We read in order to learn how to face life’s challenges.
A book without challenges teaches us nothing.
The greater odds our hero faces, the more we learn from their success (or, to be fair, failure.)
I’ll confess that the young boy in my current work in progress is me, and I’m using the book to work through some childhood difficulties I’ve never been able to shake; nothing world-shattering, just the usual pains of being different and trying to grow up.
I’ll also confess that my impulse is to go easy, to smooth the path and create the life I wish I’d had.
But who’d read that?
We use the term “Pollyanna” for someone who’s always chipper, seeing the bright side, nothing gets ’em down.
Remember how that movie ends? Pollyanna carried off on a stretcher, paralyzed from the waist down, perhaps for life. It’s not about her happiness, it’s about how she faces adversity.
Pollyanna is a superhero of the first order, not because her life was peaches and cream, but because she chose to win by her attitude and reaction.
I’ve spent the past couple weeks identifying the strengths and desires and weaknesses and fears of the main characters in my book.
And finding the worst possible thing I can do to them, in the context of the story and setting (there’s a reality to observe here; we don’t insert nuclear destruction or death in a children’s story where the fear of abandonment or potential loss of a pet is fear enough for the age and setting.)
So, I’m off to wreak havoc on a perfectly happy family.