When I start pecking at my keyboard, I generally have a good idea of what I’m writing about. Not that I claim to be a scholar like Tolkien, but I have the internet at my fingertips and a library down the road. Meaning, I do my research.

The reason I bring this up stems from a comment I received regarding Samara’s age in The Unfettered Child. The commentator suggested that I make her 14 or 15 to better fit with the story.

I can appreciate someone not wanting to read about an 8-year-old child, but Samara’s age is perfect for my story. Here’s why:

Age and Culture

Children fishing

Historically (especially in primitive societies like Samara’s), adulthood was attained at the onset of puberty and was expected by then. In many cases, this meant around the age of 10 or 11 years old. To put it quite plainly, a 14-year-old Samara would have been several years into adulthood, probably married, and may have had a child or two of her own. Much too old for the story I intend to tell. Click here for more information; or here for additional information.

This doesn’t answer the full spectrum of the comment either.

Maturity

Image from Imgflip

I know that here in America and in most first-world countries, we spoil children (and ourselves) with the modern conveniences provided to us, and thank God for that. I’m really glad that my children have the opportunity to grow up free from the hardships that the nomads might consider normal.

However, even in our country, some children suffer. Hardship slinks its way even into the best the world has to offer. What happens when children experience hardship? They mature . . . quickly.

Before I even get into the maturity of children that experience hardships or live it on a regular basis, I want to point out that even my spoiled rotten children regularly display maturity and critical thinking. My 10 year old has had a vocabulary that could put many adults to shame, and has for two years now. He also mingles with our adult friends, preferring their company to that of children his own age, and they in turn treat him as a peer.

But back to hardships. Samara’s story, short of the fantastical side of it, echoes parts of my own. I was a year younger than Samara when my mother passed away. My father was 57 at the time and had little in the way of help. As the oldest of my siblings, I had to grow up quickly and learn the importance of responsibility.

Me working when I was younger. No, I joke. A child labor picture from Pixabay.

Plenty of documentation exists concerning the way of life for children in tribal societies. These children are well on their way to adulthood long before some of us begin high school.

So no. An older Samara would be out of place in my story, and historians and sticklers for accuracy would poke holes in the story had I made her older just for the comfort of those who cringe at the idea of children experiencing such hardship.

Do you have trouble with reading stories involving young children in terrible situations? Let me know your thoughts.

That’s all I have for now.

~Michael C. Sahd

Author Michael C. Sahd

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to write something on this blog. I admit, I’m terrible at keeping it up.

This morning, I complained as such to a coworker. He responded, “When I can’t think of anything to write, I like to think up some old memories.” He then proceeded to tell me a story from when he was a teenager, and after which, I shared my own story:

One cold November night, my family was driving through Texas, somewhere in the flat expanses on the west side of the state.

I sat in the front seat next to my father, and my brother and sister were in the back seat. We had just left New Mexico and were on our way back home to Brownwood, Texas.

My father and I were “discussing” religion. Being a staunch Catholic, my father was of the belief that only humans have souls. I, on the other hand, had a taste for something different. The tiring dogma of organized religion left a nasty film in the back of my throat.

The argument centered around the belief of what had souls and what didn’t. I argued that animals indeed had souls and he adamantly denied such a thing. At the time, I believed that in order to exist in a physical realm a spiritual counterpart must also exist, and I stubbornly insisted this was correct.

Off in the distance on this icy night, a bridge quickly loomed into sight, but we were too engrossed in our argument to notice the watch for ice sign.

“Actually,” I said, obstinately, just like any know-it-all teen might, “Even rocks must have souls.”

At this point, my father was furious. Such things were sacrilege, and could lead one straight to Hell. “Rocks . . .” he said angrily, punctuating each word, “Do . . . Not . . . Have . . . Souls!”

Immediately after “Souls!”, our vehicle passed over the bridge and directly onto a patch of ice. The car started sliding sideways. My father over corrected, and we skidded sideways in the other direction. We fishtailed several times before finally crashing gently into the side rails of the bridge.

We were all wide eyed and breathing heavy. My father asked if everyone was alright, checking on each of us individually. When the shock of the crash faded away and my father backed up and continued down the road, I turned to him and said, “See? Sacrilege. You pissed off the spirits.”

My father just ignored me after that, but the memory of that incident will stick with me for the rest of my life.

If you have any stories you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

~ Michael C. Sahd

 

Many writers will share that real life experiences inspire the tales they tell. Many, myself included, scoff (or have scoffed) at such a statement; telling themselves, “My life isn’t nearly so interesting.” What I have learned, however, is that this is rarely the case. Experiences take place daily, and though they may be mundane to you, they won’t be after “enhancing” them.

Just the other day, I took a trip to the local library to find the second book to the Septimus Heap series. I, of course, found Angie Sage’s books fairly quickly, and although they had many of her books, the one I wanted was not on the shelf. Naturally, I asked the librarians to see if it was checked out. It wasn’t.

I informed the lady at the counter that I had looked and it wasn’t there; she responded by telling me to look around, because people don’t always put them back in the right place. A little disheartened, I went back to look again (I had already looked around the nearby shelves, duh). After not finding it, I went back to the librarians for help. Instead of helping, they shrugged and said it could be anywhere. I left, rather annoyed by their lack of help.

However, the librarians were interesting characters, and a version of this scene has already inserted into my next story with Damian. I have changed many of the details and spiced it up a bit, but the entire scene is inspired by this short interaction.

Your experience doesn’t need to be Hollywood material. Just the smallest interaction, large enough to catch your attention, but not much more than that, can turn into a scene in your book. Take notes, make a voice memo, or just tell someone about it, and you will be able to get it down on paper. Embellishing the experience into an interesting scene is what makes you a writer.
And no . . . I still have not found the second book to the Septimus Heap series.

Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte by [Sage, Angie]