Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#1
So as I work out the kinks in my story, I came up with a scenario that I want some second opinions on.
Believability is something I know most people complain about these days, so I'm trying to apply some common sense here.
So here is the scenario, I have a commanding officer who is leading his team into a dangerous situation.
And I have my MC who is fresh on the team interact with him and give recommendations.
Now my MC's character trait is that he is incredibly book smart, I even had the commanding officer give him a mini test to prove this.
So when they go into the dangerous situation, the commanding officer actually lets my MC take charge of strategy.
Now my logic is simple, the commander tested him earlier and saw how smart he is.
The MC proved his worth to him, even without much field experience.
Now, one thing I did to counter any Mary sue claims is that I made my MC humble, and he does have some internal conflict.
Sure, he's incredibly smart, but that doesn't mean he has no character flaws.
He does have some self-confidence issues, while not blatant in his characterization, I hint at it with a sense of queasiness.
Still, my logic on why the commanding officer listens to my MC is that he is aware of his intelligence, and like any good commanding officer listens to his subordinates.
If my MC is so smart, why not use his knowledge to help ensure the mission is successful?
After all, the enemy they face has proven to be illusive, no one has been able to catch them so far.
I am kind of thinking on how Star Trek does this, where say there is a new officer and the captain listens to their input.
After all, my goal is to push the story forward, and I don't want the majority of my story eaten up by my MC earning his keep.
Besides, that is not what the story is about, It's what happens during this mission is where my story starts proper.
The first chapter I introduced my MC and his universe
second chapter I introduce my villains.
Third chapter I introduce a key secondary character
and now I am here... where to make my MC more tragic, I plan to do something nasty to him.
I won't spoil what but let's just say the mission goes wrong.
I mean that alone should help alleviate the Mary sue factor, as while my MC was able to accurately pinpoint when and where the events occur he still can't predict the future.
No he came to most of this due to detective work, my MC is a detective at heart and has a batman level of deduction due to his studies.
But what do you think?

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#3
I wasnt implying the MC was going to be instantly promoted or anything.
No the commanding officers reasoning is that my MC has seen his intelligence first hand and since the commanding officer is the friendly type he listens to his subordinates.
it's not like the commander doesn't ask questions.
Plus, this mission could be a way for the commanding officer to fully test the mind of the MC in on itself.
I mean, it's not fully in the wrong for the commanding officer to let my MC come up with tactics to fully scope out his ability.
Sure, I am fully aware that book smarts don't equal experience, but that doesn't mean the commanding officer has to brush him off.
Perhaps the commanding officer wants a fresh perspective?
After all, the group my MC is a part of has yet to have success against the villains of my story, perhaps the commander officer can use a fresh mind.
Even experienced officers welcome new perspectives now and then, would seem logical, methinks.


Let me clarify a few things a bit here:

Well I am not talking about an army here nor a war.
This is a small scale skirmish between a gang of criminals/terrorist and what is in essence a police force/anti-terrorist group.
At best, either side has at least 20 members in this skirmish.
It's not like this skirmish will hold the fate of a nation, though it is a key event in my story.
In terms of pecking order, the commanding officer is three maybe four ranks above my MC, so it's not like he's some 5 star general.
And while it's true my MC is new to this situation, I do mention he had training and limited field experience.
It's just this current mission is his first time as a full member of his group and in a situation like this.

Also, let's talk about my commanding officer character a bit, he's going to be an ally of my MC later on, so I can't make the commanding officer that hostile or unfriendly to my MC.
He is captain yes and my MC is a private in comparison, but that doesn't mean my captain character earned that rank from sheer experience or work in the field.
Actually he was placed as captain by my stories secondary antagonist and in my universe the captain is more like a glorified desk job.
As captain yes, he has authority over most of the affairs of this unit but hes not the one fully calling the shots.
the secondary antagonist promoted him mainly to get the captain character out of the way of his own goals.
the situation is a little more complex than your typical military ranking situation and is a plot point in my story.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#4
I feel like you're invested in seeing this from the POV of your character and your reader, but what about from the POV of the commander who's making the decision? What's his background like? Does he have booksmarts? Does he often do these mini tests for people to prove themselves? Does he often defer to people to take charge even when he's placed in command? If he does any of these things, is it standard procedure or does he just do things differently? If he's doing things differently, what's his reason?

