Dakota Bjornsen

Cicada Days
Winner
Joined: March 27th, 2015, 4:13 am

May 11th, 2015, 7:04 am #1

Name: Dakota Bjornsen
Gender: Male
Age: 17
Grade: Senior
School: Cochise High School
Hobbies and Interests: Psychology, language, academia, business and management, writing, journalism, visual art.

Appearance: Dakota is a Caucasian-looking male, 6'1" and weighing 158 pounds, with little muscle, most of his weight being in stubborn fat. His body type is mostly flat, without much muscle to speak of, in a few places like his lower ribs the skin clings to bone. He has a very sharply angular body, with broad shoulders and a flat butt giving him a swimmer-like build. His limbs are noodle-like in comparison to an average man his age, long and thin and with bony elbows and knees.

His face is softer, somewhat girlish. His hair is short, naturally brunette and styled into a scruffy and textured updo reminiscent of bedhead that leaves a somewhat oblong forehead exposed. Despite his long face and similarly long nose he has plush cheeks and something of a natural blush, along with thick lips for a man. His chin is fairly well defined, square and cleft. His eyes are a piercing blue, large and further accentuated with bushy and dark haired eyebrows that stand out against his milky skin. He has somewhat crooked teeth as he's never had orthodontic work done, they have a fairly noticeable overbite and one of his canines grew in awkwardly, creating a slight gap in his smile.

He wears poor quality thrift store long-sleeves and jeans, sometimes preferring khakis for a pseudo-casual business look. He mostly sticks to neutral colors as he doesn't have the visual eye for anything stronger, earthy tones for his shoes as well like browns and blacks.

Biography: Dakota is the son of the younger of two brothers born in a large clan of Danish-Norwegian immigrants based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The elder brother Anders was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston while Dakota's father Erik was far less stand out in school and attended ASU only under familial pressure. Here Erik met the girl of his dreams, Dakota Hegel, a young and well-read girl hoping to go into science. A youthful romance blossomed between the two, and by their Sophomore year in 1996 Dakota was pregnant.

The pregnancy was unplanned and had disastrous implications for both of their future careers. Erik immediately fell into shame with his family back in Albuquerque, communication was broken off and no aid would be forthcoming. Erik tried to appeal to his elder brother for aid but Anders was also entangled in financial troubles and the two could only offer one another moral support. No help could be expected from Dakota's immediate family, and her extended family lived abroad and didn't have much contact with her. Dakota and Erik were determined to keep their precious child and make it work, so they did what research they could and moved to Kingman for the relatively lower cost of living, applied for government aid while Erik held temp agency jobs that could keep them afloat. They lived in public housing apartments, ate poor quality meals to subsist, Erik virtually eating nothing at times so that his pregnant girlfriend could stay as healthy as possible.

That particular consideration ultimately ended up being pointless. Dakota developed a peripartum cardiomyopathy in the final stages of her pregnancy and blood pressure complications caused by the condition and delivery meant Dakota Hegel was declared dead August 15 of 1997, not even a day after giving birth to her son. Erik was devastated, but knew he had to remain strong for the sake of his newborn son. He singly chose the name Dakota for the boy, a painful reminder of what Erik had lost. With some assistance from a sympathetic community, careful management of government aid, and ever-important moral support from his brother maintained through government-assistance phone services via the Lifeline program, Erik tentatively constructed a single-father household. Through patience and diligence he was able to acquire regular jobs as a medical transcriber for a local clinic and as a laborer for a local construction company despite his lack of school credentials, using DES Childcare to provide care for his growing son despite his long work hours and on-the-job training requirements.

Dakota for a lot of his formative years witnessed his father struggling to make ends meet. Dakota was a benificary of Early Head Start and was able to go to preschool, where he was seemingly no different from most of his peers. He was a curious young child, and Dakota often had precocious questions which his preschool teachers couldn't answer. When he asked his father at night Erik would point him to his late mother's library of works- the duo had been planning to sell them for extra funds but after Miss Dakota's death Erik couldn't bring himself to touch them- which the young Dakota was absolutely taken by, as far as his young mind could comprehend the high level concepts. Erik was there as best he could be to provide assurance for his son, provide the critical connections that Dakota would need growing up, virtually from birth.

Dakota benefited from community goodwill, and a naturally extroverted personality encouraged him to make good friends in preschool and after school, as he was as a young child also fond of playing out on the streets as most are. The parents of the children he met were typically aware of Dakota's home situation, and did Erik a kindness by providing for Dakota, opening their homes to the friendly child when his father was still at work. Dakota had good exposure to other cultures and lifestyles, had all manner of parental figures to look up to, and he was the sort of child who would be grateful and engaged whether in the home of a friend in similar circumstances to him or one with significant wealth. Quite a few of Dakota's closest friends are ones he made while in these early years, and he grew up with a strong community identity and never developed strong bigotries or prejudices as he owed so much to such a wide variety of people.

