“Faith, I can move the mountain” — Hillsong
One reviewer of Sudden Mission commented on how young the protagonists were and how ready they were to take on the tasks and challenges. The reviewer was skeptical.
I don’t usually respond to a reviewer, other than to thank them. And, really, I’m not responding to or criticizing the reviewer here. The comments just got me thinking, and George Michael’s hit song lyrics started playing in my head. I didn’t quote those for my own reasons, but I’ve often told reading audiences that Sudden Mission is about faith.
Yes, there is spiritual warfare, action and adventure, a dash of science fiction and fantasy, an angel, aliens, zombies, and other things in Sudden Mission. And, yes, the characters are young. But fourteen isn’t too young to have strong faith, or to face difficult trials.
I struggled with character age when I started planning the book. Older teens would have required more difficult, grittier challenges. Younger protagonists, in this setting, would have been just too weird. I remember being fourteen. It just seemed a good fit. A fourteen-year-old, with strong faith, strong family and community, and good friends, just seemed right. Some of that is foreign to me, so I had to do some exploration.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a Christian conversion story. Granted, the characters grew and changed, but they were already believers and faithful. Faith gets tested in several places and the characters come close to failing. Paul, the main character, is constantly challenged.
“I can’t. I have a mission.” Paul felt frustration and discomfort. He was sleepy and wanted nothing more than to just curl up and sleep.
“Are you certain?” The coyote sat on his haunches and his tongue lolled out of his open mouth. “What? Did you dream of an angel coming to you with a message? You don’t really believe you are on a mission from God, do you?”
Bound to a compelling mission and his family held hostage, Paul struggles. His friends, Amy and Joe, act to support him. Paul, in return, supports them when their spirits flag.
“I wish one of us could drive,” Amy said. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. “How about bicycles?”
“Yeah, lets see,” Paul said opening the map. “We have more than eighteen hundred miles left to go. I don’t think I’m up for trying to do that on a bicycle.”
“We still have eighteen hundred miles?” Joe said.
“Yep,” Paul said. “Still, we’ve gone more than five hundred miles just on our good looks.”
Amy laughed. Joe looked disgusted.
At that age, faith is a tough thing to keep. So the three amigos boost each other and help move the story along, even through tragedy.
I might have made one character a foil instead of a friend, and I thought about that in the beginning. But at the age chosen, a foil could have ended the mission too early and too easily. The story had enough conflict and struggle as it was.
The struggle and character development stayed in Paul’s point of view (PoV). Some reviewers commented on Amy and Joe’s limited development as a result. I did experiment in early drafts with bouncing around PoVs and it was a mess. I stuck with Paul. I tried to stay honest about that, though. Paul, in Sudden Mission, is fourteen. A fourteen-year-old boy isn’t necessarily insightful about others or himself, and the internal monologue is more simple and direct.
This is important, as Paul matures and we see things again through his eyes in Nasty Leftovers. Then, in the third novel, we’ll see things from Amy’s point of view and she has a more robust internal monologue. Honest. I read some romance to see how it was done. I think I have it, now.
So, okay. Ya gotta have faith.
(Note: This is outside of my usual, arbitrary Tuesday posting day. I may have another short post next week, or wait until the next Tuesday. Life is pretty full right now.)