I have a fatal flaw.
I like to think we all do. Or at least that makes it easier for me when I’m writing—building my heroines and heroes up around this one self-sabotaging trait, hinging everything that happens to them on a specific characteristic: the thing they learned to do to protect themselves and can’t let go of, even when it stops serving them.
Maybe, for example, you didn’t have much control over your life as a kid. So, to avoid disappointment, you learned never to ask yourself what you truly wanted. And it worked for a long time. Only now, upon realizing you didn’t get what you didn’t know you wanted, you’re barreling down the highway in a midlife-crisis- mobile with a suitcase full of cash and a man named Stan in your trunk.
Maybe your fatal flaw is that you don’t use turn signals.
Or maybe, like me, you’re a hopeless romantic. You just can’t stop telling yourself the story. The one about your own life, complete with melodramatic soundtrack and golden light lancing through car windows.
It started when I was twelve. My parents sat me down to tell me the news. Mom had gotten her first diagnosis—suspicious cells in her left breast—and she told me not to worry so many times I suspected I’d be grounded if she caught me at it. My mom was a do-er, a laugher, an optimist, not a worrier, but I could tell she was terrified, and so I was too, frozen on the couch, unsure how to say anything without making things worse.
But then my bookish homebody of a father did something un- expected. He stood and grabbed our hands—one of Mom’s, one of mine—and said, You know what we need to get these bad feelings out? We need to dance!