Right now it just seems really convenient for your character for the commanding officer to give him these chances. Also they're sorta handed to him, which makes him seem maybe a little passive? If he's really that good, or if he's really a genius tactician, I feel like he'd find a way to get himself these opportunities. Then it's not really an issue whether the commanding officer's actions are believable, your character made them happen based on their own smarts.

Just my two cents.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#5
Well my story is mainly around the MC so he is our POV character.
Thing is I do have to make some believability sacrifices so that my story doesnt suffer overall.
I cant do the traditional ranking story where the plot takes place over several years, otherwise it would take up 800 chapters before anything happens.
And thats not the tone I am going for, this is a fast paced action story and I already burned 3 chapters before anything happened.

No my current idea is have my MC be relatively fresh so we can be sympathetic to him so that when tragedy strikes we can feel his pain.
I mean i could change my story a little so that maybe this is his seventh time in action but I have other plot points going on that effect him and the situation.

Here let me further clarify things farther so that any future commentary can be on the same page as me:


First: this is not a story about the army or military, nor is it about a characters journey to earn his rank to a higher grade.
Second: the genre is science fiction/fantasy/action so bogging my story down with chapters where my character goes from private to a higher rank is not an option.
Third: I choose to make my character new to his team of cops/anti terrorists so that when something happens to my MC we can sympathize with him more. A theme of my story is youth cut down by circumstance and my MC overcoming this.
Fourth: I don’t want my MC to have too much time on the force as he is intentionally young, 25 years old at start of my story.
Fifth: there is a plot in my story where the force my MC is a member of has become corrupt. My MC is good-natured at heart so having too much time on his belt would make the audience wonder why he sticks with my cops/anti terrorists when they do nasty things.
I figured starting him relatively fresh would be a good way for the audience to understand him and what makes what's going to happen to him even more tragic.
Sixth: I want at least one or two good guy authority figures in my story, with most of the others corrupt there has to be someone in my organization who values justice over brutality.
Seventh: and I want one of those characters to be of a higher rank than my MC, someone who spent years in the service who can become their ally later on and uses his powers to help my MC.


So yeah thats what I have as otherwise I would spoil my plot.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#6
This is a few days old but let me put in my two cents.

I’m a huge fan of military scifi. Not going to call myself an expert because I’ve never been in the military BUT

if you want MC (a junior) to take command over a senior, the senior needs to be removed from the situation(dead, injured, drugged, kidnapped, MC is deployed far enough away the senior can’t intervene etc) OR this situation is an exercise to test MC, so that way the senior can put him in command.

Just because your MC is who we are supposed to be rooting for doesn’t mean he can’t flourish in a proper chain of command.  Hell in my own story I follow many more officers (a few Commanders, a Captain) but in order to let them shine I remove from their superiors on their own missions and let them do this on their own or I don’t focus on the superior officers at all. Plenty of ways to just let MC shine without the superior officer seeming to worship the ground he walks on.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#7
From reading your replies to the other comments here, it sounds like you've already kind of made up your mind on what you want to happen, so I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for with this post.

You say that one of the antagonists put the captain in his position just to get him out of the way, but what are the captain's goals? Does he want to take over the antagonist's position, does he resent the move, does he want out? Typically, when someone is put into a position as something of a vanity project, they're not going to be the most competent and will want things done their way and don't even think about suggesting otherwise, consequences be damned. The captain doesn't have to be this way, but there should be a good reason behind all his choices rather than "test the newbie," especially if it's something he's never done before.


You also say the captain is supposed to be an ally of the MC, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has to be best friends with the MC from the get-go. It could be a major source of character development if the MC is able to get past the captain's thick skull and work to make him their ally, rather than just have a convenient ally from the start with no work done or anything.

Also, if the captain's not the one "fully calling the shots," that indicates someone else is in charge too, at least partially. What do they think about letting someone brand new with no proven experience make the decisions of a unit that could result in life or death?

I'm sure these questions are, or will be, answered in the actual story, but from what you've said, the whole giving the MC the chance as a test seems like it's just supposed to give the MC what they want as a sort of plot armor (plot armor probably isn't the right term, but it's the only thing that came to my head). You could have a lot of character development by maybe having a low stakes mission where the MC points out a fatal flaw in the plan but the captain doesn't listen, so it goes to hell in a handbasket almost exactly as the MC said, but nothing majorly damaging, and allows the captain to start thinking, "Hey, this guy was right about that, maybe I should try listening to him a little more" (not that that would be entirely realistic, but I think it would work better than the captain just giving the MC a chance for nothing).

