A wise MC?

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The Second Moon

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I'm writing a linked MG short story collection and one of the MC's (Wattson) is very fun-loving and optimistic. Totally normal for an eleven-year-old boy. But then he's also very wise, even though he doesn't realize this himself. He's always giving out this deep wisdom without realizing it.

For example: “If you think back on your own mistakes then it’s easier to forgive others,” Wattson said.

I really don't want to change him, but I'm afraid readers will think, "an eleven-year-old wouldn't think like that".

Is it okay for him to be wise? I think part of the reason he's wise like this is because he's not really human. He thinks he's human, but he's part of a otherworldly race of beings, but that's not discovered until two collections later.

Him being wise is very important to the collections because, when it is his best friend's (Trumaine's) turn to be the POV character, he's often marveling at Wattson's wisdom and this helps him see the world differently.

Can he be this wise or should I dim it down some, though that would hurt the story?
 

Kat M

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Hmmm. Teacher here. I've occasionally had some students who display some quality beyond their years, and there's always more to their character than that. Something that reminds you they're a child.

For example, the young man who was extremely emotionally intelligent and philosophically understood everyone's actions also tripped over his own feet and couldn't write legibly to save his life.

Another little guy who cared about EVERYONE, even the class bully, but was absolutely clueless if someone said something naughty and would ask for an explanation.

A young woman who writes circles around kids twice her age, but believes she's better than everyone else, including her teachers, and has a mean streak.

In other words, what else is there to Wattson? What makes him a kid? What makes him human? (Well, not human, but you get the idea . . .) If you make me see Wattson as a real, complex character, then I'll gladly believe his words of wisdom, and the incongruity will make his otherworldly race reveal believable.
 

playground

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Hmmm. Teacher here. I've occasionally had some students who display some quality beyond their years, and there's always more to their character than that. Something that reminds you they're a child.

For example, the young man who was extremely emotionally intelligent and philosophically understood everyone's actions also tripped over his own feet and couldn't write legibly to save his life.

Another little guy who cared about EVERYONE, even the class bully, but was absolutely clueless if someone said something naughty and would ask for an explanation.

A young woman who writes circles around kids twice her age, but believes she's better than everyone else, including her teachers, and has a mean streak.

In other words, what else is there to Wattson? What makes him a kid? What makes him human? (Well, not human, but you get the idea . . .) If you make me see Wattson as a real, complex character, then I'll gladly believe his words of wisdom, and the incongruity will make his otherworldly race reveal believable.


That's a fantastic point.
 

The Second Moon

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Hmmm. Teacher here. I've occasionally had some students who display some quality beyond their years, and there's always more to their character than that. Something that reminds you they're a child.

For example, the young man who was extremely emotionally intelligent and philosophically understood everyone's actions also tripped over his own feet and couldn't write legibly to save his life.

Another little guy who cared about EVERYONE, even the class bully, but was absolutely clueless if someone said something naughty and would ask for an explanation.

A young woman who writes circles around kids twice her age, but believes she's better than everyone else, including her teachers, and has a mean streak.

In other words, what else is there to Wattson? What makes him a kid? What makes him human? (Well, not human, but you get the idea . . .) If you make me see Wattson as a real, complex character, then I'll gladly believe his words of wisdom, and the incongruity will make his otherworldly race reveal believable.

Your story about the boy who cared about everyone, even the bully, reminds me a lot of Wattson. He smiles at people who give him odd stares and if a bully says something insulting, he'll feel bad for that bully who has to (in Wattson's words) "rely on making other people feel bad to make themselves happy".

Now you asked what makes Wattson a kid. That would be how fun-loving he is. He dyed his eyebrows rainbow because they looked "more fun" that way. He hangs out with his best friend all the time. But he isn't fun-loving all the time or else he would be a very flat character. He feels sad that his parents and aunt didn't want him. He feels jealous when his best friend starts hanging out with a girl he has a crush on more than him. In other words, I think Wattson is a complex character.

Thanks for your reply!
 

t0dd

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He feels sad that his parents and aunt didn't want him.

I probably shouldn't ask this, since it's a spoiler, but I'm curious about the connection between this and his being really an otherworldly being. Are his parents and aunt otherworldly beings like your MC, or humans (with presumably Wattson either not their biological son/nephew or else housed in a human body in order to appear in the human world, or something like that)?
 

Toothpaste

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I think people are making good suggestions here. I think also another issue isn't what he is saying, but how he is saying it. If he's that articulate all the time it does come across as otherworldly (like todd said) or extraordinary. If you want him to be a kid, he can say the same thing but without such finesse (honestly most adults don't speak spur of the moment like that either). So something like:

"“If you think back on your own mistakes then it’s easier to forgive others" becomes "I think it's easier to forgive other people when you think about all the stuff you've done wrong too."

