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Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Stepping Outside Comfort Zones

Dear Jeannie,
Cass' older sister is a prestigious figure in a military organization. Cass is one of twin sisters who have always been very close to their older sister, offering her blunt advice or telling her when she's being stupid, and receiving the same in return. Cass, unlike her older sister, has a flair and a skill for a more 'domestic' role - she's a very skilled cook in the organization's kitchen. Cass rules this domain and is a huge presence within it - but very rarely ventures into the world beyond it. First, is it realistic that Cass would stay so close by her kitchen despite her sister's position? Secondly, something tragic is going to happen to Cass' sister and she's going to lose her position. Is there a realistic way that Cass might then pursue the position her sister once held?
Lost in Lake Macquarie
Dear Lost,
Yes, I think it's totally realistic for her to stay in the kitchen despite her big sister's prominence. Association doesn't have much on comfort. Just because you know people in high places doesn't mean you want to join them. The answer to your second question is more difficult, because it depends on her motivation to do so, which in turn depends on your story world. If circumstances were such that she thought she was somehow serving her sister best by stepping up, perhaps. Or maybe she wants her older sister to be proud of her for not letting the position go to someone not related to them. Since you stated that they were close to each other, then some nudge from her sister to do this would go a long way. Exterior complications and conflicts (who else wants the position? would people accept the "cook" stepping up? - etc.) are going to be the key as to whether she'd give up her comfort zone or not. She'd be fully capable of it, it seems, but you'd have to figure out what would motivate her to exchange her apron for a gun (or insert appropriate term here from your story world). Best of luck as you figure it out!

Dear Jeannie,
Jude has a magical ability which his parents have forced him to hide due to the public image of those with magic as antisocial and dangerous. The government is also thought to forcibly take custody of any magic user considered dangerous. He has little control over it due to lack of practice, but it sometimes appears as a multicolored glow around him when he feels threatened. Given the stress his parents have laid on secrecy and his own fear of what would happen to him if his magic was discovered, how would he react to this obvious sign of his ability? Would he try to avoid threatening situations, or try to overcome fear?
Confused in Chicago 

Dear Confused,

What kind of boy is Jude? Does he run headfirst into whatever he's doing, only pausing to consider ramifications after something goes awry? Is he a planner? Not taking a step until he knows the outcome? Is he rebellious? If his parents said not to do something, would that be like an invitation served up on a silver platter for him to do that very thing? These core personality traits will answer your question for you. Both of the scenarios you presented (avoiding threatening situations that might instigate magic use or overcoming fear associated with not being able to control it) are very feasible. Since I don't know much about Jude from your thumbnail sketch, you'll have to actually make this call. Personally, I think it'd be more anxiety-provoking for the reader if he was scared of what would happen if people figured out he had magic, so therefore would want to avoid situations that could trigger it. Readers will tensely flip pages to see when, inevitably, this choice fails him. But that's just my opinion. Hope you figure it out....let me know what you decide. Good luck!

Got Questions?

Maybe I have answers. Leave your anonymous comment below using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my response in future Dear Jeannie columns. Queue's empty, so get those questions in!