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"I want realistic 11-year olds in FanFiction!" But do you really?

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Andrela, Dec 28, 2020.

  1. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

    Apr 19, 2012
    Over the years I've seen a lot of complaints about various fics that the children in them are not portrayed realistically.

    Some examples include kids in Slytherin doing politics or acting like adults. Granted, lots of times this behavior actually is unrealistic, sometimes to the point of absurdity (in extreme cases).

    However, would you really like to read a Harry Potter fic with realistic 11 year olds?

    I have 3 brothers, ages are 27, 12 and 10. Let me tell you, the younger two do not act how I would want Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy or any other 1st year to act.

    Unless you want Harry and Draco to compete in the magical versions of Minecraft or Fortnite instead of Quidditch. Or using quotes from youtubers and memes as the height of comedy.

    Now, I love my brothers very deeply, but I don't think they'd be protecting the Philosopher's Stone from Voldemort anytime soon.

    The way I see it, there are 3 options:

    1. Make the characters older and have Hogwarts (and the story) start at 17 instead of 11.

    2. Keep it the way it is in Canon or some less-extreme Fanfiction.

    3. Make characters actually behave like kids and somehow make it work.

    Myself, I'd like option 1 very much, but there's only a few fics like this so I guess option 2 is the only one widely available (for now).
  2. Clerith

    Clerith Ahegao Emperor ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Jan 7, 2008
    High Score:
    I know I don't.

    All that Lord and Lady and political garbage is even worse, but I know I don't enjoy reading about actually realistic preteens.

    Don't make the characters older, that's also too AU. Just have them act like... childish teenagers minus the angst and get over the early years fast, unless you're an actually amazing writer, who can make said years enjoyable to read.
  3. Silirt

    Silirt Minister of Magic DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Sep 19, 2018
    I do my best to write the minors as 'kids' without going into too many specifics about how their exact age group should act. If a story has a character written to be exactly eleven, or exactly thirteen, that's a ton of wasted effort and it requires the character to change every year, which can sort of mask the character development you actually intend to do, building on the experiences of the character. Having met adults who are basically as dumb as they were when they were children, I have to disagree with the idea that the experience of circumnavigating the sun makes you wiser by itself.
  4. Gengar

    Gengar Degenerate Shrimp –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Feb 3, 2009
    High Score:
    No. A fic with actual children would be garbage, but still not as bad Machiavellian eleven year-olds smirking and calling each other Lord/Lady whatever.

    Age everyone up. Problem solved.
  5. DrSarcasm

    DrSarcasm Death Eater

    May 16, 2010
    The cases where I've read stories where the kids act their own age and are tolerable almost always include them being side characters at best (so their crappy behavior doesn't strongly affect the plot), they are on the more mature end for their age (usually as a result of poor personal circumstances, like abusive homes which force them to grow up faster than normal), or their childish behavior is but a small portion of their character.

    Dion from Raising Dion is an interesting subversion of the "adult-like child" and is probably the most realistic child character I've seen (for all of the 2-3 episodes I watched). He's, I believe, in second grade (so about 8-9). When he starts gaining (partially involuntary) super powers and his mom tries to work with him to control them, he just can't be bothered. He gets whiny and won't/can't focus, in the same way that a kid would respond if you try to force them to do their homework instead of playing. He just doesn't understand why it's so important; to him, it just sounds like another way for his mom to nag at him. But it kind of works due to the story being more about his mom than about him.

    Aang from ATLA is a pretty decent "mature based on circumstances" child character. He feels the weight of responsibility as his role as the Avatar and his upbringing as a monk has left him respectful of tradition, but he's a goofy kid the rest of the time, enjoying showing off and playing games. Most of the other child characters (who range from 12 to about 15 in age) also show occasional immaturities but remain likeable.

    The cast of Stranger Things is also pretty good. They are pretty childish, but when they realize how bad things are, they buckle down and focus on not dying.

    So honestly? It depends on the implementation and the kind of story. If you ensure that the childish elements don't overwhelm the story elements, you can have decent child characters. But on the other hand, if you do have kid characters, they do need to act like children to a degree. Despite the success of Promised Neverland, one thing that rubs me the wrong way about it is how way too intelligent the kids act for their age (even if in-universe there is a good explanation as to why).
  6. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Mar 5, 2006
    United Kingdom
    High Score:
    "Make characters behave like kids" can mean two things. One of them works, one of them doesn't.

    1. Child characters only do things that children would realistically do.

    2. Comprehensively depict the full breadth of childlike behaviours.

    1 works, 2 doesn't.

    The reason why #1 works is that it's a much more limited approach. For any given action the character takes, that action must pass the test of "is this realistic?". But there is no demand on the author to depict the full spectrum of childish behaviour.

    The only thing that approach #1 forbids is children acting like adults. But that still leaves the author with considerable freedom to choose what to depict. And you can simply choose not to depict the more annoying and immature behaviours, so long as the actions you do depict remain essentially child-like.

