The toss of a coin

VnoSf3JQIt might not seem the most obvious concern in stories for younger readers, but what about a change in finances?After all, usually children have little or no control over money in their world. But that can be exactly what makes it useful for the writer. What effects will a serious shift in finances have on your characters?

It can go either way – and still be relevant. Whether the hope of change for the better is a driver within a story ( think of ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’) or if the descent into poverty is something to be tackled ( as inĀ  ‘A Little Princess’), a profound change in circumstances can add a whole new dimension.

A_Little_Princess.frontispiece

Frontispiece to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett ( artist unknown)

And it doesn’t have to be deadly serious – there are lots of opportunities for comedy in such a scenario. Who hasn’t had a least a little daydream about what they’d do with an enormous windfall? Give the experience to one of your story folk and see what they do.

What would be the consequences? Such a marvellous revealer of character – would they be generous or spendthrift, miserly or prudent? Then there’s the press interest, and social media in a contemporary tale. What if there are different views in the family say; a fine breeding ground for conflict.

V0019403 A drunken man sits at home with his family while bailiffs re Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A drunken man sits at home with his family while bailiffs remove their furniture. Etching by G. Cruikshank, 1847, after himself. 1847 By: George CruikshankPublished:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

via Wellcome Institute CC

The same goes for loss – though perhaps not so much comedy potential. Bailiffs coming to take your things away maybe harder to play for laughs. Still, a family desperate to keep up appearances despite the privations might raise the odd smile. But, oh the conflict inherent in that – maybe one wants to turn to friends for help, another keeps quiet due to embarrassment.

How might the point-of-view character tackle it in the long-term? Selling things off, starting up a business, begging, borrowing – or even stealing? Lots of positive action – with consequences. This works just as well in the contemporary world as in history or fantasy tales.

It was the wise and encouraging Steve Voake at Arvon who suggested I throw a financial googly at one of my characters in a sticky middle phase. Very revealing.

Even if you don’t use that storyline, you’ll learn a lot about the people in your story. Money, or the lack of it, is like a strong side light – it shows up cracks and imperfections. Some of your characters may scuttle off into the shadows – others may show what they are truly made of.

CIM (3)

Go on – take a gamble on them.

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