Also, just one more thing tangentially related I wanted to add:

MadmanRB Wrote: Well my story is mainly around the MC so he is our POV character.


A suggestion I have in regards to you saying this is that you should look at everything from the perspective of the different characters instead of just the MC. Sure, if it's the MC's POV, the reader is only going to see what they see, but that doesn't mean other things can't be happening. Plenty can happen behind the scenes that the MC misses, or has no way of knowing like a character's actual intentions, that can further the plot.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#8
In no work field that I know of do superiors give a fresh, untested newbie that is only book-smart and with no practical experience a leading position unless:
1. It is a dire situation where all more competent personnel is distributed to other, more important positions.
2. The superiors want the newbie to fail, be killed, demoted, or something of the sort.

For the MC to deserve the commander's trust, they need to at least have some prior experience in the field and proven qualifications (Like MC was a rising-star investigator/officer in district A and then got relocated to district B). Like this, MC does not need to be a veteran but can have enough merits to warrant being considered as an auxiliary tactician AND the lack of experience to mess up and cause a potential disaster. Still, in that sort of scenario, the commander is the one to take the blame for even allowing a newbie to decide on tactics, which automatically makes the commander look incompetent and unlikable. 

My suggestion would be that the captain does not give planning control over the operation to the newbie. Let the MC proactively make a suggestion, get teased by the old dogs, and then have the captain resolve the situation by accepting part of the MC's suggestion.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#9
What Vivoni said.
There also something to consider- the difference between theory and practice is that in theory there is no difference.
Booksmarts aren't the be all and end all, and military events with beuracracy, fighting the last war, politics, and more means there is a lot out there that can lead your MC astray. In a fighting situation especially, experience is usually better than theory.
My advice would be to have the commander simply favor the guy for his potential, help guide him from theory to practice, and slowly, incrementally, lay more and more repsonsibility on him.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#10

AdmiralStarNight Wrote: This is a few days old but let me put in my two cents.

I’m a huge fan of military scifi. Not going to call myself an expert because I’ve never been in the military BUT

if you want MC (a junior) to take command over a senior, the senior needs to be removed from the situation(dead, injured, drugged, kidnapped, MC is deployed far enough away the senior can’t intervene etc) OR this situation is an exercise to test MC, so that way the senior can put him in command.

Just because your MC is who we are supposed to be rooting for doesn’t mean he can’t flourish in a proper chain of command.  Hell in my own story I follow many more officers (a few Commanders, a Captain) but in order to let them shine I remove from their superiors on their own missions and let them do this on their own or I don’t focus on the superior officers at all. Plenty of ways to just let MC shine without the superior officer seeming to worship the ground he walks on.

Well this really isn't military science fiction, more like action science fiction.

Sure my MC is initially a member of an anti-terrorist group but its only set up for the larger story.


Acusiont Wrote: From reading your replies to the other comments here, it sounds like you've already kind of made up your mind on what you want to happen, so I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for with this post.

You say that one of the antagonists put the captain in his position just to get him out of the way, but what are the captain's goals? Does he want to take over the antagonist's position, does he resent the move, does he want out? Typically, when someone is put into a position as something of a vanity project, they're not going to be the most competent and will want things done their way and don't even think about suggesting otherwise, consequences be damned. The captain doesn't have to be this way, but there should be a good reason behind all his choices rather than "test the newbie," especially if it's something he's never done before.


You also say the captain is supposed to be an ally of the MC, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has to be best friends with the MC from the get-go. It could be a major source of character development if the MC is able to get past the captain's thick skull and work to make him their ally, rather than just have a convenient ally from the start with no work done or anything.

Also, if the captain's not the one "fully calling the shots," that indicates someone else is in charge too, at least partially. What do they think about letting someone brand new with no proven experience make the decisions of a unit that could result in life or death?

