Characters #4 - Twins, Young Characters, & the Victim

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Characters #4 - Twins, Young Characters, & the Victim

WRITING ABOUT TWINS:

I'm not a twin. Most of us aren't. I do know several twins, however, and if I know one thing, I know that each relationship between each pair of twins is different. So when writing about twins, keep a few things in mind:

1- They're still siblings.
     
-While it's true that twins are often very close because they have spent their whole lives together, they can also fight ferociously because they have spent their whole lives together. They're siblings, no matter what the birthdate, and siblings fight. It's a fact of life, unless you have one of those rare sibling relationships where you're best friends. (But then again, even best friends disagree every once in a while.)

2 - They're different people.
      -They're not always going to agree. They're not always going to like the same stuff. They probably won't always finish each other's sentences or be able to tell what the other person is thinking. Their relationship may provide them with a better knowledge of how their sibling thinks, acts, and responds, but they don't share the same mind. Each twin has been through different situations and have different responses to things which have shaped their personalities into two different beings. So two twins that are exactly the same in every way would not be too realistic.

3 - Think of them separately.
     
-If you think of them as two distinct characters, rather than trying to tie the two together, the characters will flourish. Give each twin the time they deserve, get to know them and their individual personalities, just like you would for two characters who didn't even know each other.

4 - They don't have to be best friends OR mortal enemies.
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Whenever I read about twins, it seems like there are only two options: They're either practically joined at the hip, or they despise each other. Why can't they just have a healthy relationship while maintaining their own social life and friend groups?

5 - Similarities.
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While differences and uniqueness are definitely important, you have to keep in mind also that these two characters grew up with the same parents and the same situations for the most part (Unless this is the Parent Trap). They will probably have a few things in common, so it's most likely not too realistic for them to be polar opposites. While it can happen, I'd advise that you mainly make differences between them through personality quirks, taste in music/movies/actors/friends, etc.

Better yet, talk to some twins and hear about their relationship! (Only if they're willing to share though, don't pester them.)

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WRITING YOUNG CHARACTERS & WRITING KIDS

1 - Young doesn't equal dumb.
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A twelve year old can be just as smart as an eighteen year old. Perhaps not booksmart, unless they are way ahead in school, but common sense and quick thinking are things to be considered. Some older kids don't have those, while some younger kids do, and vice versa. They can be observant, super intuitive, or creative.

2 - Who is your target audience?
   
- That can drastically change how you write the character. If it's a book targeted to young kids, you'll probably want to make the young character someone they can relate to. If the book is targeted to adults or older kids, a more mature, almost adult-minded child would probably go over better.

3 - If your young character is advanced, why?
    
-Because of the way they were raised? Were their parents geniuses too? Did they have mutant genes inserted in them as a child? Or are they just naturally intuitive? Maybe they had to be to survive. Perhaps they had a desire to learn. Maybe they saw horrific things when they were younger and they matured much too quickly. Think about your character's background, and the level of maturity they're at, and determine what made them the way they are.

4 - Read books with young protagonists.
    
-Ender's Game
     -Maze Runner
     -Harry Potter
     -Book Thief
     -A Series of Unfortunate Events
If you notice, all of the books listed above have some sort of situation that requires the young protagonist to act mature beyond their years, or a predicament that forces them to act wisely. If you provide the reader with a reasonable explanation, you can get away with making your young protagonist smarter than average.

5 - Observe.
    
-Do you have a younger sibling? Do you help out with younger kids somewhere? Observe the way they act, how they talk, etc. Especially if your character is living in this generation. Too often I see young protagonists at the age of eleven or so who live in the 21st century but they talk like they're from the 19th century. First of all, they talk way too maturely for their age, and also their vocabulary doesn't match the time period. The way we talk is often influenced by our peers, so try not to make the protagonists vocabulary too drastically different from her friends.

Remember the first point, and remember that it applies to your audience as well. Even if your book is targeted to a younger crowd, don't talk down to them. They understand love, they understand struggles, and they understand bravery just as well as any grown-ups, even if life seems more carefree for them.

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WRITING THE VICTIM:

A lot of times the protagonist has had some struggles in the past. They've been hurt, lied to, abandoned, betrayed, etc. Here are a few points about writing these kinds of characters:

1 - Don't overplay the victim act:
    
-We understand, they've been hurt. We may get annoyed, though, if you're reminding us every five sentences. Overplaying the victim card can make the character seem more like a whiny baby than someone we like.

2 - Make them tougher:
    
-The reason I say this is because all of us have been hurt, lied to, and felt abandoned at some point in our lives. If we haven't yet, we will. Life's disappointing at times, but we got to get up and keep going because people rely on us and we can't lay around and mope. So if we see a character who can't even manage to do something once that we do on a daily basis, we may not feel sorry for them. We'd most likely feel contempt and dislike. We smile even when we're crumbling inside, so why does this character get to mope around and have everyone feel sorry for him/her?

3 - They have to learn to solve their own problems.
    
-There's not always going to be a knight in shining armor to save us. While the character may need a nudge from a friend to get a move on with their life, the character needs to learn to move on from the past, or at least deal with the present problems. If you have someone swoop in to save the poor victim each time, what message will that send? Will it say that moping around and feeling sorry for yourself is okay, and that you should let other people do everything for you?

4 - Holding on to the past so extremely is not healthy, and it's not something to romanticize.
     -I know we all like to see the love story where the guy falls for the depressed, victimized girl and turns her life around. While a little help is not frowned upon, you have to remember that depression and related things are serious and harmful, and while it's nice to see the character being rescued by love, sometimes they have to come to that realization on their own.

5 - From a Tumblr blog (External link on the side):
Your hero doesn’t have to be strong physically to be someone people can root for. They don’t even have to be strong emotionally all the time because that’s just not realistic. They just need to find a way to work with what they have and be confident in their own abilities. We need to see them making the best of what they’ve got. We need to see them moving forward and growing in order to develop who they are. Being a strong character is all about growth.

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The next chapter will cover:

~The Invincible Hero
~The Nice Guy
~The Unlikable Main Character

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