    Do children giggle about anything sexual, make immature comments, embrace toilet humour, swear like they've just discovered it, and act with surprising cruelty? Yes. But there's no obligation to depict these things because they're not relevant to the story.
  7. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Nov 11, 2005
    High Score:
    I definitely agree with Taure's point that the author can do a realistic portrayal and simply leave out everything that's really annoying. But beyond that, there's a distinct difference between how a mentally mature 11 year old acts vs a mentally immature 11 year old. The former isn't exactly what an adult, or even later teen, would think of as mature but they're distinctly less annoying than an immature 11 year old. Choosing to write your characters as a little bit more mature than the average for their age isn't going to run into any realism problems, but can definitely make those characters less annoying.

    Also if you're doing a 7 book re-write, remember that PS accounted for approximately 7% of the word count of the whole series. It was about 77,000 words. If you're dedicating much more than that to first year, you're doing it wrong. Move fast through the first couple of years, then slow down and give more interaction when the characters are slightly older and a little more relatable.
  8. Download

    Download Groundskeeper ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Aug 6, 2014
    Adelaide, Australia
    High Score:
    I'm going with the hybrid approach seen in canon.

    They're a bit more mature than they should be, but not so much it's jarring. They make mistakes, they have young misconceptions, they have relationship troubles, but you keep the really annoying stuff out of it.

    Having everyone act like an unusually mature 11yo instead of an average 11yo is a bit off, but not enough that I can't read it or spend loads of time thinking about it.
  9. Snowy

    Snowy First Year

    Dec 15, 2020
    But the only thing I don't like is when Harry is a "Lord Potter Black Slytherin Ravenclaw Gryffindor Hufflepuff" Stronger and more powerful than Dumbledore, he is a genius, he knows all spells, he is a master at manipulation!
  10. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Oh hello thread that's relevant to myself!

    I'm (sort of) one of these people. I don't typically phrase it as "I want realistic 11 year olds!" but I very often get frustrated / call out issues where "they don't act like kids, they act too much like adults."

    There's a difference there, I think. It's not that I want 'realistic' eleven year olds, it's that I want kids that don't act too much like adults and act more like kids than they are being portrayed as in whatever I'm reading.

    But the way that sometimes characters like Ron talk about Quidditch is comparable. He gets into it, has a favorite team, memorizes statistics, etc. Harry spends time practicing and playing and probably reading up on tips/tricks. It *is* the equivalent, in my opinion.

    Not because modern day video games are equivalent to Quidditch, but because the fixation kids can have on these things is still present.

    Your kid brothers might not, but Harry Potter DID. Is that something that most 11-year olds would do? Or could do? Fuck no. But some 11 year olds - Harry in this case - who come from certain backgrounds and whatnot would.

    And guess what? He didn't act too much like an adult when he did it. He still 'felt like a kid' during that whole damn book. He ran to tell a teacher then got pissy when blown off and ran off by himself to save the day.

    A Harry who launches into a verbal spiel that completely puts McGonagall in her place with vocabulary that is never demonstrated in canon? Too adult. A Harry who utilizes his money/power/fame to get the Ministry there within a few minutes and then lord it over McGonagall and Dumbledore how useless/shitty they are? Too adult, doesn't feel like how a kid would act.

    I think the trick canon uses here (and other stories utilizing young protagonists - Naruto, Avatar, FMA, Percy, WHATEVER) is that while these kids are doing all sorts of BAMF things that many adults couldn't do, they still FEEL LIKE kids while they're doing it.

    Maybe one or two kids - like Draco - are actually thinking about politics at age eleven. But only a very few, and those few aren't going to be good or effective at it. And they're only going to be thinking about it if their parents have made it a point to teach them that stuff early and the kid wants to mimic them.

    Lots of kids thinking about politics and paying attention to that shit? Doesn't feel like kids anymore.

    This is one of the closest things I have a 'red line' in fanfiction. Despise this. Personal opinion only - you are not alone in this. And I'd read it if it was supposed to be really good, but damn it'd have to be consistent 5/5 ratings to get me to look at it.

    I think Taure hits on something similar to what I'm getting at above in his comment. Mordecai touches on it too.

    It's not that I want 'realistic eleven year olds' - Harry Potter canon didn't have that in a lot of ways, and neither does Naruto or any other popular fiction featuring kids under 15 as the protagonist. But in all of those dozens of examples that appeal to adults those kids often still 'feel like kids' while carrying a franchise on their backs and kicking the adults asses in a variety of ways.

    Do that.
  11. Anarchy

    Anarchy Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

    Dec 12, 2009
    Idk, I've read the first book recently, and honestly nothing in it really comes off as childish, or offputting. Yet neither does it seem like they're 15year olds in 11 year old bodies. There's obviously a balance to be found, and I think a lot of the problem is the depth of the narrative. Philosopher's Stone isn't exactly a long book, and most fanfics that try to redo it end up being twice or three times as long (or 10x as long in one notable case), which means they tend to delve into character development and AU elements, and that's when you really run into problems.