A noteworthy condition was found while he was undergoing state-mandated vaccinations to enter the preschool. Covered by state aid the vaccinations were financially no issue. Dakota was no more nervous than any other child would be in the week waiting up to the shots, but when in the clinic proper he reported feeling dizzy upon seeing the needle. Despite doctor's reassurances Dakota promptly fainted from a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate at the moment the needle pierced his skin. Dakota was determined to have a rather severe hemophobia, a fact confirmed later that month when happening upon a violent TV movie at a friends house also triggered a fainting spell. Dakota's hemohobia also translated as it does in many cases into general medical phobias such as a fear of needles and of seeing practitioners. While Dakota was mostly a loyal and obedient child Erik had to sternly force his son into his doctor's and dentist's appointments and Dakota would always feel faint even when assured no bloodwork would be involved. Delivering necessary vaccines would consistently be an exercise in patience to ensure that Dakota didn't pass out while receiving the shot or immediately after, or at least mitigating the damage by making sure he was seated and could be caught by a nurse when the shot was administered.

Soon after Dakota entered Kindergarten his teacher would make notes in parent-teacher conferences that Erik was only sometimes able to attend about how Dakota was an excellent and inquisitive student, with strong grasp of all the subjects covered but an especially strong grasp of English skills, citing a writing level several grades higher than average. Dakota as a child enjoyed writing, and had a smattering of typically childish stories and novellas that he would work on at nights when away from friends and school.

During early parent-teacher conferences his Kindergarten teacher also voiced concerns that Dakota had been callously using his life story in the form of his dead mother as a way to win arguments or gain sympathy. Due to how well Dakota had been raised by the community and his father his link to his dead mother was tenuous, especially given that Dakota had never known said parent in the first place, only her absence. Erik would take the time to gently encourage Dakota of the importance of his deceased namesake, of the wonderful person her mother had been. It was a cathartic experience for Erik to dredge up memories that had once been painful for his son's sake, and Dakota developed through his father's ministrations a strong sense of family loyalty, one that further reinforced his bright community ideals and made him into a socially aware, tactful, and charming young man. Blessed with a brain wired for speech and wit in addition, even from a young age Dakota was noted to be charismatic. Social pragmatism such as the example of his using his dead mother as a conversational tactic was stamped out of him at this age, Dakota was molded into a young boy who refused to lie or cheat, compelled by the need to honor his mother's spirit and what she stood for.

Dakota also quickly learned of his place in the world. As nice and fair as he was he would also still suffer some bullying as most all children do, being teased and taunted for his girlish name and lack of social status. Dakota learned to take the moral high ground and ignore bullies for the sake of his father's ease of mind, and most who would pick on him stopped quickly and sometimes were even won over as more friends and acquaintances. However Dakota's developing sense of honor meant he couldn't let his father struggle alone. He'd already been naturally helpful around the house but now he took to the effort to help his overtaxed father out consciously. As difficult as it was for a six or seven year old boy to struggle with brooms and mops twice his size he would work at it to the best of his ability, turning down dates with friends because he insisted he had to help around the house. His stubbornness sometimes caused more messes than it created and it took him a while to learn a sense of prudence and restraint, but Erik still greatly welcomed the help.

Dakota would gain a good knowledge of how things worked by helping his father fix often faulty cheap appliances around their apartment, especially as Erik continued to build a resume and references and move up to bigger and better jobs they would soon become ineligible for aid and fell into a more median bracket of 40 through 50K and moved to a new, ostensibly worse apartment where they have lived since. Dakota also learned to cook, a fairly bland selection of dietary choices due to price considerations, but Dakota and Erik were not especially picky and Dakota benefited from the plainness of their chosen diet as he grew up, as it was hearty and developed him well.

Dakota also felt a strong obligation to help out by making money, and this would be the beginning of a long-standing entrepreneurial spirit in the youngest Bjornsen male. Dakota's outgoing nature helped him significantly in this regard, he was able to get good advice from teachers and friend's parents that built a basic sense of business skill, a talent he naturally understood since he was a child who was good with people. It also helped him, naturally, with marketing. He started out by selling stories he'd write for cents, a sort of pseudo-anthology that his diligence kept to a weekly publishing schedule, professional behavior surprising for a boy his age. His subject material was typically loosely based off people he knew, a work that parodied teachers and friends with fair humor and wit considering his age. Sometimes crass, but usually effective. He had a fair market netting him a few dollars a week that Erik encouraged him to save, and the occasional critique from a parent or peer was one he would take to heart, hurt, but the sort who knew how to improve himself in response to judgments instead of shutting down. Dakota was building a healthy work ethic for his age. The serial would last for a year before Dakota considered the serial done, and inspire future artistic endeavors down the road.

