1. LadanaCRS

    LadanaCRS New Member

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    Creating characters : Underage soldiers

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LadanaCRS, Jan 23, 2017.

    Hello! I'm a new member here. So i might not know about the culture in this forum. Also, English isn't my first language but i'm still trying to improve my grammar and the vocabs. So expect some face-palming grammar mistakes! (and a long post, i like to blabber... too much).

    Anyway! I'll tell you a short premise of my project first, so it won't be confusing for you to read later.
    I'm making a story for my dream game (yep, a dream, how pessimist could i be). The game is about warfare activities, revolving around a governmnent-funded secret special-ops organization. But here's the catch. The members are underage soldiers. Alright, that's the premise. Let's move on to the characters, shall we? (The premise is too unclear? Just ask me whatever you want to hear!)

    ------

    I have a trouble making characters for this plot. What are the reasons for those young people to join a warfare organization? The thing is, these recruits are below 17 years old. Some of them were even aged at 12 y/o! This is pretty illogical and many social movement organizations will want to forbid this (for this era only, i know there was a case of 'legal' child soldiers fighting in WW1).
    So, i tried to think as a child. As if i were a child, why would i join this dangerous organization? I'm still young, i still have the future to pursue, and the time to enjoy my life, but why in the end i joined the army?

    (I admit i got pretty influenced by those animes/mangas where there's a group of teenages killing things, and still able to do a childish victory pose after murdering their enemies. Don't forget the big smile and laughs while doing the slaughtering, some even winks. They're psychos, no doubt about it).

    My goal is to make rational, logical reasons AND interesting enough of why they would want to join this deadly organization.
    Though, i've already created some characters and actually tried to make some 'possibly rational' reasons for them to join this dangerous organization.
    1. Some characters joined the organization to avenge their loved ones. Might be a member family, friend, anyone (cliche, but what can i do).
    2. Some characters had a bad history. But they were able to man up, then joined the organization to prevent further tragedy that may occur to other people (such heroic).
    3. Some characters joined the organization to find their missing loved ones. Due to the organization has high-amount of intels. Probably the organization will help them finding their loved ones?
    4. Some characters are orphans raised by a self-funded orphanages (i forgot the term for it). They see as joining the organization could help the financial problem of their orphanages. (Basically, $$$, but in a good way). But this represents an obvious plot hole. Why it has to be the army? There're many jobs they could do other than being another target for the enemy to shoot at.
    5. General patriotism, "it's a good thing to do", "i want to see the world", "i want to protect my friends and the people from bad things". Things like that, probably rational, but not interesting at all.

    See, for me, just by making the reasons for them to join the organization is already hard. But eventually i found another roadblock i have to solve, it's even harder!
    This one, it's the mental trauma. Even until now, i'm still not able to solve it properly!
    1. You're underage, not mature. Then you're given a pistol and a magazine full of bullets. What would you do with it?
    2. You just killed a human being. Annihilating the whole future of a single human. Probably even making their relatives sad because they just lost their loved ones. All of that, by only a slight pull of a trigger. What do you feel for that?
    3. You don't know the person you just killed. You might even don't know clearly why you have to kill them. You were just tasked by the organization to kill them. Do you really believe of what the organization tell you is ALWAYS right?
    4. By joining this organization, have you turned yourself to a ruthless and cold-blooded assassins? Can you accept yourself that way?
    5. Is this the world bounded by a simple rule of "Kill, or be killed"?

    Guess what? One of the requirements for joining this organization is to be completely SANE. So, no psychos and another F-ed up personality allowed. (sorry to use that word. Is it allowed to use profanity in here?)

    So, fellow writers. Do you have any idea to spare, or maybe you can give me some clues to solve these roadblocks? I can't expose any plot-holes too. Also i'm afraid i can't use any irrational or fantasy way of thinking due to that i'm setting the plot universe of this story to be as realistic as i could get. Also, the story is a serious one which concentrates more on the irony side. So, little "ha-ha" moments.
    Thanks in advance! And sorry for the long post + broken engrish. (expect multiple edits!)
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You could look at the psychology of organisations like the lords resistance army, and renamo both of whom were notorious for using child soldiers
     
  3. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Have you ever watched War Horse, or read the book by Micheal Morpurgo? The protagonist pretends to be a little older than he actually is in order to join the army during WWI because his father has given his beloved horse to the army and he wants to find it. Perhaps one of your characters has a friend or a sibling who has joined the army at the correct age because it's what they wanted to do, or they were forced into conscription, and the character wants to find and protect them.

    To answer your other questions, I'd advise you read books that deal with children in armies/other situations where they must kill. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is a good example. An army of only children is constructed because they are easier to manipulate than adults due to the fact that they are still learning. Some of the children are around 16, but one somewhat central character is only 5. Others are closer to the age of your youngest characters, but these ones all tend to be quite innocent and don't always have full comprehension of what they're doing. Killing would be a big, terrible thing for them.

