Tag Archives: somebodylost-chan

Though it leans on fighting, there’s some general stuff on this blog, so: how do you write babies? They don’t have much of a character, and they seem to be written as motivations most of the time. Thanks!

It was 2am, when Shelly Loggerson heard the wail. It came around like clockwork, each and every night. So regular now that a decent night’s sleep seemed a distant dream, the kind of good fortune you saw on television or read about in magazines but never expected to actually experience. Like her husband Rod turning up with champagne, a dozen red roses, and a rented yacht ready for a week’s cruise to the Cayman Islands or something. The Hollywood romantic comedy crap all women in her book club sighed over, still fluttering on about Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. None of them cared much for Nicholas Sparks, too many unhappy endings. The same would happen to them if John, their new baby never figured out how to sleep through the night. They’d get a Nicholas Sparks unhappy ending too.

Shelly waited patiently for the second wail, the final indicator that her son would need extra help getting to sleep tonight. It too arrived like clockwork, roaring through the baby monitor.

She inched across the bed as her husband groaned. “I’ll get him.”

“No,” Rod grumbled, patting her arm. “Book says we’re supposed to wait fifteen minutes, see if he can get back to sleep on his own.”

Another scream shook the monitor, filling their bedroom with the red light. Shelly winced. “What if he wet himself?”

“Do you think he did?”

“I don’t know!” She sniffed, her voice came out a little more ragged and pitched higher than she meant. “It could be just another… he could be lonely! Something might be wrong!”

Rod sighed. Turning his head toward the monitor, he was right on time for another wail. “Doesn’t sound like his ‘Made A Poopy’ scream. Sounds like ‘I want Mommy’.”

“See!” Shelly wiggled across the bed. “See! He needs me!” She was halfway to standing when Rod pounced.

“No,” he said quickly, his weight pressing down on her. “No, need is a decent night’s sleep.”

She opened her mouth to argue.

“Which we’ll get if he goes back to bed on his own. He wants Mommy, want isn’t the same as need.” He kissed her cheek. “Wait fifteen minutes, huh? You can check him after he’s gone back to sleep. He’ll never know then.”

“Fine.”

Shelly hunkered down as another wail rolled through the monitor. Her eyes flicked restlessly to the clock on her bedside table. A round furry critter with slit cat eyes and a wagging tail in the circle ticking down the seconds. She inhaled deeply. It was going to be another long night.

Babies.

The most important thing to remember is babies aren’t a happy ending. They’re messy, and they take up all your time. They’re little people who can’t communicate yet and are figuring out things like bodily functions and they need you, yes, you all the time.

The best advice I have for writing babies is (if you have no access to actual baby) to buy a parenting book, probably a couple of parenting books. Get one from the library if you must. The trick with writing anything is to learn as much on the subject as you can. If you know nothing about babies, then learn about babies. Which starts with, you know, understanding that they’re messy and that you may end the week with no shirt that isn’t covered in spit up or vomit.

The problem with writing children is that most writers either make them too dumb or too wise, and they don’t feel much like kids. A baby tends to end up a prop or a motivation like you said. However, a baby is a little person trying to figure out how to person and can’t communicate with you because they haven’t reached that stage yet.

Babies are messy.

Bodily functions. So many bodily functions, so many smells, so much cuteness wrapped up in shrill shrieks and the ability to ruin your favorite shirt utterly by accident because you can’t tell if it was intentional or not. Did you know that babies have personalities and that babies tell jokes? They do. Their version of a joke may be a gas passing, a poopy diaper, or an imitating wink or face of the person closest to them but they do. Baby should be interacting with their environment and the people around them.

Heck, you may not have lived until you’ve gotten sprayed down with pee.

Baby is not just an ambulatory prop. Baby is the ambulatory prop following the butterfly and careening off toward the cliff’s edge when you, their responsible caretaker, are not looking.

Babies are trouble.

You don’t know what’s wrong, you just know something is. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe they just have gas. How can you know?

Babies are inconvenient.

You can go adventuring with Baby, but it will be a harrowing experience. You want to go digging through a three thousand year old tomb with an infant who touches everything, drools, and will probably pick up some disease because they stuck their dirty, dust covered fist into their mouth.

