1. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    Rowen. Or how much dark content is too much?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by GirlWriter101, Sep 6, 2018.

    Before I start this post, I what everyone to know that I will be dealing with a character who is suicidal, selfharming, and abusing alcohol. This is a warning for all of you.

    So I have been facing a big change in my novel Winter Blossoms. When I first started Rowen was just the name of one of the younger brothers of Joren the male MC. The character was only mentioned in a few scenes, mostly in refrains to his relationship with Anders (the older half brother of Cressida, the female MC). The only other time Rowen came up, was when he was killed, as I was using his death as a major turning point for the characters.

    But what I now realize is that if Rowen's death is to have the planed effect; then the reader would need to come to know him as a person. This is where I hit a wall. Because having Rowen as a mentioned character, was far easier than Rowen as a character in the story. Most of this problem is because of Rowen's mental state at the time Winter Blossoms takes place. I guess what I am trying to say is: mentioning a suicidal, depressed character like Rowen, was a lot easier then writing him as a character.

    Rowen is the third child, and third son of Lord Charles of RosePool. Rowen is pretty much the star of his family, he is a great knight, vary handsome and a bit of a reckless. He was raised by Lord Nicolas of StormMountain as a favor for his father. When he was 13, it was arranged that Rowen would become the square of Anders of StoneWall, the heir of Lord Lucius of StoneWall. It was love at first sight, at least on Rowen's part.

    Rowen spent the rest 2 and a half years hopelessly in love with his knight master. Somewhere along the way, Anders fell in love with Rowen. It would take an assassination attempt, a knife, a lot of blood (most of it being Rowen's) and Rowen almost dying to get the two to say they where in love. After that, Rowen and Anders where inseparable.

    Ok, so finely getting to the point of this post... Anders is killed in battle by his own brother, shortly before Winter Blossoms starts. His death plunges Rowen (who at this point is 17) into a deep depression. Unable to cope with both the death of his lover, as well as watching and being order to physically abuse Anders younger sister (Cressida), pushes Rowen even father. He attempts to cope by starting to drink heavily, and to an even dangers level.

    After Cressida is sent to RosePool, and marries Rowen's brother Joren, is with things get really bad. With Cressida out of danger and marred to someone Rowen knows will protect her, Rowen himself no longer has any reason to live. Suicide had crossed Rowen's mind before, but with Cressida's need for a friend and protester, and his duty to her as Anders young sister. Rowen had felt the need to hang on until Cressida was safe. With Cressida now safe in RosePool, Rowen sees no point in continuing to live.

    This leads to Rowen attempting to commit suicide. He is unsuccessful, because of the timely arrival of his sister Margaret. Unfortunately Rowen's parents don't take it well, they are also vary unhelpful and in no way understand what Rowan is going through. They end up sending Rowen back home to RosePool, and it is at this point that we as readers first meet him.

    Two things that are important: one, this is high fantasy, the would is simpler to that Tortall in Tamora Pierce's books. The second is that at the time Rowen first appearance, his is still showing clear signs of his suicide attempt. (I am not going to post what I am referring to here, if you want or need to know please send me a message.)

    I guess the question I am trying to ask is: how do I handed writing Rowen as a character, without making it so dark no one will read it?
    (I am asking how you would handle this, as well as what you think of the hole idea)

    The only thing I have left to add is that Rowen is ment to represent, the coast of war, that is the pain, sorrow, hopeless and anger war or battle leaves behind.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    He doesn't sound all that dark to me. I think you just write him, get some feedback, and make tweaks as you go.

    I really wouldn't worry about going too dark in high fantasy. It can be a pretty dark genre.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Without taking in all the turns and twists of your plot, Rowen's personality might have a stronger effect than you realise, if you simply show the effects his character and death have on the other characters. After all, the story isn't about him, is it? It's about the other characters.

    Rather than developing a side-plot prequel involving Rowen, if your main plot centres around the other characters, then they are the ones you should focus on. How did Rowen's life and death affect THEM?

    If you let us strongly into their heads, and if we identify with these characters, we will share their view of Rowen. His life AND death. How do they remember him? Do they miss him? Are they grieving for him? If so, why? What kind of effect did he have on them, to cause this reaction? Or did they resent him? Are they angry with him because he's gone? Or the manner of his going? Does his death mean they can now shine brighter themselves?

    We don't need to see Rowan in action ourselves, to get this feeling of his life. Just let us know how the other characters feel about him—and more importantly, WHY—and that should do the trick.
     
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  4. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    This is not too dark but a very plausible story. Just reading your synopsis makes me want to know more about Rowen, so fill in the blanks, a chapter for each of the scenes you described. Go for it! And in those chapters, develop the relationship with your other characters, before you kill him off. That sets them on the character arc. He already has one, from what you described.
     
  5. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think there is such as thing as "too dark" because what one person considers "too dark" may not be "dark enough" for another.

    Delve into the minds of the characters and reveal what they think of Rowen and let us get to know him that way along with letting us get to know him through his own thoughts. If it means getting down and dirty, do it. Don't worry about "too dark"
     
  6. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    Thank you, I will try my best... I am rather bad at relationships. I will try to let you know when Rowen makes an appearance in Winter Blossoms.
     
