This is a repost from a few journals on The Other Site. I could expand these, and maybe I will in the future, but as it is, these are pretty much straight up reposts.
Nick especially is a candidate for future commentary, since this only covers two very minor, somewhat random facets of the character. The drug-abusing pre-teen street-kid is a gold mine of inspiration for discussion, so you better believe I'll be revisiting him later... or maybe I'll just let the story speak for itself?
At any rate, just a warning: these are mostly just stream-of-consciousness journals focusing loosely on themes related to particular characters. So it's a bit of a ramble. Apologies (at long last) for the unprofessional tone of them. Like I say, they're meant to be just "rambling director's commentaries".
Character Commentaries – Nick Davis (of Astray)
I was thinking last night, and decided to try this out. I think it’ll give me the opportunity to acquire a more organized approach to certain characters, as well as possibly generate some discussion, if I put my thoughts and motivations regarding certain aspects of them down in a “character commentary”. They certainly wouldn’t be comprehensive, and I don’t want them to be; I want to try and explore some of the less obvious elements. So, rather than discussing things critical to a character’s nature (or obvious), the more obfuscated details are my focus here. Think of it as the director’s commentaries, where some knob who gets paid far more than you do babbles about how difficult the lighting was in a scene – only I don’t get paid more than you. Shit. Uh, anyway.
If this bores you, don’t worry, it’s just me messing around. If you want to read or ask something, I’d be honored! Discussing characters can be a huge help, I’ve found, as while I believe I have a very good idea of them in my little skull, talking about them crystallizes and refines that nebulous understanding into something with much more clarity.
So, without further delay, off I go. I’m going to talk about “weight” and “booze.”
Some people like to fool around with a character’s “vital statistics”, often using human data as a basis for their anthro-characters’. I’ve even seen some character sheets where the information such as height and weight literally corresponded to the average height and weight for a human character of the same age (using information one can easily acquire using Google); don’t strain yourselves too much, guys.
I’m not exactly an exception, and I love to mess around, getting quite specific with these little details.
As it stands, I have Nick as 138cm tall and a rather astonishing 27kgs. So he’s essentially average height, but he’s worryingly slender – though at first glance a lot of my characters have this trait, Nick and Jeremy (from SdY) are by far the worst. Both have good reasons for it.
Nick’s weight is average for a much younger character (as he’s eleven and a half and that’s more appropriate for an eight-year-old), which makes him the lightest for his age. By comparison, Jeremy and Tai are, in the stats I have for them, only a few kilos lighter than average – which any pediatrician will tell you is, believe it or not, very normal; they fall on the lower-side of the correct weight range. Nick, however, may seem a bit more concerning. The reasoning for this is that, much like both Jeremy and Tai, he has never eaten much; but also because he’s a cheetah.
The “anthro-factor” is just another facet of character development to play with, and people like to use it to varying degrees. In this case, I only wanted it to account for a small amount of Nick’s (lack of) weight. It’s more important to me that it is because he has pretty much never had regular meals.
Discussing a young character’s weight is weird issue, because the “acceptable range” is quite huge. It’s perfectly acceptable for Tai to be 22kgs, even though the average for 8.8 is closer to 28kgs. This wouldn’t cause someone who “knew their shit” about this matter to complain – at least not too stridently – especially given his less-than-average height. With Nick however, I decided to play with his species a bit. Also, Tai and Jeremy both have people who’d feed them if nobody else would; Nick never had that luxury.
To go off on a bit of a tangent. According to one site (just offhand) the acceptable weight range for someone Nick’s age is actually 24-64kgs. That’s what I’m talking about.
This information won’t likely ever be listed in the story, and it’s really just something I dwell on to give myself more of an idea of the character’s appearance and indeed the way they can effect their environment. For instance: in an upcoming chapter, Tai has to heft an object that weighs about five kilograms and use it effectively: that’s a quarter of his own, muscle-less, body in terms of weight. How well d’ya think he does?
