Monday, August 01, 2011

"How I Came to Write This Story" Dana Kabel

Dana C. Kabel: How I Came To Write This Story

One of the most abhorrent things I can imagine is harm of any kind coming to a child. My love of children comes hand in hand with the fear for them that they may fall prey to any of a number of dangerous things in this world.

This has been a recurring theme in my writing, and when I can, I love to dole out justice to the evil offenders. And while many of my protagonists are anti-heroes and luckless criminals, I don’t give any sympathy to the characters that harbor a mean bone in their body towards kids.

If you really want to demonize a character in your writing, make them an enemy of children. If someone is willing to hurt a child, their evil knows no bounds. Look at one of the foulest villains in literature, Shakespeare’s Richard III. The deformed, manipulative, bloodthirsty royal can pull a little sympathy from the reader until the last act of the play when he has his own young nephew princes smothered to death in their beds to eliminate any threat to his crown. That is when the evil within him truly blossoms and he becomes completely despicable.

In my story, The Sitter, the character C.J. is a ruthless criminal and a dangerous guy, but he wouldn’t purposefully cause any harm to come to Jesse, the toddler that he watches. In fact, if it came down to it, C.J. would probably kill to protect his young charge. That doesn’t change the fact that Jesse is in great danger by being around C.J. and is exposed to some pretty traumatic experiences for a child.

The story was actually inspired, in part, by the Shrek toy that Jesse gets in the Happy Meal that C.J. buys for him. I was travelling to New Jersey with my wife and two year old daughter who was, at the time, attached to a plastic Shrek doll that her big brother had given to her. The doll was not a Happy Meal toy, but my daughter was sitting in her car seat eating cold fries out of a Happy Meal box with one hand and clutching the plastic green ogre in the other. My wife was driving and we were having a discussion about her going back to work and the dilemma of finding affordable child care for our daughter and who in the world we could trust to watch her when…bing! The light went on and the story pretty much wrote itself in my head right there.

I took out my notebook and jotted the basic elements down so that I could flesh it out later, because it is kind of hard to write a story while a two year old is singing like Fiona from Shrek and trying to feed you her cold French fries. I can imagine that it would be difficult if I had to hold onto her while I kicked someone’s door in and pumped them full of hot lead!

There is a link to The Sitter and other stories at


Charles Gramlich said...

Back when I wrote horror fiction more, I told only a very few stories where children were threatened, though it is a staple of the genre. I just couldn't bear to harm a child, or threaten one with harm, even in fiction.

Dorte H said...

"...the dilemma of finding affordable child care for our daughter and who in the world we could trust to watch her when…bing!"

Ah, this sounds nasty now! And yes, being a parent is wonderful - and terribly scary.