1. fishpaste

    fishpaste New Member

    Aug 10, 2016
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    Any advice on writing a feral child?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by fishpaste, Aug 10, 2016.

    The character is an adult in the story, but I need to be able to accurately explain her once being a feral child. To put it simply, this character's mother was tormented by a wendigo while pregnant. The mother was slowly becoming one due to isolation and starvation, but died in childbirth. The child inherits features from the monster her mother was turning into to, and ends up a sort of misshapen “half” wendigo herself. The original wendigo finds the mother's body, and the crying infant triggers a memory of being human. So the child is "raised" by the wendigo, or as much as semi-sentient cannibalistic monster can raise a smaller cannibalistic monster. She lived like a wendigo for the first say, six years of her life. She eventually discovers campers in the woods and slowly learns from observation and imitation. She would have learned some basic Native American language from the older wendigo, who was transformed hundreds of years ago. So language would not be too foreign a concept for her. She's around twenty in the story, and can communicate well, but is very aggressive and tends to isolate herself.

    Can anyone suggest some behavioral issues or mental ticks a former feral child might have? I want to make sure I write her as realistically as I can.
  2. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

    Apr 20, 2016
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    It would depend on exactly how much of normal people and civilization she knew when she discovered the campers and if she received an education. But she might not deal with emotions well or have somewhat base ones, and could therefor struggle to understand subtler human emotions beyond the plain ones: anger, sadness, happiness, etc. She might also get aggressive around animals or be wary of them, even domestic ones, like dogs and cats, because in her early years they were probably a threat due to her living in the woods.
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Aug 12, 2015
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    London, UK
    There are (thankfully) very few documented cases of 'feral' children, but with the ones I've read about... they weren't "communicating well" at 20, or ever. Six is a little old for her to adapt to such a momentous change in her life--five is generally considered the cut-off point. That's why the protagonist in Room turned five at the beginning of the novel, for example.
  4. SweetOrbMace

    SweetOrbMace Member

    Jan 21, 2014
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    Have a read of this article from the Guardian (it is an appalling story, so be warned).

    This girl (who was 13 when she came to the attention of welfare officers) was not exactly a "feral child" in the sense of being raised by animals, although I suppose there's an argument to be made against the parents on a moral rather than biological level, but has/had many of the same issues.

    From the article: "Genie could speak a few words, such as “blue”, “orange”, “mother” and “go”, but mostly remained silent and undemonstrative. She shuffled with a sort of bunny hop and urinated and defecated when stressed. Doctors called her the most profoundly damaged child they had ever seen. Progress initially was promising. Genie learned to play, chew, dress herself and enjoy music. She expanded her vocabulary and sketched pictures to communicate what words could not. She performed well on intelligence tests... Genie showed that lexicon seemed to have no age limit. But grammar, forming words into sentences, proved beyond her, bolstering the view that beyond a certain age, it is simply too late."

    However, since you're writing from a more fantastical perspective I guess there is more room for hope and development in your character. Maybe grammar could remain an issue in her dialogue?
  5. theamorset

    theamorset Member

    Aug 7, 2016
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    I don't think there is any such thing as a feral child. The feral children are simply children who were intellectually disabled and were rejected by their parents.

    But it is something many people 'believe in'.

    The wendigo is cannibalistic, violent and greedy. It's also mythical. Let's assume it exists. I think any child raised by a wendigo would have the same issues any child does when abused and around violence. And I think that the adult would struggle against urges to be like the wendigo as well as the desire to fit in with other humans.

    I have no idea why such an adult would be aggressive or tend to isolate herself. That doesn't make any sense to me. Abused children/adults aren't usually like that.
  6. Scot

    Scot Senior Member

    Aug 3, 2016
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    Argyll, Scotland
    Shades of Tarzan in there somewhere.
    Without doing any research into the subject I would imaging the child/adult would have difficulty reading body language. Understanding human relationships would probably be beyond her grasp. Her 'fight or flight' instinct may be honed to a level not normally seen in a human; with a leaning towards 'fight' rather than 'flight' from what you tell us.

    You say wendigos are cannibalistic. Do they kill each other or ritually eat their dead? Has/Would the child/adult eat(en) human flesh?

    Little ticks: Sniffing food before she tastes it. Would eat the bits of animals we normally throw away. Turning her back to others while eating. Not sharing food. Pets are just food you haven't killed and eaten yet. Personal hygiene issues. No sense of shame wrt nakedness. Very alert to changes in background animal noise. Has at least one personal possession she won't be parted from (Tarzan had his knife, Mowgli his 'tooth').

    Just my penn'orth.
  7. MichaelP

    MichaelP Banned

    Jan 3, 2014
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    Well, all fiction is about people. Even fiction about talking toasters is really about people. If your feral girl is totally non-human and has no hope in the story of becoming at least a little human, you might as well write a story about a tree or a rock.

    Since there are so few cases of genuine feral children, and since the wendigo is mythical, you have a lot of leeway. Just let your imagination run wild. I suggest writing her as an animal with a kernel of humanity in her core. She'll crap on the rug, but if someone cries she'll cry with them.
  8. Marlon Manalese

    Marlon Manalese Member

    Aug 9, 2016
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    If the character can communicate well, there should be a way to explain how they learned language an early age. Tarzan started reading English in his dead father's cabin in the jungle, but he didn't know how the words sounded. He just recognized the sequence of letters put together and the meanings they conveyed.

    Anyways, as for feral child ticks let's see:

    • Poor posture
    • Rough and random self scratching
    • Kleptomania (since wendigos are associated with greed)
    • Sensitivity to noise
    • Overreaction to unsettling noises (due to hyper vigilance, I would imagine, from surviving in the wild and watching out for predators)

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