But I’ve already established that Nick was getting money; through thievery and other unsavory activities, the kit was in fact getting cash. So what was he spending it on if not food? Why, booze of course.
I always find the topic of alcohol and drugs to be an amusing one, depending on present company. Not so much because I’m fascinated by the topic, but because I am intrigued by people’s differing perspectives on it. Some people are woefully naïve about substance abuse, and I’m already loving the responses that Nick’s alcoholism is garnering.
So, we have an extremely lightweight eleven-year-old cheetah and he’s drinking spirits regularly. How do people take that? Well, as they should, with surprise and concern. Though the concern is right, it’s not that surprising however. To put things in perspective, normal people (especially furries, who, forgive me, are often quite sheltered and not a little nerdy) don’t have any experience with alcohol or drugs until their late teens or twenties.
However, even amongst people you would call normal, that’s by no means the universal rule. I show Nick, in a flashback, abusing two substances, both of which I started to have experience with at fourteen. It is not unheard of, and I know people personally who had, to start several years younger than that. My father was drinking himself to sleep since the age of twelve (and no he’s not brain-damaged, just an asshole). It’s actually not that unusual for very young people to abuse substances, and Nick’s circumstances are very unusual – so yeah, sorry folks, it’s perfectly believable that he’s a little drunkard at the age of 11. Sorry to shatter your sheltered illusions. *grins cheekily*
After getting someone to read this, he didn’t quite understand what I meant. I’m obviously not saying that this is the “norm”, just that it happens much more than some people seem to realize. It’s not common, but it’s not unheard of, far from it, for surprisingly young folk to experiment with alcohol. Hell, recently around here there was a 5-year-old that was discovered to be addicted to drugs, particularly marijuana. THAT’S a “WHAT THE FUCK?!” scenario. Anyway.
I made a bit of a business out of what I wanted him to drink. I wanted to establish him as an “experienced” drinker despite his very young age, and wanted to select something odd as a favorite for him – much as I did with Smoke in that short story, who likes “zombies”, which is a great cocktail but find me an eighteen-year-old who even knows what it is. Sad really, because they’d explode in popularity if more people heard of them, I think…
So, to me, vodka and rum were out of the question. Vodka/Bacardi and cola is essentially the signature drink of the typical teenage-drinker, and I didn’t want to conflate Nick’s extreme and irresponsible approach to drinking with the casual experimentation of your average teenager. But I also wanted to avoid making him look like he had some kind of “refined taste” in booze. So I settled on bourbon – and don’t get offended, bourbon fans, I’m not calling you unrefined.
I actually did a bit of research. Much like vodka and rum, one can acquire cheap and nasty bourbons/whiskeys for bugger all, and it obviously has a very distinctive taste. Bourbon isn’t as common, but younger folk mess around with it too (JD’s especially). I personally had a huge problem with bourbon and coke when I was a teen; namely, I disliked it. But one day I got one in a bar: my 20th birthday, so someone got me a drink. It was the right proportion of bourbon and Coke and on the rocks (with ice, in other words). That struck me as actually genuinely tasty – what was everyone doing wrong when I was younger?
Same thing as always, actually. Warm bourbon, too little cola, no ice… it tastes like a sewer-worker’s underpants on Friday afternoon. So naturally Nick forgoes the ice and sometimes even the cola. Because he doesn’t give a shit about the flavor or the pleasure of the drinking experience, he just wants to be smashed. In other words, the same attitude as a lot of my peers during high-school, only he was like that almost every day. Did I ever mention that binge-drinking, especially as a younger person, is a fucking stupid thing to do?
So there you go. Just figured I’d blather about this a little. I may do another of these someday, provided I can be assed or this gets any responses.
Fuzzface: "Shhhhel…popsicle sticks. I’m scared to know what goes through that little skull of yours when you write a story. Very astonishing about how you go about your research, and conjuring up stats about your characters. To be honest, it intimidates me."
Trust me buddy, this commentary is nowhere near scratching the surface. :D