I'm sure these questions are, or will be, answered in the actual story, but from what you've said, the whole giving the MC the chance as a test seems like it's just supposed to give the MC what they want as a sort of plot armor (plot armor probably isn't the right term, but it's the only thing that came to my head). You could have a lot of character development by maybe having a low stakes mission where the MC points out a fatal flaw in the plan but the captain doesn't listen, so it goes to hell in a handbasket almost exactly as the MC said, but nothing majorly damaging, and allows the captain to start thinking, "Hey, this guy was right about that, maybe I should try listening to him a little more" (not that that would be entirely realistic, but I think it would work better than the captain just giving the MC a chance for nothing).

Also, just one more thing tangentially related I wanted to add:

MadmanRB Wrote: Well my story is mainly around the MC so he is our POV character.


A suggestion I have in regards to you saying this is that you should look at everything from the perspective of the different characters instead of just the MC. Sure, if it's the MC's POV, the reader is only going to see what they see, but that doesn't mean other things can't be happening. Plenty can happen behind the scenes that the MC misses, or has no way of knowing like a character's actual intentions, that can further the plot.


well my captain's motivation is simple, he wants to help redeem the image of my anti-terrorist/police force as in its quest to pursue the terrorists his organization has hurt innocents, damaging its reputation.
At heart I want him to be a good man caught in a bad situation, think Commissioner Gordon in Batman.
In most recent incarnations of that character, Gordon is a good man among a mass of corruption.
Sure his character has messed up, but Gordon was overall a good person in a bad situation.
I mean this captain character wanting to stand for what he feels is right may be a simplistic motivation but he is not a main character, he is supporting at best so doesnt need super detailed motivations behind his actions.
No my question was how much should he rely on my MC, after all just because my MC is a private doesnt mean he has no field experience and the only thing hes good for is scrubbing toilets or something menial like that.
Heck I even imply he earned his stripes to wear the uniform of his unit.
Sure he is fresh in his unit but i did imply he has had limited field experience, if this mission went another way my MC could become something higher due to his abilities on and off the field.
By all accounts my MC has had at least three years in my organization doing grunt work but not as a fully commissioned officer.
the ranking system of this unit is a little different, first you have say six months of training than one year as a junior officer.
after that two year evaluation period where they spend limited time on the field in various assignments.
So again this isnt like my MC is some fresh-faced recruit giving advice to a 5 star general in a battle to save the universe or something.
No he's just a new recruit to this section of his unit, still fresh in some eyes, but he has had experience, just not on this scale.
My captain is aware of his abilities beforehand, but still tests him within reason.
He already knows my MC possesses a great intellect, one that could help turn the tide.
I mean even my MC mentions he knows bookmarks are not everything, still doesnt fully stop my captain character from picking his brain.

Now yes he himself has a commanding officer who is a secondary villain with his own motivations and goals, and yes the situation is dangerous and my captain knows this.
He knows the risk of everything at hand and perhaps is why he is open to my MC, my MC almost acts like his beacon of hope for him.
Perhaps he uses my MC as a voice of reason and knowledge, that any tactical knowledge no matter how minor could help out.
Heck just because the captain has experience doesnt mean he cant ask for a second opinion on a situation even its from my MC, even experience goes so far in real life.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#11
Currently serving in the army, and I'll say this. Officers are where they are at right now because they've been judged to be capable of taking command in a number of situations. While yes, suggestions (and complaints) are taken seriously by commanders, the final decision-making point stays at the commanding level. You'll never see an officer allow their subordinate to take charge of the situation, baring other commanders like Platoon Sergeants and Sergeants themselves.

Should the recruit be noted to be smart, he'd be flagged out during the basic military stage, then be assessed to see if he is fit to lead. By that point, if he is, he'd be sent off to cadet school and assessed further, rather than be allowed to break the chain of command. If that were to happen, a lot of people will get fucked for it, all the way from the top, to the bottom.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#12
Again we are not dealing with the army here, for people who are allegedly writers there is certainly a lack of reading round here.
This group is paramilitary at best, with a limited ranking system.
Sure there are parallels and similarities, it's not like those of higher ranks are of tier 1 status while my MC is tier 999,999,999,999 status.

