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A question of character direction.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Apr 27, 2021.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I've hit a bit of a roadblock with a story I'm working on because I came up with another idea and I'm not sure which idea to go with.

    Basically story has this character a woman who is a marine type--a sort of child prodigy soldier--tasked with finding a man on a mining colony who is actually a prince that has gone missing, and she finds him in a bar. As she is asking the bartender a question the usually timid prince sneaks up on her and whispers greetings in her ear to what she probably turns around and punches him in the face, not knowing it's him.

    Now, the conundrum I'm having is that I could have her character be one of two things: 1) she has been his caretaker since he was a child. and was tasked to find him. 2) She has never met him before, but he insists, as they journey on, that they have met before, but he can't remember either.

    The rest would revolve around them growing their personal relationship but that's something that comes much later in the story. However I feel like it completely changes the dynamic between the characters and I'm not sure which route to go with. Any suggestions how to go about fixing this?
  2. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

    How old is your MC? When you described her as a child prodigy soldier, I pictured a teenager, maybe early twenties at most. But if she's that young, she couldn't have cared for a now grown prince during his childhood.

    If she's older, what do you mean by child prodigy soldier? Has she been a soldier since a very young age? If that's the case, she would have been busy soldiering by the time she was old enough to be a nanny or babysitter or anything like that. So, probably not the prince's caregiver.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    It just comes down to what you want to do, and I doubt anyone else can answer that for you.

    But basically you've described two divergent paths.

    If she knows him, has a history with him, and is tasked with finding him, then you'll have all this back history going into the story and during the telling of the story from the beginning. The chances are good they'll need to work through this history during their journey. There'll be some baggage of one sort or another, from both characters' perspectives.

    If she doesn't know him, or doesn't remember having met him, but he insists he remembers her from somewhere, then you'll have a mystery to solve as they progress through their journey. This mystery could slowly develop in multiple ways, depending on what you want for them. Maybe as the truth comes closer to the forefront, there's a revelation of prior hostility between them. Or, prior romance or even a family bond. Or maybe they just discover they were both victims of the same person or force. Or maybe they were former colleagues of some sort, blasted apart and minds wiped by some event.....You could take it multiple directions. As with any mystery, there could be positive or negative consequences of finding out the truth. So they might have baggage of one sort or another to deal with—later in the story, not from the beginning.
    Chasejxyz likes this.
  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Just throwing this out there: I think option 2 is a more intriguing hook. It builds some mystery and implies a deeper connection between them without spelling it out.

    And I think if the story is about their relationship, you should probably start the relationship in the main story instead of having a bunch of backstory that you sort through later.
  5. Devora

    Devora Sage

    That's a fair question. Should have been more clear. I want to say the prince is somewhere around mid 20s to early 30s, and maybe put her somewhere in her late 30s to mid 40s. And she would have been a child soldier.

    However, I'm toying a bit with the fact that there's going to be elves (but different to the typical Tolkien variety) and she would be a half-elf, probably putting her (biologically) at the roughly the same age as him. Still working it out
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  6. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

    If she was a child soldier, then again, she probably wasn't a caregiver. Those are very different roles. Unless you're building a world in which they somehow mix and match.

    But if you want to go with the idea that she knew the prince when he was a child, could she have been his bodyguard? Or a guard to his family? They could have known each other in that capacity. Perhaps she was the guard who played with the little prince sometimes.
  7. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    What's the plan for the developing personal relationship? If they're going to end up romantically involved, then you probably shouldn't do #1 as how I'm understanding it, it sounds like a nanny/caretaker role. But if she was more like a bodyguard then it could work, but the age gap* can be kinda tricky.

    As others have said, #2 is more intriguing. Since your MC is a child soldier, it's clear that she's gone through some terrible stuff, so having her memory screwed around with could be part of that (or maybe she truly doesn't know because she's a clone or something crazy). Who turned her into a child soldier? Is it the country that this guy is the prince of? Did he run away because he doesn't want to keep those policies going? Or maybe he has been and he's trying to seek atonement for the things he's done?

