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Creating a Scapegoat for your story can help make characters more realistic in the eyes of the reader.
Children’s roles are a specific set of coping mechanisms that children tend to develop throughout chaotic situations in their childhood. This could include the loss of a parent, a family struggle with addiction, or even a move to a new place.
The four major roles are Family Hero, Scapegoat, Lost Child, and Mascot. Most children have played these roles at various points throughout their lives, but some kids get “stuck” in one of these roles and it can be problematic for them as they grow older. However, while they are in the midst of the chaos (parent loses a job, being severely bullied at school, parents divorce, etc.), these behaviors are how they cope with the pain.
A Scapegoat is often referred to as ‘the bad one,’ ‘Bebe’s kid,’ or ‘the black sheep.’ You may have seen, heard of, been friends with, or even been a Scapegoat yourself. Let’s use the example of a single, alcoholic mother again. She loses her job due to her consistent drunkenness and decides to drown her sorrows in yet more alcohol. As noted in previous posts, this means that bills are not being paid, clothes are not being washed, groceries are not being purchased, and so on. The household containing her and her 4 children is in chaos. While the Family Hero is filling in as a pseudo-parent, the Scapegoat is doing the exact opposite.
The Scapegoat may spend most of the day sleeping, rarely making it to school on time or at all. This kid just wants to get away from the stressful situation that is being part of this family. They may see the Family Hero working their ass off attempting to keep everything together (as a parent and a child) and doesn’t want to put themselves through that kind of stress. They will often do things to get attention that are considered problematic, such as getting pregnant as a teenager, using drugs, joining gangs, committing crimes, or bullying or being generally violent and abusive towards others (including family members). They are likely to struggle with their academics and may even flunk out of school. The Scapegoat will often come home late at night or not at all since they may find more comfort and stability with their pimp, gang leader, etc.
Their destructive and problematic behavior makes it more difficult for the focus to be on the central problem of mom’s alcoholism. People within the family and outside the family might think, “There lives would be so much better if Sheena would just get her act together.” The mother may not realize how much of a burden is lifted off of them when the Scapegoat’s problems overshadow her own.
Scapegoats get the attention that all children crave, but they get it for getting expelled, breaking laws, or getting arrested. The mother might often berate the Scapegoat: “What is wrong with you?” “Why can’t you grow up?” “Your brother’s never acted like this!” “You’re the worst most ungrateful child I’ve ever seen!”
Therefore, even though the Scapegoat does things that a problematic, it begins to feel comfortable as they take on the labels that they are fitted with by schools, law enforcement, family members, friends, and classmates. Their behavior is often an outlet for feelings of rage that they are not having their basic needs met by their family unit and have had to look outside the family for feelings like love, connectedness, and appreciation. Until they are offered a self-help group, non-judgmental companions, or therapist, these feelings may never be directly expressed in a healthy manner.
If the single, alcoholic mother of four goes to treatment for her addiction and gets some treatment for her children, they may be able to wrench themselves loose from these roles. However, if this doesn’t happen, it’s very easy for a child’s personality/sense of self and their role in this chaotic situation to become enmeshed.
When this happens, the Scapegoat keeps looking for new ways to be ‘the black sheep’ in different situations. This person is often called a ‘career criminal’ as an adult, but could also be noted as an unmotivated ‘pot head’ or other drug addict. They’ve given in to the feelings of helplessness that have surrounded them in their chaotic family and decided not to fight against it, but just to ignore the core issues that caused it.
Sometimes the idea of getting a job is unattractive to them because it means following rules, having a boss, and having to be somewhere on a consistent basis throughout the week (i.e., too much work). So the Scapegoat may find ways to make money that don’t take a lot of effort or oversight (selling guns or drugs, doing odd jobs when they feel like it, etc.)
Sometimes the idea of having a family isn’t appealing because they don’t want to end up back in a family like the one they grew up in. Therefore, the Scapegoat might intentionally remain single, though they may have many ‘sex buddies’ available to them.
This character is often the one who attempts to keep potential love interests at bay. They may have sex with them, but that’s as far as it goes. A love interest trying to break down this emotional wall could make a strong romance.
This character may not believe that they can rely on people in the medical community, so health problems as “solved” with drugs or simply ignored. Good for a tragedy.
Due to an inconsistent work history, this person may have accrued some debt that can follow them and cause problems between them and others when bill collectors call, items are repossessed, or the character borrows money that they cannot (or have no intention to) pay back.
This character is apt to see people who are industrious (such as the Family Hero) as “suckers” working for “the man.”
Having a character who is a Scapegoat with a realistic backstory can add depth to your work and maybe even offer you some extra avenues to explore when it comes to how they will behave in the new situations they come across in your story.
Stay gready, Friends!
If you’re trying to spread the gospel, The Challenge is here to help make it a little easier.
The Challenge is a non-fiction work meant to help spread Christianity to non-believers. The idea is to have them read through a series of thoughts that are meant to make a logical case for the existence of God and the super-humanity of Jesus Christ.
In most sects of Christianity, evangelism (spreading Christianity) is part of being a Christian. However, some people are shy, socially awkward, or maybe just too aggressive to deliver the message successfully. The Challenge hopes to bridge that gap so that just about anyone can try to spread Christianity to others without feeling strong discomfort or starting an argument. Just hand them the book and ask them to read it.
The book has two sections. One that speaks to the messenger and one that speaks to the receiver. The section for the receiver explores logical arguments for and against the existence of a god and the idea that Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind.
The ideal is for the person receiving it to be open-minded enough to read it. Within the book, the person is actually encouraged to reconnect with the messenger and have a conversation about there newfound religion or why they still don’t believe after they’ve read the book.
I don’t see that you could not hand this book off to someone in just about any context. Co-workers, friends, family members, even people you don’t necessarily know (that kid that rides the bus with you every day wearing a ‘There is no God’ pin on his backpack).
If you have anyone in your life who is a Christian, I could see them appreciating this book (if they enjoy reading, that is). Some of the concepts may be a bit hard to grasp for younger readers unless they excel at reading.
The Challenge is currently available for sale on Amazon.com for $4.99 (paperback)!
I was connected to some Mormons for a couple of years (long story), and one of the conversations we had was about how hard it is to reconcile faith with fact. It seems as though the two are mutually exclusive. If I know that something is, I don’t have to have faith because it’s a fact. But when I choose to believe something, even though I have no strong evidence of it, that’s acting in faith.
Therefore, when an attempt is made to use basic logic to convert someone, it can be tricky. But, if any book can help you get it done, it’s The Challenge.
Will you donate $5.00 to support Volo Press (an American, female-minority-owned, small business)?
Who knew you could tell so much about a character from the way they walk?!