Here perhaps I should list the rankings and how they function in this organization:

Trainees/Cadets: exactly what it says on the tin, six months of mandatory training
Officer JG: one year mandatory service with basic field work.
Private JG: mandatory two year term of service, more advanced field work.
Private: my MC's rank at the start of the story, he is fresh to this assignment but not to his organization.
Lieutenants: My MC is quite close to this rank, now Lieutenants in my universe don't normally have field work, and I am not going to create a one line character to fill in this role for the sake of military accuracy. Even if I did throw one in they would have a minor role at best as I once again have to re iterate this is not a military story.
I don't know how many times I have to say that or how many languages I have to say it in, but if I have to pull out my Klingon dictionary, I will. I even have Elvish and Dathraki dictionaries if it becomes needed.
Commanders: normally take command in field operations, depending on severity. Though in this universe, commanders are more like desk workers than actual officers.
Captains: de facto commander of the organization, but mostly glorified desk workers. My captain is on the field in this story due to the severity of the situation.
Commandants: the highest ranked officers, rare field commands at this level but hold near absolute power over the task force my MC is a member of.
Yes the captain still has his power and so do commanders but this rank is the real one in charge.

Now again I know I will get asked "why not have a lieutenant on the field?" or "why not pass through the chain of command?"
And my answer: Plot convenience, and it makes things easier to write by keeping my cast of characters tight.
I already have a loaded cast as it is, between my MC, his partner, the captain, the commander, two other officers, the commandant.
Not to mention the villain, his wife and his henchmen.
I already am juggling a lot of characters here, so keeping my focus on a handful of them is my best option, as my cast will expand even farther quite soon.
If I threw in a Lieutenant character for the sake of having a chain of command structure, it would bog the story down with a character who would have zero impact on the overall theme of the story.
Nor will including a Lieutenant character for the sake of military accuracy will help things much, I did have one, but they seemed redundant to the roles better served by my captain and commander characters.
All the lieutenant character I created did was say stock lines and served no critical role to the story, and again I am not going to shove them back in there for accuracy’s sake.
Sometimes you have to play with this sort of thing when writing fiction, sure having a stock character is fine now and then but the one I did have served little role other than an "okay men move out!" or a "yes captain!"
Basically, they were a glorified middle man with little to no impact than the occasional cameo or stock phrase.
He was not important, so I cut him out.

By comparison, my commander and captain characters are far more interesting.
But even they are minor characters in this scenario, despite their higher ranks the story still centers around my MC and his partner.
A typical chain of command story is not what I am aiming for, sure I do have some structure but it's not the main plot of this story nor its focus.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#13

Quote:Again we are not dealing with the army here, for people who are allegedly writers there is certainly a lack of reading round here.

I did only just finish a 16 klick road march the day before, so I had a lot of things to check and didn't have much time to go read. In any case...

If you want a paramilitary sort of story, then you should do away with making it seem like it's based on the actual military. If you want Officers and above to handle the admin (and if we pull parallels to irl, they do, but they still have other expectations to meet,) then deliver a better explanation. Sure, my Platoon Commander has to handle reports and other mundane matters over the course of my 18 weeks, but he also spent 9 months to earn the rank of an Officer. They also need the years n service to be promoted and so on and so forth. If your 2LT isn't even going to get experience by being placed behind the desk, why is the PMC having him slog through two years and shovel even more shit to sit behind a desk?

Here's what I'll say. If you really want to keep a tight cast and still deliver results, consider pushing around with something called "Military Experts." This rank structure is, as far as I can remember, only in the SAF, and applies to specific jobs that they handle. Alternatively, if the Officer IC really wants to make use of the person's intellect, then write it with that Officer in charge of the operations. If he questions the MC and the MC gives the correct answers, then that's that. But if there's things that can go better, go for After Action Reports. Debriefs always happen after a mission or conduct. That's always a good place to start questioning decisions rather than in the midst of things where you can get shot.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#14
Hierarchy =/= Military

Every military has a hierarchy, but other organizations do too. Whenever lives are on the line hierarchies are either involved or about to be. Security forces and police have hierarchies, but also firefighters. They 'fight' fire, but they do it with their lives on the line and so they need a hierarchy.

Why do they need one? Because when the chips are down and people start to panic and look somewhere for directions it's imperative that they know where to look. Your organization needs to follow a chain of command so that no matter how bad the situation gets, everyone knows at every point who's in charge and that this load is evenly distributed. Imagine a grunt asking a general for directions when combat gets rough. 

You've repeatedly said that you have an anti terrorist organization as your focus point and how it's completely different from a military. Like all the other commenters I don't see the point though. They fight against someone. They might die in the process. They need a hierarchy to function. All the examples and parallels to militaries are apt because they have the same kind of hierarchy that is to be expected in such a situation. 