While the Bjornsens were building up a decent base of capital and had far less months in a year where budgets had to be pinched to the penny in order to make it through, want of money still made for the spurring of most luxuries. Dopamine-based medicines that could have helped Dakota with his severe phobia of blood were deemed not worth the resources, first by Erik and then Dakota himself when he was around 12, where he was deemed old and mature enough to have a say in the family budget. Thus Dakota was always the sort who had to shuffle out in dignified embarrassment whenever violent movies came on. Dakota never really got into video games and watching shows except what his friends showed him when he'd be over, which was less frequently during a lot of his later elementary and middle school years as he took on more responsibilities in the home. He'd be left out of some conversations concerning pop culture among his school friends as a result, as he simply didn't have the time or resources to keep up with some of his friend's more leisurely hobbies. Even when the Bjornsens bought their first home computer and TV with a bit of saved up money when Dakota was 12 they were mostly used by the young man for school work and watching news and educational television respectively. He had to be coerced by friends into having an email and Facebook, and it's usually hard to reach him through either. He is fairly good with his phone and keeping up with texts, but it's notably a years old brick phone instead of a smartphone, as Dakota never saw the need in upgrading.

The later half of Dakota's final year in middle school, before his 14th birthday, big news came from his Uncle Anders. The two brothers and their respective families had kept in contact regularly, though each side was busy handling their own respective lives and thus weren't up to that point the closest. Anders had finally had a big break through in the music industry, and was now touring the country along with his family that summer as a guest DJ at clubs across the country, including one in Phoenix. Dakota finally got to meet elements of his extended family, including a curious girl a few years younger than him named Mara, Anders' daughter. Eccentric but friendly and a precociously brilliant artist, Mara and Dakota became famously friendly very quickly. Anders' physical reunion with his brother also came with very welcome news, since Anders was now making big money he had no intention of leaving his younger brother behind. Erik was proud but at the same time realistic, and along with Dakota's well-received approval a monthly check was established, so that Erik could quit one of his two jobs and return to school, taking classes in Mohave Community Collage to establish a stronger and better paying career.

Dakota however, still had that entrepreneurial spirit burning strong in him, along with a healthy amount of ambition and positive reinforcement from his friends. Together with Mara he launched a webcomic in the summer of 2011, her artistry along with his writing and fledgling business sense. The series would take a full year to get off the ground, with plenty of stumbles including the occasional no-show or drama spat from planned guest artists or writers pulled from Cochise's expansive pool of talent over the course of his Freshman year. His lack of internet savvy meant he needed to call in favors to get the site designed, along with maybe another few favors owed for a crash course in website management so the administrative aspects of the site were within his control. Since then Dakota has become skilled with computer work, bugging friends to teach him at least the basics as it would be highly prudent to his future plans.

Dakota revealed himself to be merciless and harsh as a boss, even for a relatively low-key endeavor such as this, he was strict on deadlines and warranted no excuses. He was fair and rewarding of good work, but harsh. His strong social standing took some hits as a result and he became a more polarizing figure than he had been in the past as he alienated some former friends. He took his new position in the school's social order in his stride, keeping his hurt feelings to himself and ignoring those who turned their backs on him as he built his social circle anew in Cochise. Dakota also received some humbling, as feedback from online circles revealed that his writing style was not up to snuff for making the comic a success. His humor was considered archaic and irrelevant, a consequence of Dakota's lack of time or patience for following pop culture trends.

While he could have put in the time to improve as he was accustomed to doing in the past he was also taking on a part time job the moment he was 16 to pay for the comic's server and fund excursions with friends. With a lot of input from his friends and Mara he eventually made the call to remove himself from his writing position, creating a salaried writing position- paid for out of his own pocket at first- for someone in Cochise and eventually allowing the comic to break even from merchandise and advertisements, both sourced from non-contract abiding online sources as none of the kids involved in the venture were legally members of a corporation. Dakota considers this pursuit a stepping stone and experiment leading into future business endeavors, it lasted two years before being wrapped up and only attracted enough attention to personally boost the credentials of those involved along, and Dakota never personally made any profit off the project, with the little money the comic made being siphoned into the relatively minor pay of those in his employ and hosting costs. The comic was a conversational point and remains one to this day, Dakota humbly prides himself among his friends as an excellent talent scout and manager.