    You could also blend both. She was tasked to find the runaway prince, and there's official portraits of him so she knows who to look for, even though she's never interacted with the royal family before. When she finds him, he insists that they have this long history, but the specifics are just out of reach, or he has very hazy bits of memory (think of Dany in the novels, where she has memories of a house with a big red door and a lemon tree, but not where that was or when or who was there). They get bits of memory back as the journey progresses, and these challenge their assumptions of each other and even their understandings of themselves.

    *By this I more mean the life experiences/maturity level and not literal numbers. If she was an "adult" (as in doing adult things, like being a soldier) while he was a baby/child then there might be an ickiness factor there that some people won't be able to get past. It's entirely possible that when you execute it it won't come off that way, but when someone reads your pitch/query this high-level explanation can be a hinderance
    Devora likes this.
  8. cak85

    cak85 Scribe

    Idea for Option 2:

    Could she have an "evil twin" that she doesn't even know about? But in all serious that would explain how he has "met" her without really "meeting." It could also add some mystery because they both now need to solve the mystery but for different reasons.
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Usually, when I come to points like this, I sketch out the consequences of each choice and figure out how each affects things over the course of the whole story. One choice may stick out as the best. Maybe neither will work. Or, maybe I'll come up with something else that's way better as I'm running through your story sketch in my head.
  10. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    This raises two questions for me, which determine your answer:
    - Why does he sneak up on her?
    - Why does she not know it's him?

    If she is close to him, either as bodyguard or caretaker or something like that, then it would be difficult to have her hear his voice and not know it's him. I can often tell which of my two kids is running around in the hallway simply by the patter of their feet. I would have no trouble recognizing their voice, especially if I'm looking for them. So unless he's been gone a long time and has grown a lot in that period (like he left at 12 and is now 20 or so) I would suspect she would recognize him. She could still punch him of course. As a soldier on edge, it might very well be your primary reaction to surprise. But she would recognize him.

    And he will need a reason to sneak up on her, which is weird enough for an outgoing person who hits on everyone with boobs, but is completely not done for a timid person. He either recognizes her, thinks she's someone else or maybe he's drawn to her because of magic / destiny / whatever works in your setting.
  11. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I'll tackle this by points for ease of reading.

    Age Gap: I don't want it to be ridiculous either but I want to be enough to where there would be kind of like an age-based life-view difference between them but they have some similarities that would happen to get along with each other. But yea, no-go on the child grooming. Not happening for anything i write.

    Romance: I have planned it, but i also would write their relationship as non-romantic if the plot evolves that way.

    PTSD: I should mention that both characters have PTSD but that fact isn't mentioned until a little later in the story. The prince is more of a timid but somewhat plucky character, which is funny because I didn't start him off that way. And I thought it would be interesting, even though it's a very touchy subject even for me, that the prince is a victim of child abuse by his father. But I also want to say but not really give away detail because I have worked it out too much that both of them have memory loss also for another reason which plays into the scope of the story.

    Him sneaking up on her is more of a character quirk than a plot point. He does it on impluse.

    Though in all fairness, I have been leaving out some details about the story (more to focus on the problem at hand then any sort of fear of wip theft). It's hard to talk about certain details when you don't a lot of them worked out.
  12. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

    If the last time she saw him was when he was a little boy, and now he's a man, his voice will have changed drastically. She probably won't recognize it. He'll have changed a lot physically, too.

    I was an afterschool program teacher some 10+ years ago. A little over a year ago (right before the pandemic hit) a young man came up to me at a public event and said, "Did you by any chance used to work at (program)?" He was one of my former students. I didn't recognize him at all until he told me who he was. He was 18. He'd been 8 or 9 the last time I'd seen him.

    For that matter, I didn't recognize my own brother's voice when he was 14 and I spoke to him on the phone after two months of not seeing him or hearing his voice at all (I'd been out of the country, and international calls were not cheap or easy). His voice had dropped drastically during those two months.

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