Comedies love the single parent with baby stories where the hot guy finally comes over and they’re ready to finally have sexy time after their wardrobe has been totally ruined. They lean in for a kiss and BABY SCREAMS!!!!!! Monitor goes off. Kiss ruined.

Be careful of the kinds of stories you want to tell with Baby, because Baby can take up a fairly large portion of it despite their inability to talk except in garbles, screams, smiles, and blinks. They are a constant responsibility, a thankless task, except for those smiles, blinks, cuddles, first steps, and saying ‘mama’ or ‘papa’. Those emotional rewards balance out the misery.

Babies aren’t easy.

It’s okay if your characters sometimes want to kill Baby. That’s a pretty honest reaction, actually. There are a great many joys to parenthood for some, but everyone has their 5AM moment where they’ve gone a week without sleep and just want to scream into the water closet or sob it out in the shower.

How to write babies:

1) Decide the purpose the baby serves in the story.

Most people use babies as props, they use kids as props too. Children are there as a means to express something about a character, not because they are characters in their own right. Baby is going to be less of a character than other characters BUT Baby is figuring out their personality. What is Baby’s personality? Baby doesn’t know how to be good or bad. What makes Baby cry?

2) Start thinking from the perspective of a parent, but also of Baby. Treat Baby like an individual.

I just said above that Baby is a character, but let me reiterate: Baby is a character. They are not a Goodness Test. A character’s worth is not defined by Baby. Baby is not an evil detection meter. Baby isn’t going to figure out who the villain is by crying. That isn’t how babies work.

3) Characters, even the parents, may struggle with Baby’s importance in their lives.

That’s normal, natural, and trying to figure out boundaries is the actions of a good parent. Caring for yourself also helps care for Baby, everything doesn’t go on hold because Baby is here. Characters need to work out their relationships, responsibilities, and that includes the nastier sides like jealousy. Trying to pretend that everything is perfect is what will sink your story and make Baby seem false. Your character being a perfect parent who never makes stupid decisions, who is 100% always ready and on call, never feels anything negative, is the one who seems inhuman. These people exist, I’m sure, but they’re not the norm.

Don’t be afraid to let the humanity in.

4) Think seriously about whether you actually want a baby in your story.

Why do you want Baby?

Really.

Do you honestly want to tell a story about a baby?

The question shouldn’t scare you or act as a reason not to write your baby. It’s just an honest question, Baby is a character, they need an arc. They aren’t just a prop. Maybe they provide other characters with motivations, but they’re characters themselves.

5) Spend some time with babies.

Whether it’s watching videos with parents and their kids on YouTube if you have no babies in your life, reading books on parenting or babies for dummies or something, read up not just on raising children but the different life stages. Babies grow up quick, figuring out the different ways they change as they develop is important to characterizing them.

Babies are important and real, and little people. They’re people that’ll be with your characters for the rest of their lives. Figuring out that balance, stripping out the whole morality play before adding it back in will help a lot toward getting to the meat of the character dynamics.

Are your characters happy about Baby? 

Do they want Baby? Why did they want Baby?

It’s a huge commitment in time, love, and care. Cuddling the baby to sleep can be a great character moment, especially if it leads to character growth.

Those are my two cents anyway.

Chime in down in the comments if you’ve got any other ideas!

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron.

I have a character who’s a pacifist yet trained from birth as an assasin. The guilt built up so he stops fighting altogether. But a situation crops up where he has to fight to defend. But he doesn’t want to kill anyone. How to deal? Can he untrain?

He can be a true pacifist and choose not to fight.

Let me be very clear, fighting is a choice. No matter what those reasons are, even when they’re good ones, it is still a choice. There is no such thing as “have to”. It’s “choose to”.

One of my favorite quotes from Babylon 5 episode Point of No Return,

“There is always choice. We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves
with the decision we have already made. If you understand that, there’s
hope. If not…” – Lady Morella

When you say, “my character is a pacifist but he has decided to fight” then what you’re essentially saying is that, “My character is a pacifist, he believes in peace and non-violent solutions, but only when it’s easy to be one”.

Being a pacifist isn’t easy, it is actually very difficult because it requires using your words, to attempt to deescalate situations, and not fight even when it looks like you’ll probably die. It’s hard to believe in the best of other people, especially when those people want to kill you.

There’s a difference between a character who says, “I won’t fight under any circumstances because I believe violence only begets more violence.” And the character who says, “I don’t fight anymore, but I will if you press me.”