"
rely on making other people feel bad to make themselves happy" becomes "yeah those people need to make other people feel bad so they feel happy".

That kind of thing.
 
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Kat M

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I think people are making good suggestions here. I think also another issue isn't what he is saying, but how he is saying it. If he's that articulate all the time it does come across as otherworldly (like todd said) or extraordinary. If you want him to be a kid, he can say the same thing but without such finesse (honestly most adults don't speak spur of the moment like that either). So something like:

"“If you think back on your own mistakes then it’s easier to forgive others" becomes "I think it's easier to forgive other people when you think about all the stuff you've done wrong too."

"
rely on making other people feel bad to make themselves happy" becomes "yeah those people need to make other people feel bad so they feel happy".

That kind of thing.

Ooh, yes. This. ^
 

The Second Moon

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I probably shouldn't ask this, since it's a spoiler, but I'm curious about the connection between this and his being really an otherworldly being. Are his parents and aunt otherworldly beings like your MC, or humans (with presumably Wattson either not their biological son/nephew or else housed in a human body in order to appear in the human world, or something like that)?

So, I've interested you, huh? That's great. If you really want to know I'll PM you. Just reply to this thread with a yes.

I think people are making good suggestions here. I think also another issue isn't what he is saying, but how he is saying it. If he's that articulate all the time it does come across as otherworldly (like todd said) or extraordinary. If you want him to be a kid, he can say the same thing but without such finesse (honestly most adults don't speak spur of the moment like that either). So something like:

Wow. I never thought about that. I'll definitely try and make him sound more like a kid.
 

t0dd

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If he's that articulate all the time it does come across as otherworldly (like todd said)


I should point out that the OP called him "otherworldly" first; I shouldn't get the credit for that.

- - - Updated - - -

So, I've interested you, huh? That's great. If you really want to know I'll PM you. Just reply to this thread with a yes.

Yes.
 

Woollybear

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For example: “If you think back on your own mistakes then it’s easier to forgive others,” Wattson said.

It's the phrasing, not the sentiment, that feels off to me.

"I mess up sometimes. What's so hard about forgiving people?"

That sounds more like the self-focused way an 11 year old would talk, at least to me, and YMMV. But a wise 11 year old is a great character. Go for it.
 

Debbie V

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My son is a kid like this. He was 40 in the body of a ten year old. Examples: When he got glasses, he sat in the back seat of the car quietly for a bit and then said "I guess I'm a person with glasses now." I asked him what he meant. He explained that now people would identify him by his glasses and having glasses would impact his self identity too. (He did not use the words self identity.) He was 8 or 9 years old.

When he was 10, he had to go for an endoscopy. I told the doctor that my son gets it, but the doctor was surprised to be asked how he could be sure the scope was going down the esophagus and not the trachea. (He probably did use both words.)

Dinner conversations are as likely to revolve around black holes as events in school or camp. He reads. I don't know that a kid like this who doesn't read or have other exposure to being asked to think would be believable. Philosophies of life do not form out of nothing.

This also does affect his friendships. Not every kid is willing to put up with the off the cuff strange-to-them remarks. Some bullies go after that. Nerdiness is a thing.

So make it come from somewhere. (I should state that my husband and I were both told we were like forty year olds when we were young too.) The rest is voice and ideas.
 

writbeyondmeasure

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There's nothing wrong with a wise 11 year old. I agree with Patty, that I think how it's said is what's important. An 11 year old that sounds like Gandalf is probably going to feel jarring to the reader.

Also, I find wise statements from young MCs are more believable if it's based on something the MC has experienced, e.g. Wattson or the person he's giving the advice to could have made a mistake earlier themselves that is relevant to the reason for there needing to be forgiveness
 

frimble3

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Judging by your samples, Second Moon, these characters sound like what you're aiming for:
For example, the young man who was extremely emotionally intelligent and philosophically understood everyone's actions also tripped over his own feet and couldn't write legibly to save his life.

Another little guy who cared about EVERYONE, even the class bully, but was absolutely clueless if someone said something naughty and would ask for an explanation.

When I first read your post, I heard it as 'here comes another boy wonder', but, he could be very wise about people's feeling and emotions, and about interpersonal relationships, but perfectly 'normal' in all other respects (which is what your later post, about the eyebrows, suggests).

If you put his bits of wisdom into more childlike speech, and keep in mind the limited experience of an eleven year old, he sounds fine.
 

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