Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Violent World

Previously, Beth Terrell touched on fear. I’d like to expand on it using a scene from Jackie Chan’s movie, Shanghai Noon. Here, outlaw Owen Wilson, while flirting with an attractive woman, asks if she feels scared, or maybe a little excited at the same time. She nods, he smiles, and then one of his gang shoots Jackie Chan’s uncle. Suddenly, this comical scene is replaced with violence, and we love it. In fact, we feed off of it. Why else would there be so many horror movies and crime stories? You see, fear sparks adrenaline, and the subsequent rush can be exciting. But there is another element to fear. The one where you think, “could this really happen to me?” Diablo’s Shadow is the result of such thinking.

In a previous blog, I wrote about my novel's link to an actual Colorado case, but looking back, I realize it was really the Petaluma, California, kidnapping that took place a few blocks from my sister’s home that struck a nerve. My two girls were quite young at the time, but my sister’s girls were close in age to Polly Klaas. October 1, 1993, Polly was abducted at knife-point from her bedroom where she and a friend were having a slumber party. Her friend was tied up, but otherwise unharmed. Many mistakes were made by police and sheriff's officials, including one questioning the abductor and then releasing him. Sadly, Polly’s body was found on December 3rd. For two months, her parents agonized over whether they would see their daughter again. The candle in their window was snuffed the day they learned of Polly's fate. Diablo’s Shadow is about the emotional roller-coaster that my characters ride when their child is missing, and like Polly’s parents, decide to replace fear with action.

As the saying goes, those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat their errors. In this sense, some positive elements have come from several real child abductions. In the case of Amber Hagerman, kidnapped while riding her bike near her grandparents’ home in Arlington, Texas, police were quickly given a description of the vehicle and a partial description of the abductor. Local media immediately broadcast the event, but it wasn’t enough to save Amber. Her body was located four days later. Still, her memory lives on through the creation of the AMBER Alert. “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response” is a nationwide program to immediately broadcast abduction information. Today, with nearly everyone carrying cell phones, the possibility of finding an abductor before a child is harmed is significantly enhanced. The Polly Klaas Foundation, formed after her abduction, has counseled over 6900 families on ways to find their missing children. John Walsh raised the consciousness of nearly every American during his nationwide appeal to find his son, Adam. Although Adam’s life was robbed, John Walsh’s efforts resulted in him hosting America’s Most Wanted; a show he helped create to capture our nation's worst criminals. In this sense, all of these victims and their families have made significant contributions to aid in children’s safety.

I didn't write Diablo’s Shadow to compare it to any of these tragic events. For me, it was merely a novel way of resolving my own fears of losing a child, and allowing my characters to work through their crisis, as so many victims’ families have bravely done.


Jaden Terrell said...

The grace shown by families who, in the midst of such terrible grief, find a way to help others, never fails to awe and humble me.

Maryannwrites said...

As Beth said, the grace that some families have in the midst of tragedy is amazing. That is what struck me so profoundly when I read the small news item about a women who infiltrated a drug ring and helped bring down the main distributor. This was after her son was killed in a car accident and drugs were found in the car.

I was just amazed that the woman could even breathe after losing a child, let alone be so proactive. I just knew I had to write about her, so she is the central character in my book, One Small Victory.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Two days ago, I was following a path along Ship’s Creek in Anchorage when I noticed a seagull running ahead of me. Soon after, I was repeatedly bombarded by another seagull. Putting these events together, it was readily apparent that the seagull on the ground was the baby of the one bombarding me. I chose to do an about-face and the attacks soon stopped. Had I stepped between a moose and her young, I could face being trampled. This protective instinct also occurs when parents, particularly mothers, feel their young are threatened. In every case, parents will do everything possible to protect their children.

Now, consider our most recent Medal of Honor recipient. This soldier chose death to save his brothers-in-arms by throwing his body over an explosive device. Clearly, he recognized that he was dead either way, but through his action, others might live. His bravery is yet another example of how strong people become in the face of adversity.

Selfless acts are nearly always unplanned. They take place out of concern for others, rather than their own preservation. Not surprisingly, these characteristics are often sought in a writer’s protagonist.