Plotting Difficult Topics: Loss, guilt

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This is part of a series of posts on Plotting Difficult Topics

In Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking About Difficult Stories by Loren Niemi and Elizabeth Ellis, the authors recognize that how you approach a difficult subject can make huge differences in voice, POV, plot and resolution. They suggest 32 different approaches and this series of posts works out those approaches for the following scenario.

The Scenario: A girl watches her mother place a box of candy on the highest book shelf; the candy is meant as a birthday gift for the girl’s grandmother. The girl decides to sneak up and steal/eat some of the candy.

  • Loss, Guilt/Shame, Testimony
    From the moment I saw the box, I knew what would happen. Secretly, I watched Dad hid the box and knew he would make it as hard for me as he could. That was OK. I enjoyed the challenge.
    He left it on the table in plain sight until I was abed, and he thought I was asleep. Then, yes, then, he hid it while I watched, hiding so he wouldn’t see me. When he checked my room a moment later, he found me tucked in still asleep. So easy to fool him.
    So, when the candy was gone the next day, he never suspected me. Or rather, he suspected me, but had no idea how I had found it and no way to prove that I had done it.
    I should have felt guilty; instead, I was thrilled.
  • Loss, Guilt/Shame, Confession

    As soon as I fell, I saw my arm. It went along straight from my shoulders until just before my wrist. Then, there was a step down, a waterfall, an unnatural interruption of the long line of bone. Broken.
    Shock. No pain–yet.
    I jumped up and ran out the back door around the house to the front yard and there–finally–I allowed myself to scream: “I fell!”
    Mom and Dad came running.
    “Oh, Tom, she fell off the porch!”
    “It’s broken,” Dad said grimly. “Get the car.”
    “I tried to climb. I fell.” I tried to confess. I had run around the house to keep from confessing, but now, I wanted to , but no one listened. “I tried to climb. . .”
    Later, Dad told the doctor, “She was climbing up the porch and fell.”
    They never found out I was climbing the bookshelves to steal candy. I’m so sorry I never told them the truth.

  • Loss, Guilt/Shame, Therapy

    The shame of getting caught was bad enough. But then the demands started. It was blackmail and by my own sister. But I could do nothing but pay up. Week after week, she took my allowance, leaving me nothing.
    In the end, I realized that telling the truth would have been far less punishment than this.

  • Loss, Guilt/Shame, Transformation

    I could face the punishment–which was bad. I could face the shame–which made me hide in my room for a month. What I couldn’t face was the fact that I was a glutton.
    When I finally drew a gargoyle with my face and named it Glutton, it was the beginning of a true repentance, a true change. Naming the sin, it freed me. I could finally face it and start to make changes. I shed 150 pounds that year.

This is part of a series of posts on Plotting Difficult Topics

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