  7. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    I think my point with 'to dark' is at the age of 15, you might not mind how dark it is, but your parents are.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Unless I'm very confused about which story is yours, I think that this is far, far less dark than other elements that you've described for this story. This would absolutely not be the primary concern for me.
     
  9. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    My parents weren't, and they were aware if what I was reading.

    Not all parents mind if their children read books with more "adult" topics and even if they did, eventually the kid grows up and can read the book then.
     
  10. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    Mine do, so I have to be careful about what I write.
     
  11. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    I don't quite understand what you mean. I am probably a bit over the top with warnings, but that has a bace in so not so fun times when I did not put a warning on my work.
     
  12. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't think anyone on an internet forum is going to do better than you at guessing what content your parents will find objectionable. Maybe you should talk to them about it rather than us?
     
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  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My issue is with the part of the book where you have a quite young--early adolescent--girl getting married. We could argue for a month on historical standards versus modern standards for marriageable age, but I would say that that is the part that is going to cause the most problem for readers and, if this is children's or YA, parents of readers.
     
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  14. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    We had that argument a while ago, and I am still not going to change Cressida's age. I am aware of the problems people are likely to have... I don't consider that dark myself, but I understand that you and others may feel different. The book is ment to fall more in the middle grade, they YA.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Er.

    From http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult , the "Middle Grade At A Glance" section: "Content restrictions: No profanity, graphic violence or sexuality (romance, if any, is limited to a crush or a first kiss)."

    I really think the wedding night scene has to go, if you want to be middle grade. Really, I don't think there's any way this can be middle grade.

    Edited to add: And, speaking of warnings, I ABSOLUTELY think that the wedding night scene needs a content warning.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
  16. Siberian

    Siberian Member

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    I know this isn't what your main post was about and to that I'd offer the advice: you don't need to focus so much on giving Rowen a backstory so long as you show us the impact of his suicide attempt on the other characters.

    However, I agree with @ChickenFreak , trying to make this book a MG instead of a YA puts way more restrictions on where you can take this story and how you can treat your characters. In MG I'd find it hard to believe that you could write about alcohol abuse, suicide attempt/s, and it sounds to me like an underage marriage. We're talking 3rd-6th graders as the target audience of MG. The article explicitly states that characters in MG do "minimal self-reflection" and it sounds to me that with the events happening and leading up to Rowen's suicide attempt/s it would trigger serious self-reflection within the characters that are to be impacted by his death. Typically when a friend commits suicide we are quick to try and find a) ways we should have noticed their pain, and b) how we could've stopped it if we'd just paid more care/attention to them. These kinds of topics are geared more towards teens who have an idea of cause and effect and right and wrong.
     
  17. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    My mom is a librarian, and she has always used the term middle grade to refer to stuff above YA, but that may just be the term she users.
    what part needs a warning?
     
  18. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    As I just posted in my reply to @ChickenFreak, my mom who is a librarian has always used the term middle grade to refer to the level above YA.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    No--middle grade is younger than YA, not older.

    The part that needs a warning is what to me reads as a lead-in to a sex/rape situation between a child and an adult. Yes, you don't regard her as a child. I do, and it sounds like the adult does but he's going to go through with it anyway. I see him as a flat-out villain. I don't care that his villainy comes from him not having enough strength of character to refuse to victimize a child; he's still a villain.
     
  20. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    I will add it, although I still feel like I have to say that considering the the time period and circumstances, I don't believe they had much choice... At least I can't see a way out of it, without the ending. But if we are going to talk about Chapter 2, then we should probably do it in the comment section of Chapter 2.
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The Workshop isn't for that kind of discussion. It's just for discussion about the writing.

    (Also, the details are all under your control. My issue is with details that seem to strive to justify rape. Not OK with that.)
     
  22. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    What I meant, was if we are going to talk about Chapter 2, and the events of that chapter, we should be having that conversation in the comments of said chapter.

    I understand what you mean, and that was not what I was going for, even if that is how it came across. In my eyes, Joren and Cressida have little to no control over what is happening, they can't run away, and even if they could they have no where to go. Both are unable to protect themselves, and would likely be killed or injured if they even managed to get out of RosePool. I am not trying to justify their, or more specifically Joren's actions, I am just saying what I see.
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    But for most people, there would be a moral imperative to try to escape, regardless of risk, if staying means having sex with a child.

    Have you discussed all this with your mom? She's worried about you writing something with themes of suicide/self-harm but is okay with the adult-child sex?
     
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  24. GirlWriter101

    GirlWriter101 Senior Member

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    Yes she has read Chapter 2, and she seemed fine with it. That may be because if you think about the time period, then Cressida is an adult... This came up a lot in the first chapter, mostly between Joren and Garith.

    I think my parents worry about me when I start writing things like what writing Rowen involves, because my own mental health, rather than the story. (If that makes sense)
     
  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But you created those situations. I'm not comfortable with fiction that seems to be created for the express purpose of depicting a "justified" rape.

    And if I enter the fiction as if it's reality, I see zero effort on his part to escape the situation. Is he a prisoner? Is someone watching him at all times? Is he poverty-stricken, without a single penny to bribe someone to help him and the girl escape?

    Can I assume that if he were ordered to murder Cressida, you would similarly consider that to be justified?
     

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