    I think the rest of your questions apply to characters of all ages, and will also vary to some degree from character to character. Killing is not a pleasant thing for any sane person to do, but some people will feel more negative about it than others, and have different coping mechanisms, too.
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Plain old machismo is enough to explain it. As you pointed out, there is a history of underage soldiering, even when the military imposes stiff sanctions against it. WWII saw plenty of American GI's joining who were underage. A little harder to make feasible in today's world of easy access information on anyone, but I refuse to believe that it's impossible. Look up Calvin Graham. Joined the US Navy right after Pearl Harbor. He was 13. You don't have to be a psycho to want to do something like this. You just have to see your older friends going off to war, watching loved ones say good-bye to them, acknowledging them as men, not boys. There's a certain paradigm to soldiering that makes it similar to a religion in many ways, complete with the larger-than-life status of the soldier, dreams sold of bravery and honor, glory and a kind of immortality in memory and deed. Everyone who comes back from war in good standing is a war hero. Everyone. Add in a depleted population of eligible candidates due to protracted war, and people start to turn a blind eye to the boy who says he's 18, but looks like he doesn't have hair #1 between his legs.
     
  5. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    Can I ask why this government is recruiting such young children to be soldiers? The only times I can think of that governments specifically recruited/allowed children that young to serve in the military, it was as an extremely desperate, last-ditch measure.

    Also, I'm not sure how to answer the question about what the children's motivation would be, because IRL child soldiers are almost always conscripted/kidnapped/forced against their will to fight. They may be subjected to some psychological tactics to build up their consent later, but I can't think of many large-scale examples that were voluntary.

    This is all based on real-life history, so if I'm missing something (either a real historical example, or some rule of your setting that makes it different) please let me know.
     
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  6. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    Alright, the first thing I get with this is that you are assuming that they really have a choice. Like, you simply have to assume this is a government in a dystopian society and suddenly this isn't such a bad idea. Just feed the kids propaganda about how they will have a place to live, camaraderie, a country to defend, et cetra and it doesn't seem so bad. You know. Until you see war. But I digress.

    If you are trying to set this in a modern society that considers itself humane you're going to have a lot more troubles. You could make their society consider war incredibly good. Or that dire circumstances require dire choices.

    Further... why does a secret government organization want kids instead of adults? Consider from that perspective. Why are they hiring kids in the first place?

    So there's my tips before I continue: what kind of society are you trying to set this in? Why are they recruiting children to join this 'secret' organization? If you want something rational, start there then move forward.
     
  7. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    <Deleted, double post>
     
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I like where @big soft moose is going.

    @LadanaCRS
    Have you ever seen the movie Soldier?
    They select them at birth and then raise
    them to be badasses. Should check it out
    might give you something to consider.
     
  9. LadanaCRS

    LadanaCRS New Member

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    Will do! Thank you for giving me some references!

    I'm short on references, and it is my big big mistake for creating a story without proper base and references. But surely i'll look into that later!

    They (those underage soldiers in my story) joined the organization by their own will and without any force from the organization. Probably each characters have their own personal reasons for joining. But the organization/government reasons won't be one.

    Oh Machismo, alright, will look on that later. Thank you!
    I guess i made a mistake from my initial post about my story plot. This organization is not even close to an 'army' organization where you can take the honor onto the society, even the character itself. Also when character joined the organization, then they will not get out from the organization. So once you go in, you can't go out. This is due to the organization policy on keeping its intels (there's a probability of an ex-member telling a documentary reporter about this organization, it'd be troublesome). Also, the organization is.... cold.
    Yes, this organization is funded by the government, but any information regarding the organization and the operation, especially their members are kept in top-secret (also because the fact they use underaged soldier which everybody would against by, so "no-one shall know this"). So the character can't tell everybody that "I am one of the special forces!", the least thing they can do is to keep the honor t0 themself (and the squad mates).

    Why recruit underage children?
    Short answer = Head start.
    Long answer = This organization is reserved as a conflict tie-breaker. So they are equipped with prototype equipments and trained specially to have intended unfair advatanges against their enemies. They are trained from young ages to have a better 'take-off' when they reached their age. You can see it as when people say that they've trained with [insert hobby] since they were still a child. The logic applies here but taken to the extreme. That's why, unlike any other special ops/army where the mission is more important that a sacrifice of one might be needed, in this organization it's the opposite. There's nothing wrong with failing a mission to save a member, because they see their member as an investment for the long run. Also every operation they do, they'd do it together with other experienced special ops (those with adults). So they're like in an 'internship' for the real special-ops. As for why the government made this organization.... well, defense ministry does have manys way keep their country/people safe, eh? You can't never be too careful in these days, better be prepared.