One of these is a pacifist and it’s the former.

See, the thing about pacifism is that it’s a belief system. One that says all violence is unjustifiable, this includes war and, in some cases, even self-defense. You don’t fight because fighting only creates more violence. Disputes must be settled by peaceful means with non-violent solutions. It means refusing to fight, even when you’re being forced to. In some cases dying to defend that ideal.

I’d think long and hard about whether or not you want this character to be a pacifist because writing one is exceedingly difficult. Look at the situation you just posited, a situation crops up where this ex-assassin has to fight in order to defend. You’re attempting to justify him taking a violent action in defense of someone else, like that makes it okay. However, because pacifism is a belief system or an ethical/moral stance, this is him breaking with his belief system and compromising his ideals.

Pacifism isn’t about not killing. It’s about no violence.

None.

Nada.

Zero.

Zilch.

Whether someone dies or not, the violent action itself is the root cause of more violence. Cliche as it is on the surface, your assassin has been in the perfect position to see the effects of violence up close and personal. Violent individuals isn’t something we are, but it predicates on the idea that it’s what we become. Someone who has been bullied is more likely to be bully in turn. A victim of abuse, whether emotional or physical, will often become an abuser and are more likely to than someone who never experienced that violence. The longer and more persistent the experience, the more likely it becomes. This expands to large scale conflicts too. Where a country or civilization that is victimized by violence will turn around and revenge themselves in yet another war.

We can dance back and forth like angels on a pinhead about what violence really means and you’ll find martial arts like Aikido that do split the hair about when is it okay to fight. The entire point behind codes of honor like Chivalry, Bushido, and others is about deciding when violence is socially acceptable and when it is not, about who should be hurt, and who is fair game. It’s a code of behavior that defines how one should interact with the world.

This is why Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin is not a pacifist, he’s someone who refuses to kill. He’s trying to be, but he will fight to defend himself and fight to defend his friends. He believes that situations should be solved primarily without violence, but will still fight if pressed or to uphold the law. What he’s refusing to be, technically, is a vigilante. He’s refusing to take the law into his own hands or determine who has the right to live and who should die. He’s not a pacifist.

When faced with a situation where they need to defend someone else, the pacifist may interject themselves and use their own body as a shield. They may allow themselves to be beaten up, even though they could fight back. It is the Jesus “turn the other cheek” line.

Pacifism is a concept mocked by the culture at large because not fighting is vastly more difficult than fighting. Because to someone who sees violence as the way of strength, the one who follows the path of peace just looks weak to them.

You should also be careful with pacifism. While the assassin/soldier/blood soaked veteran redemption arc is a powerful one, it’s also one of those great cliches seen everywhere in literature. True redemption arcs don’t work when you woobify a character and attempt to depreciate what they’ve done by saying it wasn’t their fault. It deprives them of their agency, their ability to see their path was wrong and choose to change even though it goes against everything they were taught to believe.

Changing your path only has meaning when you were a believer, when you chose to do what you were doing in the first place.

And a child who has been raised as an assassin, left their compound, and worked as one out in the world for any period of time? They’re a believer.

If they weren’t, then the people who raised and trained them would never let them go.

The Assassin

An assassin is not like a soldier, where they thrust you out into a hectic environment with twenty other guys and say: “go! Kill!”, where it’s hectic and terrifying with guns going off every which way. Where you’re so scared that you’re working on the instincts they trained into you so that you’re not even thinking when you see an enemy moving in the bushes, point your gun, pull the trigger, and end up shooting a small child.

It’s best to think of an assassin as a stalker because, in a lot of ways, they are. The assassin knows their target, does their prep, follows the guy or girl or child to get a beat on their personal habits and where they go to find the exact precise moment where there’s a weakness or hole in their security. Sometimes, there’s a specific way in which the target needs to die or a specific place where their death can make the most impact. The assassin has ample time to think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what it’s going to affect.

You’re writing a character who has potentially, quite literally, stood in someone’s kitchen in the middle of the night while their target, their husband/wife, and their children are all upstairs slumbering away. All the while he’s going through their possessions and their trash in order to get a better sense for who this person is with no intention to kill them that night. He’s just there for prep and to get a working layout of their house.

