I recently heard a well-respected author give the following bit of advice at a conference for children's writers:
“I challenge you to write without metaphor. We all know God doesn't exist. We all know that nothing happens for a reason in life. So when you force such occurrences, such literary devices, into a book, it will never be true to life or as powerful as it could be otherwise.” (The quotes are loose, as I was not able to write it down at the time and had to rely on my memory.)
Um...yeah. How's that for an inspiring clump of words? “Nothing happens for a reason”?? Really? “We all know that God doesn't exist”? Forgive me, but I haven't yet arrived at that pitiable state. Why are you writing for kids if you insist on portraying for them a false world, a world without hope? Do you think you're helping them? Do you think that what the world needs is jaded, depressed individuals?
There have been too many occurrences in my life that have proven to me that things happen for a reason for me to fall into doubt. Enough that when I don't understand something, I just have to trust that it is only because I can't see the whole story.
The beauty of literature is that, for once, we are able to see the whole story.
I know that everyone in the world has probably thought, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” Certainly I have, lots of times. But it is in developing myself as a writer that I begin to find answers. Because, guess what? I have to allow lots of bad things to happen to my characters. If I didn't, they would never grow. They would have no inner strength, no virtue, no personality. No story. So maybe I'll never technically know why...I had to be born with a condition that required major surgery when I was 13. Or why I had to move 10 times as a kid. Why friends and family members had to die. Or even why my softball teams had to be particularly awful no matter how much I prayed that I could hit just one homerun. But I do know that all these things made me who I am now. And I kind of like myself now. I wouldn't trade my difficulties for anyone else's either...probably because I wasn't meant to handle anyone else's difficulties. I had a brilliant author edit them away from my story so I could become me.
So I have a different challenge for you: use metaphor. Allow fate to show its face in your stories. And remember, through every difficult writing day, through every trial that keeps you from writing, through every rejection letter and harsh critique, that things happen for a reason. Look forward to who you're becoming.