~ A hero can only be as bright as a villain is dark ~
It seems that one of the most frequent conversation topics in Hope's Journey centers around the character of Hannah. "Oh, Hannah!" people often sigh with disdain. Stomachs churn at her implications. Jaws clench at her arrogance. But, who is this Hannah and why does she drive people so mad?
First of all: Is Hannah real?
Yes... and no! She is real in the sense that people like her exist in our society. I have seen her smug self-righteousness, felt her judgments, experienced her condemnation, and I'm sure I'm not alone. She walks among us, carrying pride on her shoulder as she preaches perfection, though the sermon is lost on herself. Hopefully she is not reflected in our own eyes, though the ones who carry her reflection are probably the least likely to notice it.
So, where does the 'no' part of my answer come in? The beauty of writing fiction is that I can cast my characters however I see best fit for the telling of the story. Sometimes, however, readers want to believe that elements of the story are truer to life than they really are. And, while there are some characters who are pretty close representations of actual people in my life (ie: Gramms), the same doesn't hold true for most of them. Hannah is not my "Alex's" real mom. His real mom is a loving, caring, kind mother and grandmother... and we have a great relationship. She has not only been accepting of me, she has taught me much and served as a great example in my life.
In the simplest summation I can give, Hannah is an embodiment of the strangers, friends, neighbors, youth leaders, and even parents who are so quick to set themselves on a pedestal. She doesn't represent a single person, but a conglomeration of many. Unfortunately, Hannah's character exists around us more than we may recognize. There are those who choose to exert their own holiness by condemning those who have stumbled. She encapsulates those who so easily preach sermons about "casting the first stone" but - whether intentional or not - toss hurtful rocks of their own.
How did I decide where to "cast" her in the story?
When I first conceived the character of Hannah, she didn't have a name or a definitive roll in the story, except to represent the hurt that is so easily slung towards those who make mistakes. To fulfill her purpose, she had to be in position where she could hold influence over both Sydney and Alex. She couldn't merely be a friend, she had to have a more direct link than that. When I finally decided to cast her as Alex's mom, it just felt right. Where else could she have cast such doubt? Where else could she have done so much damage?