You don't need to go for military accuracy, but if you don't care about that stuff I suggest to not use terms that are associated with the military. That means no privates, sergeants and lieutenants for you. You might go for junious, senior and special investigator for example. You can do with those terms whatever you want. Use military jargon and people will demand of you that you use them accurately. Let me show you:

MadmanRB Wrote: my commander and captain characters are far more interesting
Commander and captain will always remind people of the military. You've seen how every post compares your story to the military. That's the effect your word choices have. 

The thing here is, a commander is someone who has a command. If the circumstances call for it, I can even make a sergeant a commander by giving him a command over let's say three other men. A captain by comparison is a rank and needs to be an officer (in all situations I'm aware of). He can be an information officer and formally hold the rank of captain but have less men under his command than the sergeant from before. You'll introduce loads of confusion by using military terms and ranks when you do not want to be accurate with it.

Up until now you've valiantly resisted all feedback and told people that it's not a military story, but you still use all the trappings of one. Ignore the comments now and you'll receive the same complaints later, just in your comments and reviews. Don't underestimate how many people are very anal about this stuff. Your readers come from all over the world. Many of them come from countries with conscription, so you'll get loads of recruits and privates reading your story. One of them already wrote a comment in this very thread.

MadmanRB Wrote: So when they go into the dangerous situation, the commanding officer actually lets my MC take charge of strategy.

I think this is the crucial point. As ArDeeBurger already pointed out in the second post, this isn't going to happen. I concur.

At this point I'll have to explain what holding a command actually means, because I'll assume you've never held one. The thing about being in charge is that you never see the whole picture. You don't know what the 'enemy' plans, where they are, how the engagement will go. Anything can go wrong. People may die under you. If you see combat that 'may' turns into a 'will'. You can play all your cards perfectly and it will still happen. You might be the best damn commander your organization has ever seen, but if someone under your command dies that's on you. It's your responsibility. You'll go to the funeral of course. 

This is why not everyone's fit to hold a command where lives are at stake. This is especially why you don't go with someone else's plan. If it goes wrong and it can, no matter how good it is, then you're responsible. If you produce a major fuck-up, they'll call for your head. You might get a court martial. The excuse that it was someone's else plan will see you get reamed twice as hard. Excuses are an admission of both guilt and lack of character. 

There's also another reason of course:

Being a commander in combat situations is 10% knowledge- the strategies, tactics, etc. All the stuff you learn in schools and academies.
It's 30 % practice - with your men, your gear, knowing what works in the field and what doesn't.
And then 60 % experience + keeping a cool head when the situation gets dire. A bad commander with composure is better than a good commander who panics.

MadmanRB Wrote: Private: my MC's rank at the start of the story, he is fresh to this assignment but not to his organization.
Let's say your MC has batman level intellect. Let's see he's five times as smart as any other guy, even his commander.

10% knowledge x 5 = 50%

Through this horrendous appliance of misappropriated math I can therefore prove that your MC can only ever be half the commander his superior is. He doesn't know the team, the job or the enemy like his superior does. That knowledge and experience is irreplacable however. 

But enough about telling you why the way you've set your mind on writing this story doesn't work. Let's get to the good part: 

Solutions

1.) The chain of command is there in case people get incapacitated or die. Take the commander off the board and it's possible that your MC gets to take command, but only if he has the highest rank. If he's a fresh officer out of the Academy ™ his rank beats the seniority of the rest of the team. 

2.) Have the first arc be a training exercise. The commanding officer might be more or less an observer. This only works if there is no real risk involved if the MC messes up. 

3.) Remove large parts of the chain of command. Special forces (and an anti terrorist organization can fall into that perview) can be organized in an almost tribal fashion. It's possible that there are only grunts, team leaders and the task force commander. That allows you to cut out some characters that are only there for filling said chain. What's left of that chain is still iron clad, so you'll need to refer to solution 1 for that.

4.) I'm borrowing this from another poster, but it was excellent advice. Have him be a member of the regular police force who already managed to distinguish himself in the rank and file before being commissioned to the anti terrorist units. It allows him to already have some experience in the field, which will be helpful, but they still won't let him have a command, it only allows him to have some chops for when he does take over.

