What do JK Rowling, Christopher Paolini, David Eddings, and Terry Goodkind have in common? They all wrote bestselling fantasy novels starring orphans.
Hugo wrote about Cosette. Dickens wrote about David Copperfield. Twain had Tom Sawyer. More recently, Vikas Sawrup wrote about Ram Mohammed Thomas’ rise to wealth and fame in Q & A, the novel that became Slumdog Millionaire.
(And don’t forget Superman.)
Writers love writing about orphans.
Good stories have wide story arcs. The protagonist starts out low and rises high (comedy). Or the protagonist starts high and drops low (tragedy).
Writers have long chosen orphans as protagonists because they start with almost no advantages. Yesterday, I wrote about a group of orphans in just such circumstances. Consider the case of the children at Son of God orphanage in Haiti:
- The Hyppolite family, who run the orphanage, have been stealing the food and clothing donated to them by aid organizations.
- The children are being physically and sexually abused by the son of the head of the orphanage.
- They are afflicted with worms, scabies, and infections (one infant suffered third-degree burns and was left untreated for more than two weeks while her life-threatening burns became infected).
- They are malnourished (one five-year-old girl, Katia, was taken to the hospital months ago because she was only fourteen pounds—she was given medicine by doctors, but when volunteers followed up a few months later, she was eleven pounds).
It doesn’t get lower than that.
Storytellers have the ability to change the world. They use their redemptive imagination to do what storytellers have always done, take the lowest of us to new heights.
Write a story about the Haitian orphans. What is their life like? How will they escape their miserable treatment at the hands of the Hyppolite family? Who will come to their aid?
Write for fifteen minutes, and when you’re finished, post your exercise in the comments.
Before you begin, though, please take a moment to help the Son of God orphans. Sign this online petition urging the media to put pressure on the Haitian government to do something about this terrible situation.