    And yes, about kidnapped/forced/conscripted childrens, those reasons are the most encountered child-soldier cases from what i've read. I've read some 'african child-soldiers' documentaries before and it's the most logical way of having underage soldier in this era. However, due to the plot of the story, i can't make those as the reason of them joining the organization. I need a clean, sane, and purely motivated members to do their job profesionally (eventhough they're underage!). That's why i needed to research and try to find a gap between these reality checks.

    *Dystopian society + propaganda
    Propaganda is very very logical actually. Just like what Seren said. Kids are easier to manipulate and trained. However... the Dystopian part...

    *Modern society
    I couldn't say the world the story sets in is in a peaceful state like today (like no big war or other catastrophe). But it's more in a modern society plus where business takes the first priority. These business may and may not hurt the society/country directly. But they hire mercenaries to protect their business and to attack each other (like sabotaging). Basically? Dirty businesses. Thing is, these businesses went unexpectedly way too well, and they ended up giving more budgets for those mercenaries, so much that they became a national threat. They also sponsor the propaganda media to inflict conflict/war on each other. In this case, the organization would attack the propaganda media, but doesn't care about the war caused by it, because the war is one of the business. Everything is a business, even (sorry) the religion is also a business! Also, the government is one of the business, though they see it differently from those other corporations/organizations. So, i hope you got my point of the setting i'm trying to write.
    TL;DR = "Business first" in aggravated means.

    Also, the organization doesn't care about how the society looks at them, because in the first place the society can't see them. So they only care about how to not let the society sees them, not what if they see them (but a failsafe might be needed, will think about it later). Also, i should say that this organization will not participate in war/full-scale conflict. Just internal conflict that involves small-organized crimes like human trafficking, terrorism, drugs, etc.

    For the reason of why they hire young kids, please see my reply for Robert Musil above.

    Anyway, thank you in advance!

    Sure, will do! Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  10. Marc Arrows

    Marc Arrows New Member

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    Child-soldiers in general are quite more simple then you might think. Exceptions exists of course (such as the 17-year old lying about his age).

    Children, speaking of pre-teens that is, fight because they are told by elders to fight and they do it gladly because if they do they are fed and sometimes get a pat on the head from their commanders, very few do it for any form of political reason or agenda, they do it because otherwise they are beaten, killed by their own or straved it is basic survival instinct and here is a core fact, child-soldiers are in general the most murderous monsters you'll ever see and the reason for this is simply because empathy is not something you are born with and what little empathy they have will vanish as soon as they understand it won't help them in their current situation. This has been seen all the time in war, childern are always the first to lose their humanity.
     
  11. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    @LadanaCRS,

    You should watch the movie Beasts of No Nation. It's a wonderful film and the protagonist is a child soldier. It goes pretty deep into the manipulation involved.
     
  12. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Writing underage anything is actually easier than you think. All characters are characters. That's what you need to remember.

    So don't ask why a kid would do this; ask why anyone would do this.

    Why would anyone want to join an army? Some for adventure. Some because they really believe in the cause. Some because their friends did. Some because they didn't have much choice other than to starve or face equal danger as a refugee. There is no specific psychology here. Almost anything you can think of will fit if you want it to. Perhaps your character has a romanticised view of what joining will really be. Perhaps he hates where he came from and thinks anything is better. Even fairly young kids can think in these terms. To many people, kids included, soldiers are heros; and who wouldn't want to be a hero?

    As for killing someone; for children from dangerous or conflict-ridden backgrounds the idea of killing people is no major concern. Think back to the middle ages where capital punishment was public and common; where cock fighting was a fine activity for a boy. When violence is around you and is officially sanctioned the idea of killing in a good cause is no big roadblock. You don't have to be crazy, you just have to think that's what the world looks like. For someone from a more sedate background it might be exilerating or they might just see it as a game. Whatever the background most people will find a way to justify their actions and not to think about the big picture. They'll tell themselves they had to.

    On a wider note:

    Kids are not as mature as grown ups sure, but they aren't fundamentally different. Boys have much the same psychie as the men they grow into; they learn very young how to be stoic and how to not show that things hurt them. They learn the kind of emotional self-reliance and typically react well to structure and hierarchy. The thing about boys that so much of our society misses today is that boys have a lot of energy and determination and harnessed properlly they can do things that would astonish you. If you tell a ten year old boy that he needs to stand guard or his mum and sister will die then he'll do it. Right now somewhere in the world there is a dad going away for work and telling his ten year old son that it's his job to look after his mum and sister while dad is away.

    Given the chance kids can really rise to the occasion, especially when it's things that matter to them.
     
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