While he ran this project his academic and social life remained strong, he maintained good grades as his mind was well trained from many years of reading the collage-level texts of his deceased mother. His interest in academics is strong naturally, even without the beyond-the-grave influence of his mother, and he had an especial interest in psychology, which he's already taken as an elective in his Junior year. He's always enjoyed people, relied on them a lot as sounding boards and moral support for his own schemes and ideas, and he finds the concept of decoding the human brain fascinating. He's already sent out his applications to schools, mostly in state as he's hoping for in-state tuition to be fully covered by scholarships his friends assure him he'll get for his impressive extracurricular such as starting a business. He thinks especially highly of going to ASU, on a practical level it's a strong research collage for a motivated person like himself, and he's also impressed by the associated familial history. He's already started planning out possible research papers and has started his own personal Senior project.

Made possible so far by his popularity and speaking ability, Dakota has been privately interviewing a lot of his friends in extreme depth, the sort of life probing done in these profiles for example. Some of the results he has published with permission of the interviewee in Cochise's newspaper, which he has taken an interest in writing for as of his Senior year, once more inspired to take up to writing even though his last attempt in life was rather harshly rejected. The interview consists of questions that he hopes have been worded to provide deep psychological insights that he plans to study in a cross-section in his Freshman year of collage. He's not the sort who will lie about the purpose of the paper, and he's been rejected by a fair number of people who he's asked for interviews for various reasons, but he's working on building up what he believe will be a good number for study.

He's also highly interested in language, feeling that there is a good body of classics and scientific publications he misses out on by not being bilingual. Dakota struggles with language like no other subject, he personally speculates that his skill in English makes it hard for him to learn other languages in an effective manner by retooling his mind. French II is the only class he's so far had to repeat, and he often sounds especially stilted trying to put together sentences in contrast to the others in his class at his level. As of Senior year he's still struggling with his lingual skills, but he has confidence that he'll eventually be able to read classics written in French without needing a translation, perhaps with more focus in his collage years.

The stress of his academics doesn't seem to be great on the surface, however Dakota has always been a bit less stable under the surface than he seems. Confidence is important for him, and he exudes it when talking to his friends. At all times when talking to others he maintains a certain quality that avoids discussing his own problems. When he discusses himself it's always about his plans and queries for feedback on them, and he's usually more of a listener anyways. Problems like feeling slighted by certain friends or the stress from his routine is kept shut inside, as he feels that is how an effective leader works, focusing more on those under him than himself. For the first three years of high school it went very well.

However the stress of not communicating his grievances eventually reached the point where he developed an extreme habit to deal with them. He feels calmer, more in control of his own quiet struggle when he doesn't eat. It's not much of a body image issue, or at least it used to not be, but sometimes the cycling of no food for up to a week at a time would trigger a depressive state as a result of not having enough food that would make the state even worse. Eventually Dakota will eat at least for a time, but he doesn't eat much and psychologically feels awful for 'giving in'. It's become a destructive personal challenge for him, one that allows him to feel that ever important sense of ownership of himself and progression towards a goal that drives him strongly. Dakota's anxiety-induced eating disorder is a rare case of him lying thorough omission, since his condition is not yet severe enough for him to lose severe amounts of weight. He feels it is a personal struggle, one that would merely cause others more trouble than it's worth, so he keeps it as his sole guarded secret. The stress of lying when he's not that sort of person further exacerbates the mood spikes the condition makes him suffer. So far he mostly keeps his episodes of non-eating for a few days of a week before finally eating when the fatigue becomes too strong for him to function. Even if not expressed at potentially lethal levels yet the disorder already makes Dakota severely unhealthy, where he once had a toned body due to intensive housework and a good diet he now has little muscle and is out of shape as he often no longer has the energy to do physical work around the house or in school, often focusing on his academics even through the now frequent headaches and periods of irritability.

He also tentatively began to understand some of his own tendencies as maturity and age led him to more self-introspection in the rare times he had a quiet hour of doing nothing to himself. One thing he noted, something friends had pointed out to him before, was his strong social dependency. All the major decisions in his life, from his early childhood exploits to webcomic project to his Senior project were always made with feedback and input from his father, friends, and now extended family members like Anders and Mara. He also noted that the anxiety that triggered his anorexic episodes was especially strong when he was working alone, even with tricks like leaving the TV on- which he was loathe to do because it wasted electricity- he'd feel worse when not talking to someone in person. He's started spending all his free time at the school or at friend's houses again, just to have people around.