5.) Have him start as a grunt and introduce a short timeskip during which he went up the ranks. You don't have to show his rise at all, just leave out a few years if it's necessary. 

6.) Move away from larger organizations and have loads of single operatives work in tandem. This is best suited for heavily speculative fiction, because you can easily introduce why people would operate alone. This depends on them not working well in groups because they have some magic or superpower to justify that. In real life there are no lone warriors. 

No matter what happens, commanding other people is a privilege and a burden. It's one thing to have an incompetent bootlicker above you if you work in an office, but if it's life and death a commanding officer has to earn his position or he'll get sabotaged and pushed out. In vietnam they send fresh lieutenants to command a conscript army and the result was that they threw handgrenades into their tents to remove them. 


TL;DR: When lives are at stake hierarchies are omnipresent. Don't use military ranks if you don't want people to compare your fictional organization to the armed forces. Don't promote blue-eyed fresh meat to commanding positions if he hasn't earned it and think outside the box instead of bashing people over the head with it. Readers aren't inferior creatures beneath your mighty intellect and that's a fact. 

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#15
Ugh, I feel like I'm talking to walls here.
Look, I created my ranking system, so we can tell who is in charge during operations like the one that takes place during my stories inciting incident and to give my universe at least some semblance of realism.
But my goal was never to create a 1 to 1 ranking system to a military organization or anything of that sort.
I was not going to create another half dozen characters for the sake of 1 to 1 military accuracy, either.
If I was writing military fiction here, I would, but that is not the main genre of this story.
Yes it has elements of that genre but is not the driving force of this story.
I admit I took some creative liberties with how things work, but I am not going to go back and fill my story with a bunch of characters who will in the end serve no real purpose to the theme of my story.
They would be superficial and in the end would not add to anything of value outside creating better accuracy.
If I did so, my inciting incident would not happen until far later on because I would have to add in all these characters to fill in a ranking system quota.
And for what? Accuracy, when after this point such characters will not play a role in my story later on?
Such characters would serve no purpose to my narrative, and sometimes for storytelling purposes you have to make sacrifices to accuracy.
Yes, I have at least some structure to this organization, but for storytelling purposes I am cutting a few corners.
Otherwise, I would bog down my cast with a bunch of characters who exist merely to fill a realism quota and when I am not aiming for 1 to 1 accuracy for the structure I came up with.
It's more like 1 to 8 where for story’s sake I made some shortcuts.
Sure I want some level of realism and believability but only so much for the larger picture of my story.
I am not aiming for Tom Clancy levels or anything.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#16

MadmanRB Wrote: I came up with a scenario that I want some second opinions on.
Believability is something I know most people complain about these days, so I'm trying to apply some common sense here.

Are you asking for second opinions and is believability a concern or not? 

I'm getting the feeling you're asking for people to validate you, maybe pat you on the back and shell out a few compliments while they're at it?

I'll break this down real quick like: Someone with a command (no matter what organization or rank) won't defer to someone under said command in the circumstances you described. Your whole scenario does not work. 

Your attitude doesn't either. If you don't want advice that's fine, but don't go and be hostile to people giving you the feedback you asked for. 

You're throwing a lot of writing jargon around - I commend you for doing your research with due diligence - but you're not the master writer you seem to think you are. If you keep an open mind you might learn a lot of interesting stuff yet. 

Or you can always do it the hard way and have your readers and reviewers tank your ratings - they're the same people as the ones replying here after all.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#17
Ugh

fine then I will create 90 new characters to fill the ranks, make the story 800 times longer where the inciting incident doesnt happen until chapter 3000 while I bore people with a bunch of irrelevant characters just because my MC isnt fit to smell my captains farts.
You say my ratings would tank, wait until you see my MC file paperwork for the next 2000 chapters while nothing happens to him or the story.
Just boring procedure stuff despite my intended genre is science fiction/action and not military.
This is what happens when you have people with the square hole round peg mentality, heaven forbid have creative liberty for plot progression these days.
No every last minute must be known while at the same time people have the attention spans of gerbils.
So many bitching about accuracy yet cant take five goddamned seconds to read my statement this isnt a military story.

This is why we cant have good fiction anymore, suspension of disbelief is clearly dead with you lot.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#19
Look all I asked was if it was believable if a CO took advice from by my a novice or at least used my MC's advice to help.
I was not asking for military structure lessons, this organization is minor to my main plot.
Its there for set up and while they will return later do not play a key role in the story.
Not until way later on as my MC will diverge from their organization soon.

