Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Sometimes I think I’m setting myself up for future hardship.  No, not in my writing.  We have a new toy truck at our house which, of course, means it has the undivided attention of both children.  We were taking turns with the truck, making sure each child had an equal opportunity to play with it. It worked really well. The screaming was decreased by half at least.  At one point, in the back of my head I heard a child’s voice say “But that’s not fair!”  And a future me saying “who said life is fair”  “You did, when you taught us to take turns”.  Now I’m not going to stop teaching my children to be nice, share and take turns, but am I giving them unrealistic expectations of life?  The only thing I can think of is that I’m trying to give them the skill set they need at this age.  In the future I’ll give them the skills they need at that point, including telling them that life isn’t fair and sometimes they just don’t get a turn. 

Then, as always, I started thinking about my characters.  We’re always told to put them up a tree and throw rocks at them.  We set them up for big disasters, usually while making them think they’re going to be ok.  Often we don’t feel bad about it.  We laugh maniacally and post on our blogs with glee what we do to them.  Often the idea is that the more unfairly our MC is treated the better the book.  Sometimes doing these things to our characters does hurt, just as if we were watching a child struggle, but we let them continue because we know they’ll be stronger in the end.  Maybe that’s why I’m trying to teach my children to share and take turns.  Because it well make them better people in the long run, even though they may have to learn to look at the world differently later.

I don’t really know where I was going with this, if anywhere.  Just some random thoughts.


  1. If we only teach our children to expect the lowest, common denominator for fear of setting up unreasonable expectations then life will never be higher than that. People live up (or down) to our expectations. I love a line from the movie "Man of La Mancha" (story of Don Quixote). It's Cervantes in prison trying to defend his little manuscript before he faces the Spanish Inquisition. He's told them most of his tale and the jury of fellow prisoners that he faces tries to prove that reality will win out. Cervantes says:

    I've been a soldier and a slave. I've seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I've held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" I don't think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams - this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.

    I LOVE that last sentence. For me, that says it all.

  2. Sara,
    Who said life was fair? As writers we create these characters from our imagination, we breathe life into them, we nurture/torture them because that's what readers want.

    Readers want to be taken away from their problems by reading something that could be worse than their own lives and even in the worst possible moments imaginable, the hero wins.

  3. Just cos you taught them to share doesn't mean you're the one that revealed that life isn't fair - I think you're right, that teaching them to be better people is precisely what'll help them deal with the unfairness of life. The more fair they are to others... well, do unto others, you know [g]
    This kills me though, because I really don't think I'm making my characters suffer enough...

  4. Donna, I love Don Quixote and I love that quote, thanks.

  5. Jo, I agree. Which makes it fun to write.

  6. Deniz I was always taught our actions are independent of what others do to us and that we can still be our best even if those around us aren't.

    what do you mean you don't do enough to your characters? I think you've made poor Rosa's life pretty hard. Just because it turns out well doesn't mean she doesn't suffer during the ahrd parts.

  7. There's always the "worst" scene in my books, and it's almost always the last one i write because I know it will totally, emotionally, drain me.

  8. Those are hard. I put it off until it's screaming in my ear and harder to keep in then pour it out.

  9. I hope she's suffering enough for readers to enjoy ;-)