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Friday, March 28, 2014

Dear Jeannie: Stopping Violence and Seeking Revenge

Dear Jeannie,

Amanda studied to teach, but she doesn't want to wander far from home. Leaving to get certified was enough for her, and she'd rather stay closer to the nest now, thank you. The only opening nearby, however, is on an Indian reservation a couple hours away. Despite growing up in this town, being familiar with every nuance of local gossip and opinion, she is massively unprepared for working with the children. They bring their families' hard feelings to the school every day. Some of the parents and family members are actively hostile and very closely involved with their children's education. Two questions: If she hated going away from home before, is fear going to be a significant problem for her? There are enough high tempers that violence *could* erupt (though she is an unlikely target for such action), but she comes from a fairly gentle home. Also, what can she be doing to work with the community to ease their hostility? This kind of thinking outside the box is a little outside her ken--and definitely mine!

Lynched in Laramie

Dear Lynched,

I'd think that given her close association with the nearby town to the Indian reservation, she'd tkae what she could get, gratefully. There'd be enough connection to her home simply through common language, accent, geography, weather, etc. Volatility is never easy to be around, especially if you were raised in an opposing manner. You didn't specify a time period, but she might make more frequent trips home (if conveyance is possible) to remove herself from the thick of the action. But if you want her to be working within the community to ease hostility, the best way to do that would not be to bail. However, this could be a part of her character arc...her fear cripples her initially, but as she grows stronger and more assured that the work she's doing could make a difference, she grows bolder. I'd make the work center around the children. Adults are less likely to get rowdy when children are present. Some sort of community project that involves children from opposing "sides," as it were. A play, perhaps, or a community garden that actively provides food, perhaps during a rough year for crops. Something like that. I welcome further questions below, but hope this was helpful!

Dear Jeannie,

Gil was born into a wealthy, ambitious noble family, well connected enough to arrange a betrothal with one of their king's lesser daughters. Trouble was, the daughter had a mind of her own and a wicked right arm. She stoned Gil mercilessly whenever the family came to court, and often rounded up other family and young courtiers to assist. The engagement was called off once the parents realized that Gil and the princess would never reconcile. Gil, however, didn't let it go. Fast forward twenty years, and Gil is staging civil war and making alliances with invaders. Revenge against the royal family (which he might call 'justice'--maybe) hardly seems reason enough to betray and destroy his own country. How did he get to this point? Gil's family wasn't particularly vicious about the failed betrothal. It's a blow to their ambitions, but they would rather have had their son whole than wed to a shrew in the making. What pushes him to do everything possible to destroy the royals?

Commoner in Caledonia 

Dear Commoner,

Early childhood wounds can be haunting. You didn't mention Gil's age when he was being stoned and ruthlessly rejected, but that's not something he'd ever be likely to forget. Depending on his upbringing and other adverse events he went through, those moments might have been singularly defining for him. It's not unfeasible that he would have let his anger and resentment stew for years. The royals might represent to him everything that is oppressive, condemning, and merciless. Perhaps he wants to show them what that feels like, and his revenge is the most obvious way to wield power of the powerful. You also didn't mention if the "lesser daughter" factors in again within your plot, but I'd think he'd target her--married to someone else or a spinster, or what. After all, her face probably held the place of honor in his dreams and remembrances of his treatment (similar to a female throwing darts at an ex-boyfriend's face). I think you could work with this motive and no one would question it. We've likely all been there. Best of luck!

Got Questions?

Maybe I've got answers. Leave your question below, anonymously, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my answers in future Dear Jeannie columns.