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Awkward revelation.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Anders Ämting, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Okay, so my main character, Yvaine, is a 17 year old girl who grew up living with her older sister Elaine (who appears to be 30 tops) after their parents supposedly died. Because of this, they are very close and Elaine is basically acting like a surrogate mother for Yvaine most of the time.

    At some point, Elaine is forced to reveal that she is in fact Yvaine's actual mother - since she is a trained magician, she ages slower than normal people and is some ten years older than she looks. However, she wanted to raise her daughter as a mundane human, both because Yvaine seemed to lack magic powers and to avoid a potential power struggle, so she pretended to be Yvaine's sister in order to explain her apparent youth.

    Yvaine is born out of wedlock and her father was sort of an important figure in the magical world. He was also the late husband of Yvaine's aunt, by whom he sired the MC's brother who is kinda-sorta an antagonist.

    The current plan is that MC basically finds this out all at once in chapter 4. (The day after finding out about magic.) It's sort of a shock.

    Now two questions. First: Is this too weird? I actually can't motivate this plot twist other than that I really, really like it for some reason and I added it kinda on instict. Only, my instinct tends to know what they are doing when it comes to writing: Just because I don't know why this is significant it doesn't mean it isn't. I've been surprised that way before.

    Second: How shocking would this realistically be? Considering Elaine has always been as close as a mother to Yvaine anyway, how forgiving could you expect Yvaine to be of all this?
  2. Nebuchadnezzar

    Nebuchadnezzar Troubadour

    Hmm, I see the issue you are raising here. In my mind, "Luke, I am your father," is a shocking revelation, while "I'm not really your favorite uncle, I'm actually your father," is less so. In your story, there was always a family relationship and the older character was acting like the mother anyway, so it doesn't feel like something particularly earth-shaking. As you say, it's hard to understand the motivation for making this a twist on the facts as given.

    What might make this kind of twist more "motivating" is if Yvaine has been experiencing distress or psychological/emotional pain relating to not knowing her mother. She feels like she has no grounding in her life, doesn't know who she is, etc because she's missing that maternal connection. Finding out that her supposed big sister actually is her mother would then: (1) give her some closure over a missing piece in her life and (2) generate conflict between Yvaine and Elaine -- "how could you lie to me all this time knowing how I felt?!"
  3. The sensible thing would probably be to just make Elaine an ordinary young-looking single mother. But something about the "sister and mother at the same time" thing appeals to me in this case.

    An alternative might be to keep it a secret until I can build it up more. Still, the main issue remains. I'm not sure how a person reacts to this sort of thing.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I don't see the need for Elaine to keep it secret that she's Yvaine's mother. Plenty of forty-year-olds look like they're thirty (or at least think they do.)

    (Incidentally, the last time I read a book in which the sister turned out to actually be the mother, both girls shared the same father. That's a situation in which secret-keeping is understandable.)
  5. Yeah, I probably need to think of a better excuse.

    Not quite that good, though.
  6. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

    I love the idea, Anders. I don't feel every family secret has to be horrendously dark, and I think the fun would be in learning why the mother chose this unusual ruse. It could be to do with ascension and inheritance (some obscure law) or that she's pretending not to be herself because she was banned from the family, or anything really...

    In any case, is there a reason why a trained magician has to be young-looking by accident? If her reasons to do so are dire enough she might well have been wearing a perpetual magical disguise (exhausting, I'm sure).

    To me, it seems a really fresh idea. Maybe it's something about the 'trailer-trash' feel of the mother's ruse alongside the magical setting?

    I should add, I know somebody whose mother pretended to be her sister for most of their lives...

  7. Thinking about it, I'll probably have Yvaine's grandmother to have been in on this as well. That would explain why Yvaine has early memories of both a mother and a sister. (Without the need for Elaine to magically mess around with her memories, which I don't think Yvaine would like.)

    Man, I guess something really serious must have happened back then if both Elaine and her mom left the magical world to raise Yvaine as a muggle. o__O

    Sometimes I wish I didn't write this stuff all backwards.
  8. It's tricky. What I know for sure is that Yvaine was supposed to be a boy, but Igraine magically changed her destiny so she was born as a girl instead. (This is very important to the plot.) I think there was some kind of prophesy that Lothian Leodegrance (Yvaine's dad) should not have two sons lest they grow up to become enemies. It could have had something to do with inheritance as well, but then Yvaine was already iligitimate to begin with.

    I'm definitely missing a piece of the puzzle here.

    The way magic works in this world, staying disguised at all times would be a lot of work. (One guy does it, but he's literally above human when it comes to magic.)

    I don't think Elaine is in hiding, anyway. More like her family thinks of her as "that aunt we never talk about."

    I didn't think of it that way, but thanks.

    It does happen in real life from time to time.
  9. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    You could infodump it all early, like Obi Wan tells Luke how his father died in Star Wars.

    Or you could reveal it all later, like Gittes finds out the sister/mother secret in Chinatown. Because of that, I don't think it's weird.
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Yeah, I think that's key. You can't capture how many tiny assumptions a real person would have, that got knocked over by Identity Revelations; and this isn't a medieval lordling (or, the readers aren't) whose whole social status and loyalties get swapped out by a change in ancestry. You have to find exactly what makes this odd for Yvaine, or else what other happenings it leads to, and play those up. Star Wars works well: the movies are very broad, so the one thing we know about Anakin is that he seems like a good role model for Luke... then, oops!

    Maybe the history Yvaine gets (when she connects the dots her way, anyway) makes her mother seem like she was martyred --or died a traitor or a coward-- and learning she's alive slaps Yvaine in the face with how much more complex the issues were, and still are.
  11. WyrdMystic

    WyrdMystic Inkling

    They could know from the very beginning...it doesn't have to be a secret at all, though it could be something they hide from everyone else.
  12. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Hey I just wanted to weigh in, because this sort of plot is exactly the sort of thing I'm drawn to.

    In one story, I open with a brother (12) and sister (28) leaving their home. Later in the story, the sister is knocked delirious by a magic thing, and she screams out in the night about her son. Well the guy guarding her puts two and two together, and though he doesn't mention it right away, he confronts her about it one day after she reveals that she's killed in cold blood (for a plot reason). He laughs and tells her she's crazy, then she has to tell him that she killed her father. He figures it out that her "brother" was a son from an incestuous rape, and he, as the story goes on, encourages her to tell the boy she's his mother.

    So yeah, I can understand how these things are not necessarily KEY to the story, but they're motivating forces, and let's be real, they're what REAL LIFE is about. Sure it's real life amped up a bit, but when my Great-grandmother had a daughter six months after she got married... it was a family secret. And, when the girl died, she forbade putting the girl's birth date on the headstone, to protect herself any embarrassment. I mean, who today would even consider doing that? But each culture is different, every family determines what they find shameful, and every person has to make their own choices how they reveal a secret and why, and how they react to it. (by the way, my grandmother put the birth date on the headstone, which made Great-grandma very angry, but the daughter died at fifteen. She had a life, and my family thought it ought to be written on the headstone.)

    For me, if I was a 17-year old, and I found out my sister was my mother, I'd probably not be terribly upset. She'd always been my mother, acted with love and kindness, and been that support role. If, however, she revealed that the crazy old man who talks to his hedges is my father.. I'd grow concerned.

    Hope that helps some.

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