Re: Believable character interaction: Commanding officer and the new officer

#20
MadmanRB Wrote: fine then I will create 90 new characters to fill the ranks, make the story 800 times longer where the inciting incident doesnt happen until chapter 3000 while I bore people with a bunch of irrelevant characters just because my MC isnt fit to smell my captains farts.

Sure, let's spin around in the mud a bit, I have the time for it. 

For starters, if you want to argue, don't start with a logical fallacy, to be more precise this one:
Quote:In classical logic, the false dichotomy, or false dilemma, is defined as an argument where only two choices are presented yet more exist, or a spectrum of possible choices exists between two extremes. False dilemmas are usually characterized by “either this or that” language but can also be characterized by the omission of choices.

Nobody's telling you to fill the ranks. You jumped to that conclusion all by yourself. In truth you have an endless array of choices, sadly throwing a temper tantrum because the way you envisioned doesn't seem to work is one of them. 

If you want to let your readers know what an absolute genius your MC is because he read a few books and now everyone bends over backwards to accomodate them - go ahead. That isn't great storytelling though, that's just wish fulfillment. 

If your character is working within a hierarchy he's bound by its rules. Or you can create an organization that works through a different system, but then you have to put in the extra leg work of explaining how it works. You took the lazy way and appropriated the terms and ranks of a real life system without understanding how it works and now expect readers to swallow it up as if you hadn't just regurgitated it. 

There's no need for paperwork, but as a writer you're either true to life or producing some cheap wish fulfillment fantasy. Being in command means that other people put their lives in your hands. I don't know what kind of people you met, but I wouldn't put mine into the hands of a private who read a few books. Real people don't do that, so it follows that if your characters do that, they aren't close to being real - they are plot devices to show how important and great the protagonist is.
MadmanRB Wrote: This is what happens when you have people with the square hole round peg mentality, heaven forbid have creative liberty for plot progression these days.

This is a great way of putting it, I honestly didn't think you self reflected enough to understand the deeper cause of this ... 'episode'. You see, in this little allegory, the ranks and files of real life organizations are the round peg and your story is the square hole. Your word play here is astute, congratulations.

What's more, you  have all the creative liberty you could ever want, including the liberty to construct a trainwreck. Writing in some cardboard cutouts to lick the spittle off your MCs boots doesn't work, which is why I advise you to use your creative liberty to find one of the ways that actually serves your purpose.
MadmanRB Wrote: No every last minute must be known while at the same time people have the attention spans of gerbils.

Who are you writing for? If you're writing for yourself anything goes. If you're writing for an audience you'll have to accomodate them or they won't want to read your story. That's how life works. No one's lining up to read your book just because you wrote it. You're unique and special - but so is literally everyone else.

I also wouldn't put myself so far above others if I were in your shoes. Even if you were smarter than everyone else you wouldn't be better than them or in a position to make judgments and you've given me no indication that are. 

MadmanRB Wrote: So many bitching about accuracy yet cant take five goddamned seconds to read my statement this isnt a military story.

How about you don't put military ranks into the story then? Who do you think put that notion into our heads in the first place? Why does everyone draw parallels to the armed forces? Could it be that maybe that was you? 

Call them investigators or whatever and the bitching about accuracy will stop. That will afford you some quiet to contemplate all that bitching about flawed storytelling that will follow.
MadmanRB Wrote: This is why we cant have good fiction anymore, suspension of disbelief is clearly dead with you lot.

Rude, especially since the only thing dead here is that cadaver you dragged in. If you honestly think that what you outlined here belongs anywhere close to good fiction you're more optimistic than I gave you credit for. 

Suspension of disbelief isn't just given freely. It's earned by an author. If you give your work a proper name and a fitting cover artwork that's the first bit of trust. They'll read your synopsis and if it's well done the first chapter. If you fuck up anywhere along the way the WSoD is retracted. People acting completely out of character to validate your MC is one of those fuck-ups. Using real life terminology in an incorrect manner is another. 

I mean, what is your goal here? If you want to prove something - your actions have spoken loud enough already. If you want to learn something - don't argue and if you're looking for a fight? Try to put up more of a challenge, arrogance makes for easy target practice.