Friday, February 18, 2011

February being the month to think about Relationships, we Musers have been blogging about all kinds of connections, not just those Romantic Ones. I'm thinking I will talk about the way relationships shape our lives, and I'll use the characters in my upcoming book, WOUNDS, as examples.

Craig, the main character in the story, has all kinds of relationships, each bringing out a different angle of his personality. The first influence of his life was his mother, a fun-loving woman who brought Craig up to be a pretty regular guy. It appears that Julia was the prop of the family because when she dies, Craig's dad, Charlie, falls apart. The dad allows his life to stagnate. He starts drinking heavily and when he does pay attention to Craig, it's to punch him around. If things had gone on as before, Craig would have been fine, but this new relationship changes him. In order to have some power, Craig takes his anger out on people at school. His life has taken on a different direction. (Most of this takes place back-stage, so to speak, as background to the story).

The peak of Craig's bad behavior is his attempt to cut down the giant tree belonging to his neighbors, the Arks. By this time, he is boiling with anger, grief, and frustration. This deed brings about a change in Craig's relationships. His old friend, Nelson Ark, is now wary of Craig. But even though Nelson has been hurt by Craig, he takes up for him at school. He helps Craig to forge new relationships.

Nelson's dachshund, Siegfried, strangely enough, takes Craig under his paw with a friendship that seems almost uncanny; at least Craig has one friend. I think you can relate to the human/pet relationship--most people can. We love our pets as members of the family. Sometimes it's the only unconditional love a person gets.

Nelson's parents, the owners of the tree, are less concerned about Craig's vandalism than about the fact than he might be taken from his father and put into "the system" where he will spiral further into crime. With the help of a Juvenile Court Judge and a Social Worker, the Arks take Craig into their home. Mrs. Ark becomes a mother substitute, while Mr. Ark remains aloof and mysterious, not quite a father figure, but someone for Craig to look up to.

Craig learns a lot about trees from the forester, Logan Raxter, who comes to work on the wounded tree. Craig is instructed to help Raxter in his attempt to save the tree. But more than a teacher, Raxter's relationship to Craig becomes that of a mentor. It might be harder for you to relate to the human/plant connection, but I'm guessing it's not that hard. One of the greatest rewards I had in writing this book was searching for tree quotes to enhance the meaning of each chapter. As for loving trees, I'm in the company of John Muir, William Wordsworth, All Major Religious Works, Proust, Emerson, Thoreau.

Oh, yes, and there is a little bit of Romantic Relationship between Craig and cute, spunky Carson; this is, after all, middle grade. Kids this age have intense feelings. Rather than being destroyed by circumstances, Craig's life is reshaped by his new relationships.

If you're wondering why the girl is names Carson, I'll tell you. She is named for Rachel Carson. All of the characters are named for environmentalists: Craig for Jean Craighead George, the novelist, and Nelson for Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, to name a few. I'll let you guess who Logan Raxter is named for


Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Very interesting premise and I wonder if Craig ever learns to accept his father and learns to love him. Taking out anger on an inanimate object is pretty common for boys. I think the title is perfect and also what a great idea to use names of environmentalists.

Unknown said...

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J.Q. Rose said...

Middle grades are a tough age for kids and relationships. The story is a good one for this age. Love the idea of naming characters for environmentalists. I am going to have to google to figure out Logan Raxter's namesake. Best wishes!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Fascinating post. You've definitely got me thinking. I wonder how some kids make it in the system and others don't. I raised 5 boys and they all turned out differently. Yet the same. Looking back I can't pinpoint which mistakes made them think a certain way. I suppose I could ask them, but I'm not so sure they'd tell me the truth. They're all in the early 40s now and hurting mum's feelings is no longer part of the equation.

BarbaraB said...

Hi Barbara,
Well, there's another twist with the father.
I'm glad you like the title; hope it will appeal to boys.

BarbaraB said...

Hi Steve,
I would like to follow your blog. How do I get to it?

BarbaraB said...

Hi J. Q.
I also remember middle school from a girl's point of view -- and yes, it's tough for some girls, too.
I have a concern for the ecology of the planet and I admire people who are out there in the trenches doing something about it.

BarbaraB said...

Hi Joyelene,
Five boys sounds like a handful. You are to be congratulated. Mothers just have to let each child be himself, don't you think?