Last winter there was a communication from the Albuquerque body of the family, who Dakota had only been aware of through bitter words from his father. While Dakota was aware of the painful history he believed that it was in everyone's best interests to attempt to reconcile and rebuild the family once more and Erik, who had very little reason to not respect his son's ideas, was eventually compelled into agreement. That winter break both the Bjornsen brothers and their family and children spent time in the large house where Dakota's paternal grandparents lived. Time had mellowed them out into being far less harsh and vindictive, they only had wonderful thoughts for the duo of their attractive and talented grandchildren. Dakota somewhat smoothly played the role of a mediator, helping get difficult conversations rolling and pushing Erik and his grandparents into slowly coming to terms with their rocky history. There was quite a bit of argument and general difficulty in managing the few weeks spent, but they seemed to do everyone involved quite some good. It was here where Mara would be the first to learn of Dakota's eating habits, through innocent persistent curiosity when Dakota excused himself from the dinner table early despite protests citing a lack of appetite. It's also here where Erik would figure out the logical conclusion of some discrepancies in the food stocks back in the house, however he has yet to feel he has the grounds to truly confront his only son on the matter, as he trusts almost too much in his son's independence and maturity.

In general Erik and Dakota have a still strong relationship, but one that is growing more quiet as Erik's life is becoming distinct from his sons. His time in school has gone well, though it took a year extra due to still keeping long hours at his primary job, and he now has an associates in electrical technology from Mohave, which he hopes to translate into a local business with plans drafted together with his son. He's also transparent about his planned return to the dating scene with Dakota moving on to collage. While Dakota does support his father he's also rather broken up about it inside, with how important his mother's legacy is to him. However he has not brought these grievances up with anybody, and maintains a radio silence which Erik assumes means all is clear for him to proceed. Dakota once more lies through omission, something he is rather worried he has been doing too much as of late.

Mara is an unusual relationship for Dakota, his cousin is a girl he's very close to despite some significant differences. She's his sole 'safety valve' a person who knows things about him nobody else does and someone he can turn to in times of personal crisis. She's one of his main sources of artistic motivation and discourse, and is also one of the main persons that keeps him actually checking his social media on a somewhat regular basis. The two intend to work together again at some point, when Dakota is firmly established in collage and has a job at his new school to support a new business venture.

In school Dakota remains the friendly and intelligent young man, not to everyone's taste in appearance or demeanor but fairly established and well-liked. He's a bit bland to talk to if one doesn't share an interest, since his reference pools outside of what he's talented in are quite lacking. However he's loyal and dependable, with a large intolerance for bullying and lying, and a lot of people in the school with any sort of history with him will find him a good friend to have around. He's the sort who will unquestioningly be a designated driver for a party and still be sober at the end of said party, even though he has developed a taste for whiskey in secret sampling with his father. He mostly does his own thing outside of school, meeting others independent of extracurricular. He's the sort who doesn't really go to sports activities or express school spirit unless an especially close friend requests he do so. With the girls he was the sort to always casually flirt and charm, and he's naturally chivalrous, but he is fairly guarded about actually making any sort of moves.

Advantages: He is good at working with others, naturally able to read moods and having a strong way with words that can be considered natural charisma along with good skills at managing and motivating at least certain types of individual people and small teams that he can get along with. His spirit is very strong, he has a lot of ambition and an entrepreneurial and adaptive spirit that will probably keep him sharp and motivated on the island. He's fairly popular in school, those who are his friends know he's loyal and dependable, and he'll have a good pool of potential allies.
Disadvantages: His hemophobia is likely going to make dealing with certain island situations incredibly dangerous and difficult due to his fainting response. He has a strong moral code and sense of honor which can either hinder him directly or cause him mental distress if he has to violate it. His eating disorder has put him out of shape and he will likely not be able to continue on physical activity for long, on top of potential mental and emotional imbalances it creates. His tendency to not communicate his own problems also adds emotional instability and may lead to potentially lethal communication issues. He's also very socially dependent for his full bravado and strength to make itself apparent, if alone his decision making capacity is very strongly impacted and he may become especially anxious and vulnerable.
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"C'mon! It's just a prank, bro."

