Now, With Added Children!

It’s not my fault. I have littles, and the littlest little (that’d be Wee-er Than Wee Dave Dave, for those keeping track at home) woke up. That wouldn’t sound like an issue, but it’s a delay of at least half of a clock rotation. If you dig on analogue. Which I do. And them there’s the fact that Senior Plague Rat brought something home from Sunday School (I think, coulda been the winter market at which Mrs. Dave hawks the jewelry she makes for fun. Regardless, Wee Dave brought the crud, the crud has been broughten, shared with Junior Plague Rat, and passed on to yours truly. So no Daves slept well last e’en.

Second Coffee come early, and be ‘lert to me.

I love my littles, despite their habit of preventing paying work. They’re adorable, which is a survival mechanism for the small and vexing. And that’s more pleasant than it could be. Also, they generally smell good, which I’m given to understand is some kind of spiffy evolutionary marker. BZ, evolution. Well played, that mechanism.

They’re also helpless, which is useful to you, the writer.

I’m reading through several of Dave Freer’s offerings (I highly recommend Changeling’s Island. Point of fact, I have recommended it, and I’ll be pushing it at pretty much anybody with any interest in reading, young or less young) and a recent scene had a pair of sometime allies worked together to prevent a rather hard-to-kill magical hybrid from re-kidnapping one’s toddler daughter. Two highly skilled swordsmen should have been more than equal to the creature. Would have been. If they hadn’t had a small child to worry about.

Kids are physical complications. They just get in the way. They’re always underfoot, and, especially at certain ages, innocently suicidal. Almost *anything* can hurt or kill an infant. Or a toddler. Really, humans are just fragile. It’s a good thing we heal well, though both of those are subjects for future posts. But the physically immature are worst off. Lousy mobility, terrible coordination, and they all use everything as a dump stat. No strength or dexterity, no constitution worth mentioning, and let us not even speak about their wisdom scores! Kids just get in the way of doing. The littlest one is doing her darnedest to prevent me finishing this post, for example.

They’re always under foot and demanding attention. “Watch this!” “I’m cooking the food you were in tears for not having two seconds ago, Child.” “Yeah, but stop that and watch what I’m doing now! And then play with me!” And Dave’s veins start to throb. Or playing with suburban expedient caltrops in the kitchen. That’s a favorite. A Duplo took a nickel-sized chunk out of a buddy’s foot not that long ago. And then there are the miniature wheeled conveyances.

And they have needs. Changing, feeding, playing. Lots and lots of cuddles. And where does all of that come from? Yes, I hear that voice in the back! It comes out of Dave’s writing time!

And this is just in the mundane setting of the contemporary home. In a less advanced milieu, you have the added adventure of medical danger. Any cough or cold can become a raging fever, which can easily kill in a pre-industrial society. Or in many industrial ones for that matter. A nice stressor to heap on your characters. Good for relational stability, that.

Or suppose your characters are fugitives. Maybe the authorities view them as kidnappers, whatever they or the reader believes. They have a vested interest in staying undiscovered. Well, and has anybody let the child know that? And would a toddler even care? What about a babe-in-arms? How do you convince the tired, cold, angry, hungry, and now damp and souled infant to stop squalling before so the magically equipped tracker doesn’t discover them? Asking for a friend.

On the upside, children can make excellent comic relief. Wee Dave makes some pronouncements that have Mrs. Dave and I rolling. I’m given to understand this is normal. So pit that in your story, too. Is the plot getting a little too thick, with the darkness that makes your reader wonder if the kid is going to make it? Toss in a kids-say-the-darnedest. Maybe a mouthing off to a minor villain moment.

And then there’s the demideus ex machina moments. Characters – and more importantly, author – wracking brains trying to come up with a solution to one problem or the other? Out of the mouths of babes… Seriously, have the kid toss off a line that shines a light in your hero’s foggy thoughts. Great fun, especially if you can then twist it into a plot-advancing failure.

Everything always costs more and takes longer, and such is especially the nature of reality when dealing with children. So complicate your story, and your characters’ lives, and make them responsible for a child. Best way I know of to force them to grow.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Now, With Added Children!

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Sarah’s “kick-ass” character Athena has worry about her new-born baby in “Darkship Revenge”.

    The little one sort of “cramps Athena’s style”. šŸ˜€

  2. I can imagine what havoc a Wee One could cause during a spell casting by chiming in at just the wrong moment . . . *evil kitty [and authorial] grin*

    “That’s why you should have hired a sitter!” Character B fights off Nasty Thing Accidentally Summoned
    “I did! He cancelled at the last minute because he had too much homework!”

    • LOL. I’m picturing that in my head, with the cast from that movie about the spy couple that retired to raise a family. (Darn movie title won’t pop into mind right now, darn it.)

    • Holly

      Or a not so wee one. Teenagers say the darnedest things for shock value: “Mom, can I have a shoggoth?” In the middle of a spell wouldn’t be much help. Or a stupid freaking squabble over fairly sharing the milk for breakfast cereal at the wrong moment . . . (Yes, we have SEVEN liquid measuring cups. Only adults are capable of using them, apparently.)
      Heck, if you need a kid line and you aren’t sure what’s realistic, let me know the circumstances and I’ll ask mine to say something. The boys would find that fun.

  3. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Just read through a list of sites probably made vulnerable by the Cloudbleed exploit, and noticed townhall, pjmedia, and nationalreview.

  4. Uncle Lar

    I really wish that pediatricians would make it more clear that the option to attach a surgical steel loop to the back of a child’s neck at birth is ultimately well worth the added expense. Just install heavy duty wall hooks at convenient places in your home and poof, instant babe sitter (or in point of fact, hanger).
    And the added device of a reel retractable leash with snap hook end makes walkies ever so much more enjoyable as well.
    Of course one may accomplish much the same thing with a good heavy duty leather harness, but the little dears chew through them with remarkable rapidity.

  5. Christopher M. Chupik

    Is it wrong that I imagined this title being cheerfully spoken by someone in a chef’s hat and apron? šŸ˜‰

  6. Darn it Dave! I did not need to picture a certain character of mine in a sticky situation with her teenagers!

  7. Zsuzsa

    “They all use everything as a dump stat. No strength or dexterity, no constitution worth mentioning, and let us not even speak about their wisdom scores!”

    Yeah, but they all have Charisma scores of at least 17, so it’s hard to resist them when they say, “Pweeeese…”

  8. tolonaro

    ” They have a vested interest in staying undiscovered.” I remember my teaching is grade school about Daniel Boone and the pioneers he was bringing to Kentucky over the Applaichan mountains. Traveling was dangerous and you wouldn’t want an Indian attack, so the scene was set. The mothers/grandmothers were holding the babies and choking them if they made a sound. It was a chilling thought, but understandable.
    Related maybe, the reports from orphanages in Eastern Europe talk about walking through rooms of babies in their cribs – absolutely silent. They had learned that nobody answered if they cried.

  9. Besides Lone Wolf and Cub I also greatly enjoyed The Contest by Matthew Reilly, as the rather uncommon protagonist is a normal Everyday Dad and his daughter finding themselves suddenly trapped in a battle royale with aliens.

    • Draven

      I am familiar with Lone Wolf and Cub but for some reason i got an image of Earl Harbinger and his and Heather’s kid on an adventure…

  10. Now I want to go write an adventure story with a kid in it. Personally, I’ve always been a sucker for a “big tough guy has to care for little kid” story. It’s why I love “The Last of Us,” and why I think “Logan” looks phenomenal.