This is someone who has been trained to work alone, be self-sufficient, and who has the skill set to simply ghost off into the long good night. They’d be running for the rest of their life, but they were also never on the grid to begin with.

They can go if they want and it’ll be difficult as hell to track them down.

The assassin can’t work in the world if they don’t understand it, much like the spy, their job is heavily reliant on being able to both blend in and manipulate people into giving them information. It’s more complicated than just show up, point, and click. They need come in with a plan and with a way to extricate themselves from the situation.

We’re talking about someone who is very organized and highly disciplined. The successful ones are anyway.

This isn’t a job that can be done because you “have to” or someone “made me do it” or “it’s all I know”. Those are ultimately just convenient excuses that serve to shift the blame away from the character. There was a level for this character where they did enjoy it, where they believed in it or in the people they worked for,

What makes an Atoner work and the subsequent redemption arc that follows is them owning their guilt. They don’t pass it off onto anyone else. They stand by their beliefs. They have conviction, and they acknowledge that they weren’t a good person. They’re still not.

They’re trying to be.

That’s where the tension is.

It’s what makes an Atoner compelling as a character. The belief that we can ultimately become better is what makes redemption arcs compelling. We can be forgiven. We can become worthy of forgiveness.

The Assassin can lie all they like, about themselves, about who they were, about what they did, they can try to mitigate their own responsibility, and run away from it, but ultimately for a redemption arc to work then they have to stand.

Talking it out is more dangerous and more difficult for someone who has been trained for violence to be their first response. It’s where they want to go first. It’s their primary means of problem solving when they or anyone they are about is really in danger. They’ve got to choke it down. Go against everything they’ve been raised to believe, raised to do, trained to react.

For an actual pacifist, violence represents a complete and utter failure to resolve the situation. For him, fighting is a failure.

It’s him returning to what he knows and there is no nice way to do that. No convenient way, other for him to fight against what he’s been trained to be.

He’s trapped between two starkly opposing opposites, possibly without the communication skills or emotional understanding to really get across what he wants.

The Child

One of the main problem with the whole “raised to be an assassin and kill” trope in literature is that many writers often use it as an easy out for their characters. “They don’t know any better”. “They were taught to be this”. “It’s not their fault”. This ultimately robs a character of their agency and when you rob them of that, then the entire plotline ends up a cliche. More than that, their choice to change has no meaning because a character without agency has no choice. They turn to pacifism because it’s “the right thing to do” and utilizes the writer’s morals/way of seeing the world as the default. All they had to do was be exposed to it and they flipped.

Except, a child who has been raised to be an assassin is one that has been prepared by their society for the world that they’ll encounter outside their compound. What they were taught to believe inside their compound is their definition of normal, their values, their ethics, and their morals.

The world outside isn’t some strange or alien environment that they don’t know how to deal with. They aren’t emotionally stunted. They can interact with other “normal” people because they have to and they’ve been trained to.

Someone who gets taken by their parents to a stranger’s house in the middle of the day while their at work, taught how to break in, go through their things, search their particulars, and leave without a trace isn’t someone who has the same morals and ethics as someone who grew up in a “normal” nuclear family in the suburbs with two cars, a white picket fence, and a dog.

He may actually look at that idea and want that, because the greater surrounding society when he chooses to embrace it says you should want that. He might embrace that in the same way he embraces pacifism because he doesn’t know how to not live in extremes or choose what he wants for himself.

If this character really is turning to pacifism, then that will actually be a constant struggle that may last most of his life. He’ll be fighting his own instincts, and everything he’s been trained to do. Pretending to be a pacifist will be easy, lying to others and even himself because that comes naturally. He’s been trained for that. He’s been pretending for most of his life.

Actually being one will be difficult.

Again, it’s a stark contrast. Not only is it against everything he’s been trained to believe but it’s the polar opposite. Pacifism is weakness, not strength. It is a hard switch to the other end of the spectrum.

Try not to remember that there’s no such thing as “have to”. It’s always “choose to”. Even when your life is in danger, it’s a deciding action. It’s a choice.

What makes redemption stories powerful is that they’re also about choice. Choosing to change is difficult, realizing we were wrong is difficult, stepping back and looking at the situation in a new way is difficult.

-Michi

This blog is crowdfunded by wonderful people like you! If you like our work, consider becoming a Patron for more monthly benefits.