul 31, 2016
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    Sydney, Australia
    My mother was sexually abused when she was 11 by her grandfather. She remembered details all of her life & never told a living soul until she was in her late 70s, when her memory was failing her & had been for years.

    Everything about child abuse blows my mind - an extremely sensitive subject. Just my opinion, but I don't think you can be too cautious. Appreciate the question & the thread.

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