A few weeks back, awesome teacher Mark Holtzen wrote in with a question. His class was just finishing a unit on Roald Dahl, and he wanted me to share with them how Dahl has influenced my writing. I figured my response might be of interest to readers of The Scop:
I think one of the things that makes Roald Dahl so fascinating is the way he writes grown-up characters. A lot of people talk about how he always makes the adults in his books mean or stupid … but that’s only half the story. For every Trunchbull there is a Miss Honey — a person who helps the hero become who they were meant to be. When I think of my favorite characters in Dahl’s books, I think of the wonderful grownups who guide and care for the young heroes:
Miss Honey from Matilda
The Queen from The BFG
So based on what he’s saying there, it seems like his adult characters — good and bad — are actually meant to be a lesson for young readers about how to grow up. Dahl wants everyone who reads his books to see the difference between a dreadful parent and a delightful one … and hopefully resolve to become the latter.
This is something I tried to remember while writing Peter Nimble. The book has its share of awful grownups, but there are also one or two adults in Peter’s life (The Professor, Sir Tode, Simon) who are a bit more “sparky” … and having those grownups in your life makes all the difference.