1. Taika

    Taika New Member

    Mar 28, 2013
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    My Mind

    Awkward Around Children

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Taika, Mar 28, 2013.

    Hi, everyone.

    I'm working on my first project for publication intent, and I need some advice on the behavior of one of the major supporting characters. I don't want to get overly in-depth with my question, but here is some necessary info. This single man is in his forties and has never lived with children. Thus, he should have an uncomfortable, maybe nervous reaction toward the protagonist: an eleven-year-old girl who falls into his custody. I personally have spent my entire life around kids and am not sure how to approach this situation. A few details have come to me, such as when the two characters first meet, it is clear to the reader that he has rehearsed what to say ahead of time. But, I could use advice on gestures or behavior or dialogue with this character. It should also be mentioned that the strange way he behaves needs to lead the protagonist to distrust him—although he has no bad intentions—then the development of the story brings them closer together, and he is less awkward toward the end. I hope this question isn't too complicated, and I would really appreciate feedback. Thank you!

  2. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    A couple of thoughts...you don't say what the family relationship is between the man and the child before she falls into his custody or the specific circumstances are of him gaining custody. I'll assume that he is a relative - an uncle, perhaps - who has only seen her on scattered occasions, and that she has come into his care because of the death of her parents (or a single parent). In such a case, she would not need any specific reason to distrust him. The grief from her loss would almost certainly cause her to withdraw and feel intensely isolated. I'll assume that, although uncomfortable with the role into which circumstances have thrust him, he genuinely wants to do the right thing by the child. He is therefore likely to try too hard. As a "tween", she would most likely want to be treated in a more adult-like fashion, while he will most likely tend to treat her as a younger child, which of course she will view as "babying" her.

    You may want to check out the film "No Reservations" for an example of an unmarried professional suddenly taking custody of a young child (although in that case, the adult is a woman; the issues with a man would likely be more marked, especially as shown by your question).

    It sounds like a very fertile idea for a story. Good luck with it.
  3. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    well, for a start there's gonna be a lot of awkwardness - the girl's 11 and this is a MAN in his 40s who's been single all his life. The girl's gonna be in puberty - she may or may not have started her period at this point, and even if she has, she'll surely be quite awkward around a strange man while it's "that time of the month". And what about breasts? They're gonna start showing, and she's gonna need a bra. Does she know how to shop for pads, tampons, and bras, and how cup sizes and the like work? The man wouldn't have a clue either, of course. Play with this lol.

    Maybe the man could try and get on her good side by buying her make-up of the wrong colour or cuddly toys that she's actually too old for. The possibilities are endless :D
  4. GoldenFeather

    GoldenFeather Active Member

    Aug 10, 2012
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    Hah! This is perfect because I hate kids lol!

    First of all, yes, he will be uncomfortable around her when she depends on him or asks for his trust. He won't know how to handle that because he is used to be alone and indepedent.

    Also, he will be annoyed by her. Every time she needs attention or care, he will do it because he has to and not because he wants to. He will roll his eyes, or sigh, or do it carelessly. For example if she says shes hungry, he will just roll his eyes, smack some ham on bread and hand it to her, not because he doesn't care, but he doesn't know what kids want, what they like to eat etc.

    Also, if she starts to cry or is uncomfortable, he won't know what to do. He will just stare at her and ask "but why, what do you want" etc, as if she is an adult because he doesn't know that interacting with children must be different. He doesn't know that he needs to cater to their needs. Instead he thinks that they just know what they want etc.

    Hope this helps! (Also, it would be awesome if you made him a neat-freak. Kids are messy, and this would just make the story altogether more interesting because he will hate messes and she will make them.)
  5. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Los Angeles
    This sounds like a cool idea.

    I like GoldenFeather's idea about food - she'll still want to eat like a kid, and will hate certain things that he may love (asparagus, broccoli, turnip, green beans, whatever) and that will be frustrating to both of them, because he's trying his best to feed her a balanced diet and she fights him every step of the way.

    Also, she's going through a stage of becoming increasingly independent very quickly, and she'll want to act older than she is. She'll want to stay up late and watch grownup TV and movies, she'll want to stay home alone without a babysitter when he's gone, she'll want to hang out with kids a year or two older that he may not approve of, etc.

    Here's something my sister went through at about your girl's age: She was actually quite mature and capable of doing a lot of adult things properly, solving her own problems, etc., but there were times she just didn't feel like it. Then, she'd put on this helpless-little-girl act and beg me to do whatever it was for her. I knew that she could do it herself and didn't really need my help. The thing I found frustrating about this was that she didn't just come right out and ask me properly - "Could you please do this for me? I could do it myself, but I don't want to miss the rest of this TV show." - or whatever. I could at least respect that. But she'd do this baby act, claiming she couldn't do whatever it was (even though I'd seen her do it a hundred times) just to manipulate me, and I always found it insulting that she kept pretending I didn't see right through it.

    I think there are many possibilities in this story. Good luck with it!
  6. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    There's a Canadian movie that deals with this subject quite well it's called Bach and Broccoli. It's about an orphaned girl
    who had been living with her grandmother, she can no longer care for her so she is left with an uncle she barely remembers.
    He's a quiet, fussy guy who attempts to buy lobsters for Christmas dinner.
    She is disgusted and refuses to boil hers - she's an animal lover - and instead eats a peanut butter sandwhich.
  7. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Alabama, USA
    To further continue this thought:

    He might also not realize that there are things young children are not allowed to watch/do, so maybe he might let her watch an R-rated film, or play an M-rated game, thinking, "Hey, she can handle it, right? It's all fiction. Surely they understand the concept of fiction and reality by the time they're eleven." That could then evolve to a scene where she's wide awake in the middle of the night (with all her lights on), because watching The Exorcist (for an example) scared the ever living daylights out of her. She then wakes him up, and he has to patiently explain to her that the movie wasn't real, it was all fake, they were just actors with makeup. Does she still have some child-like fears such as monsters in the closet? You could then have a hilarious scene where he has to go inspect her closet for any "possessed demon girls" lurking in the shadows waiting to grab her.

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