Perhaps you know what it's like to feel guilty about something. Maybe you did something that hurt someone. You might have done it deliberately, or it might have been as a side effect of something else you did that had consequences.
If you hurt someone, you only feel guilty if you have a conscience. So feeling guilty is good.
The main character in my upcoming novel, Wounds, is carrying a heavy load of guilt. Craig's mother died before the beginning of the novel, a fact that the reader finds out only after a flashback in which she is still alive.
(How do you feel about flashbacks? Do you think middle graders can handle them without any problem?)
Getting back to the story, Craig's dad is too weak to handle living without his wife, so he starts drinking heavily and takes his anger out on Craig by physically beating on him.
Consequently, Craig takes his anger and grief out on things at school. He's in the eighth grade. At school, he tears up the art teacher's bulletin board and paints with a magic marker on the math teacher's car.
Criag has plenty to feel guilty about. We know from the flashback that Craig's a nice kid at heart. He's just carrying a load of grief and anger that's too heavy for him. And he's never asked for help. Maybe if he had, things would have been smoothed over before they got so bad. It takes a lot of guts to place your problems and inner-most thoughts into the hands of an adult. And when you've been beaten on, you lose a lot of your trust in people. That's what happened to Craig. He's mistrustful and arrogant to the adults around him.
(Do you think you would feel the same way if you were in Craig's position? Or do you think he was stupid for not getting help before his vandalism escalated?)
He next tries to cut down an old, valuable tree. He wounds not only the tree, but himself.
Oh, yeah--his worst guilt doesn't come out until near the end of the story.
Do you think Craig's conscience saves him? Does he 'fess up?
The book, Wounds, is coming from MuseItUp Publishing in September of this year.
The author: Barbara Bockman