Not Just for Kids

Last night, I drove to Charlotte to attend John Claude Bemis’ presentation on writing children’s books. Mostly, I went to accompany a friend who has written one. My assumption was that the discussion would interest her far more than it would interest me.

I was wrong. Bemis’ message was universal to all genres and ages. Children’s books, he said, are about self-discovery, in which kids are trying to figure out themselves and the world round them. Well, aren’t we all in this boat together—trying to figure things out? And isn’t that what most fiction is about?

In a typical novel, the protagonist is a flawed person who needs something, even if that person is not sure what it is. What the characters says they want, and what they really need are usually different. The need is usually a primal desire: love, acceptance, recognition, revenge, etc. The characters’ strengths and flaws are revealed through the story as they try to fulfill that desire. In the process, true character is revealed and self-discovery takes place for them, as well as the readers.

Enid, my protagonist, is working through some “issues” from her past, while dealing with family dynamics. She is trying to figure herself out, as well as the world around her. Through this process, I’ve learned a lot about her … and about myself.

Being Forgotten

We all fear being forgotten whether we admit it or not. The next time you’re in a cemetery, take a look around at the elaborate headstones and mausoleums. Memorial providers make big bucks “pre-planning” funerals, burials, and other ceremonies because many people want to manage the way they are remembered.

Being forgotten after death is one thing, but what happens when you’re forgotten while you’re still alive? When people retire or lose their jobs for other reasons, they often feel “invisible” or irrelevant. While some people rejoice at fading into obscurity, others launch into charity work, write a book, or take other actions to retain their relevancy. This need to remembered is a human, universal reaction to a change in our environment. 

In Murder in Madden, both Enid and Jack feel forgotten. How does this drive the actions they take? You’ll find out when you read the book.