- Memories - 1 - Pregame - 1 2 3 4
Unofficial Theme : 'When it's clear to everybody I'm always the last to know.'
Extra art by Mimi! (1)
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Sprite credit to Yugikun (Beryl Mahelona, Gyu-ri Christensen, and Demetri Fustcher) and Fenris (Charelle Chernyshyova, Ramsey Cortez, and Joanne Coleman).
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Character Relationships (no longer updated)
Hero | Swap
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B036 - Dead
(Adopted from Yugikun)
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"And you were the one looking to pick a fight. Don't complain when you don't get the one you want."
- Memories - 1 2 3 4 5 - Pregame - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 - Sadie Hawkins - 1 2
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"Hope that's good enough."
- Arsenal - Bag of dried chipotle chilies (LOST)
- Island - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
- Meanwhile - 1 2
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G047 - Dead
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"It's Tina."
- Memories - 1 - Pregame - 1 - Sadie Hawkins -
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"You're nothing."
- Arsenal - The 'Man Catcher' (LOST)
- Island - 1 2
- Meanwhile - 1
- ??? - 1
Sprite credit to Fenris (Ben Fields) and Yugikun (Tina Luz).
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 17th, 2015, 10:23 pm #2

Heya, Cicada! Dakota is a decent start, but he is DENIED pending some fairly extensive reworking and adjustment.

"Caucasian-looking" is a weird descriptor--is Dakota Caucasian or not? His bio suggests that he is, but the phrasing here leans the other way, indicating that he only looks Caucasian.

6'1" and ~160 pounds actually makes Dakota notably on the low end of weight, and most of the descriptions seem to line up with that, but the discussion of a lot of his weight being from fat doesn't quite gel for me; it'd be great if you either explained it (does his body store a lot of weight in one place?) or cut it (if he's pretty thin but not muscular, we can infer where any excess comes from and the description itself actually confuses the matter a bit here).

How short exactly is Dakota's hair? Short and long are pretty vague descriptors, and a bit more detail is useful to better get a clear picture of him.

"Academia" isn't exactly a hobby, at least not as presented here; what appeals to Dakota seems to be the information, rather than the trappings of university life, with which he has no real experience.

Arizona State University is a decently respected college, so I'm a bit confused by Hegel hoping to go into science. Is she not already able to study/major in it for some reason? Do you mean as a career?

If Hegel had little contact with her family, how was she paying for school? Why was this contact so limited? 1997 offered plentiful opportunities for contact even with those abroad. I'm also confused by Erik's family's reaction. Why was a child such a big deal to them? Were there no other options (marriage, say) to get around their objections? Why, in light of this, were the couple so determined to keep the child? Why didn't they try to get into contact with Hegel's family for help? Kingman is also a double-edged sword as a place to move; while the cost of living may be lower, so is the opportunity, and it means leaving behind all their established support networks/jobs/friends in Albuquerque.

I'd like a bit more information on Hegel's death, because again it's quite unusual. Peripartum cardiomyopathy is something that my research indicates is treated fairly aggressively when discovered and actually has a really good (98%) survival rate. I'm again wondering where her parents were during this time. Also, did his parents not lighten their stance at all in light of the situation? It's really unusual a reaction.

What sorts of precocious questions was Dakota having? I'm also more than a bit skeptical of a preschooler reading college-level science textbooks with any approaching comprehension and lasting interest. In preschool, most kids are just getting the most basic ideas of how to read. I'd like this delved into much more deeply, made less improbable due to, perhaps, his father boning up on the issues and explaining them to him, moved a little later so that he's a bit older, or ideally a combination of all three.

Dakota's fear of blood/needles could use a bit of expansion/elaboration. Right now, the setup is odd, because he's freaking out as soon as seeing the needle most likely without any idea of what the needle is going to do. More than that vaccinations typically draw a very minor amount of blood at most; they're more about putting things into the system. The magnitude of Dakota's reaction also strikes me as a bit over the top and cause for significant concern. If he's fainting every time he's exposed to blood, what happens if a classmate gets a bloody nose, or he falls and scrapes his knee? Collapsing can also lead to very severe injuries, and seems like something that would be taken seriously and looked into at great length.

I'm a bit confused by Dakota being teased for his name, because Dakota is actually a gender-neutral name. In fact, until 2010 Dakota was a name more common among boys than girls (while the data I found only goes back to 2000, it is also anecdotally accurate to my experience, as every Dakota I met growing up was male).

Even for someone growing up in difficult circumstance, Dakota seems really precocious in a way that strikes me as oddly unshakable. I'm fine with him trending towards these developed behaviors and attitudes early, but I feel like he's solidified as a person at seven years old to a far greater degree than almost anyone does, and I'd like to see the timeline pushed back a little and the magnitude perhaps dialed down a bit.

$40-50,000 is actually doing really well for a single-parent household in Kingman, and should in no way represent a step down from the life they enjoyed with government aid--in fact, it would likely open up far more options to them. That level of income is enough to sustain a solidly middle-class lifestyle with a larger family in a more expensive place, especially for just two people. I'd also like to know what Dakota's father was doing to make such money. This comes up frequently throughout the profile as a cause of Dakota's relative poverty, and it just wouldn't be; median income means it falls exactly in the middle, and thus Dakota's family is statistically probably doing better than half of his peers. More than that, some of the degree of his poverty even before strikes me as a bit exaggerated. Old TVs can be had for under thirty dollars at thrift stores, and local programming was still widely available during the time he was growing up. Computers are pricier, but again, they are very much available even for people at the lower end of the income bracket. I've had friends on food stamps who had computers and TVs--not nice ones, but ones that got the job done.

