The Beginning, Middle, and End
Emotional Closures in Fiction and in Reality
A Great Ending! Many readers demand one in fiction. But, in real life emotional closures may be much more elusive. Have you every been “done wrong” in some way – somebody hurt your feelings, told a lie about you, cheated in a relationship, stolen from you, fired you from a job with inadequate justification…? Sadly, offenders do not always apologize and try to make amends to aid us in achieving emotional closures of our sufferings big and small, symbolic or factual. Life goes on.
Further, especially in YA literature, the lines between good and evil are expected to be clearly drawn. Many instructors of creative writing have asserted that conflict should be introduced in the first chapter so as to use it to hook readers on the story. In real life, truth may be blurred, relative, and within perspectives influenced by a host of factors, especially culture, access to information, and religion.
Of all the misdeeds of humanity, child maltreatment is one of the most grievous. When covered in fictional works, authors have typically applied standard principles of writing: beginning, middle and end with a distinct evil and some degree of its resolution, happy or sad. For example, Push was the debut 1996 novel by Sapphire (Ramona Lofton) and was a horrific story of incest, sexual abuse and maltreatment suffered during the lifetime of a sixteen-year-old mother. Oprah Winfrey caught wind of the story and provided promotional assistance for the well known film, Precious. It made box office history. The author, a teacher, reportedly based the story on girls like Precious that she had met in her work.
Yet, as much as many people would support an end to child maltreatment, in real life such horrific occurrences are more complex than typically treated in fiction, and are often resolved without complete emotional closures. I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. A few months ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually.
During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of the story is science fiction.
I modeled the flow of the story after a mental health treatment episode involving a traumatized child: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning of the story are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make for ourselves.
I know that it sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. Even though I’d paid into the U.S. Social Security fund for over fifty-two years, I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.
In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood maltreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Four book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited having read the story. Three of them wrote glowing book reviews of the novel, one of whom publicly disclosed that she had been a rape victim as part of her review, and the fourth reviewer promoted the novel on her blog and on a radio show broadcast from the U.K. This book reviewer wants to interview Lacy Dawn, the protagonist.
As in real life and based upon my experience working with kids, however, I did not insert an artificial resolution of the complex issues presented in the story. The evil is represented by Dwayne, Lacy Dawn’s father, a disabled Veteran of the Gulf War suffering from PTSD, night terrors and anger outbursts. The good is represented by a self-serving android under the control of universal management who is devoid of human emotions until he aspires to achieve humanity so that he can feel love.
Dwayne is cured with the help of extraterrestrial remapping of synoptic brain activity, but never openly apologizes to Lacy Dawn or her mother for his abusive behaviors. There is only one line of internal dialogue when he admits any wrongdoing. Yet, Lacy Dawn achieves emotional closure in the same way that the vast majority of abused kids achieve it, at least partially – acceptance that the past is the past. Sometimes in life, we just have to move on. If you want to read about the evil menace apologizing before being blown to bits, well….
If you have experienced childhood trauma and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical. The novel won a Gold Medal from Awesome Indies as a “…hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – a science fiction comedy.
Half of author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention: Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished state in the U.S. with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services.
“…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” Awesome Indies
Rarity from the Hollow recently won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” Readers Favorite The intent of this novel is to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.
If you want to read a memoir of an abused child, a tragedy with a beginning, middle and end, clear lines separating good and evil, and reach emotional closure when the last page of the story has been read, well…. “…(Rarity from the Hollow) is (instead) funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.” Addicted to Media
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. Some of these courses tell her how to apply magic to resolve everyday problems much more pressing to her than a universe in big trouble, like those at home and at school. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?
Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
Rarity from the Hollow is adult, literary, science fiction novel filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.
About the author:
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs. The West Virginia Supreme Court published most of these, where he worked from 1982 through 1997. This also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.
Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist, who is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.