Being good with people does not at all naturally translate to good business sense--there's a lot more to it, involving a lot of math and decision-making. I'd also like to know how old Dakota is when he writes his serial. The section could us ea bit of tightening in general--I'm not overly concerned with the content or quality unless it in some way reflects on Dakota as a character, especially since a lot of these things are subjective judgments being presented as facts.

Being a DJ, unless you're a really huge name, is actually less than $50,000 a year in most cases. Even on the high end, most don't touch $100,000, so the difference in income is unlikely to be as extreme as presented.

Why would Dakota choose a webcomic as a business endeavor? By the time we're talking, webcomics were a massively oversaturated field, meaning that the odds of pulling in notable income would be quite low, even for a high quality work. Coupled with almost no expertise in the field, and it seems the sort of project one might undertake for artistic purposes while using business sense to promote it/get it rolling, but as an entrepreneurial decision in itself it's quite a poor one.

Why did Dakota need so many other people working on his comic? Most webcomics are one or two person shows. Also, humor doesn't really become archaic unless it's rooted in referential/pop-culture-following humor.

What was Dakota's part time job?

If Dakota relied on his mother's books for over a decade, wouldn't a lot of his knowledge be out of date? Psychology especially has evolved significantly even over a brief span of time, and texts from the early nineties are likely to have notable deficiencies over a decade later. This is true to a greater or lesser degree of other subjects as well.

By this point, or certainly by the time of the abduction, Dakota should actually already know where he's going for college as a senior, since acceptance letters tend to trickle in around the time frame of pregame.

"Made possible so far by his popularity and speaking ability, Dakota has been privately interviewing a lot of his friends in extreme depth, the sort of life probing done in these profiles for example." <- this breaks formality and the reference to the profiles should be removed. Also, this sort of thing would be cause for extreme skepticism around school, because that sort of prying could go wrong incredibly easily. It's also something that would be of limited utility--interviewing one's own friends creates huge potential for bias and a poor sample size. More than that, to be accepted as valid this sort of study would typically require ethical oversight from an unbiased committee, something that would not be available to a high schooler.

Why did Dakota decide on French as his language of choice?

I'm having issues with Dakota's eating disorder. It's absolutely the sort of thing that would be quickly noticed since he lives in a two-person household with a family that's spent a lot of time on a budget. This means there's just no way his father won't notice that no food is disappearing, and a whole lot quicker than where it finally does come up. More than that, the reaction itself is quite odd; it's wholly unrelated to his problems, destructive in a way that he'd absolutely know about, and something that will be apparent in a hurry. Going from toned to weak and sickly isn't something that can be hidden. I'm really not sold on this element right now, and I'd like to see it either retooled to better be something he could get away with/something less extreme, or removed.

How would Dakota develop such a severe social dependence when a good chunk of his early life would involve him spending time alone/in the company of a small group of people? Why is it so extreme? Where does it come from?

Dakota's disadvantages all come in one bundle at the end of his profile, and that sort of raises a larger issue I'm having with him: he's really good at almost everything and the flaws he have read more as afterthoughts or additions that don't really tie into his profile or have any effect on him outside of the paragraphs centered on them. I'd like to see this retooled, with a focus on toning down his unusual excellence to something a bit more grounded, working in some of his issues in a more natural way and maybe adding one or two more things that give him trouble, and generally adding more range wherever possible.

On a related note, which may be part of what's causing this impression: Dakota's bio is almost exclusively about the abnormal events in his life. I don't know who his friends are, why he likes writing, what he's generally like in school. I'd like to see some of the focus moved more in this direction.

Dakota's advantages and disadvantages sections could use some polishing too, but most of that will be in response to the other changes mentioned above. I'd suggest working on retooling his bio first, and then adjusting these sections accordingly.

The big take-aways here:

Dakota's birth leaves a lot of questions regarding his family situation and the unusual extremity of the reactions; I'd like to see that fleshed out without ballooning the section too much, since the focus of the bio is Dakota himself.

Dakota's profile is full of extremes, from his fear of blood to the level of his precociousness to the solidity of his identity and ethic to his stress reactions, and I'd really like to see these things dialed down a bit and a little more complication and nuance added.

Dakota's profile is similarly focused on abnormality, when what's most interesting, compelling, and useful going into the game is the normal parts of life. Can some of the focus be redirected, and some of the less important abnormalities smoothed out?

Also, some grammar stuff:

First off, a tense issue: the biography should almost always be in past tense ("Dakota did...." vs. "Dakota would do...") and that slips a lot. If there's a specific area where you're intentionally shifting with a purpose in mind, that may be fine, but if in doubt use past tense for the bio, and present tense should be used for Appearance, Advantages, and Disadvantages.

"His body type is mostly flat, without much muscle to speak of, in a few places like his lower ribs the skin clings to bone." -> "His body type is mostly flat, without much muscle to speak of; in a few places, like his lower ribs, the skin clings to bone."

"He has somewhat crooked teeth as he's never had orthodontic work done, they have a fairly noticeable overbite and one of his canines grew in awkwardly, creating a slight gap in his smile."
-> "He has somewhat crooked teeth as he's never had orthodontic work done; they have a fairly noticeable overbite and one of his canines grew in awkwardly, creating a slight gap in his smile."

"He mostly sticks to neutral colors as he doesn't have the visual eye for anything stronger, earthy tones for his shoes as well like browns and blacks. " -> "He mostly sticks to neutral colors as he doesn't have the visual eye for anything stronger, preferring earthy tones for his shoes as well like browns and blacks. "

"The elder brother Anders was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston while Dakota's father Erik was far less stand out in school and attended ASU only under familial pressure." -> "The elder brother, Anders, was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston while Dakota's father, Erik, was far less stand out in school and attended ASU only under familial pressure." (A quick grammar tip that helped me with this one when I was taught it in school: any time you directly name or address someone, commas go on either side, because sometimes without them the meaning can change. This is easy to remember with the phrase, "I helped my uncle, Jack, off his horse.")

"Erik would take the time to gently encourage Dakota of the importance of his deceased namesake, of the wonderful person her mother had been." -> "Erik took the time to gently explain to Dakota the importance of his deceased namesake, of the wonderful person she had been."

"Social pragmatism such as the example of his using his dead mother as a conversational tactic was stamped out of him at this age, Dakota was molded into a young boy who refused to lie or cheat, compelled by the need to honor his mother's spirit and what she stood for." -> "Social pragmatism such as the example of his using his dead mother as a conversational tactic was stamped out of him at this age; Dakota was molded into a young boy who refused to lie or cheat, compelled by the need to honor his mother's spirit and what she stood for."

"The two brothers and their respective families had kept in contact regularly, though each side was busy handling their own respective lives" -> "The two brothers and their respective families had kept in contact regularly, though each side was busy handling their own lives" (the second "respective" is redundant)

"break through" -> "breakthrough"

"and was now touring the country along with his family that summer as a guest DJ at clubs across the country" -> "and was touring along with his family that summer as a guest DJ at clubs across the country" (lots of redundancies trimmed)

"including a curious girl a few years younger than him named Mara, Anders' daughter." -> "including Anders' daughter, a curious girl a few years younger than him named Mara." (Original phrasing made it sound like her name was "Mara, Anders' daughter")

"Eccentric but friendly and a precociously brilliant artist, Mara and Dakota became famously friendly very quickly." (this one could just use some dialing back of the enthusiasm--it blows things out of proportion in the way I've commented on elsewhere and I think is a good indication of what to watch out for)

"Anders' physical reunion with his brother also came with very welcome news, since Anders was now making big money he had no intention of leaving his younger brother behind." -> "Anders' physical reunion with his brother also came with very welcome news: since Anders was now making big money he had no intention of leaving his younger brother behind."

"he was strict on deadlines and warranted no excuses." -> "he was strict on deadlines and accepted no excuses."

"Dakota struggles with language like no other subject, he personally speculates that his skill in English makes it hard for him to learn other languages in an effective manner by retooling his mind." -> "Dakota struggles with language like no other subject. He personally speculates that his skill in English makes it hard for him to learn other languages in an effective manner by retooling his mind." Also, this sort of speculation seems at odds with his interest in psychology, since it's totally unsupported by the science.

'giving in' and 'safety valve' should be retooled to avoid the quotation marks. A discussion of quotation marks in profiles may be found here; the cliff notes version is they introduce ambiguity and force interpretation on the reader without bringing anything to the table.

"as Erik's life is becoming distinct from his sons." -> "as Erik's life is becoming distinct from his son's."

Post when you've got that taken care of, and I'll give Dakota another look. Thanks!
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 24th, 2015, 8:56 pm #3

This character has been abandoned at the handler's request. It is eligible for resubmission at any time.
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