Five-ish years ago, I wrote a 45,000 word novel about a troll with a drinking problem and a no-nonsense necromancer. It was a terrible story set in an urban fantasy world that was a clear rip-off of The Dresden Files. Only a handful of people read it and they tell me that it was good.
I haven’t thought about those characters in five-ish years.
The novel was actually a test for me. It was a test to see if I still wanted to be a writer. When I was in the third grade, my teacher put on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because my class would always blow right through her lesson plans. That film encapsulated me in a way that I never imagined. Listening to Gene Wilder sing “Imagination”, walking around his candy field like a true immortal without a care in the world is what made me want to be a writer. I clearly remember having that thought. “That’s what I want to be. I want to be Willy Wonka.”
I have to pause to recollect myself. I’m actually getting emotional remembering that moment.
From third grade onward, life has done everything it can do to make sure that I could never be a Wonka. It has shown me what it’s like to live in poverty, to lose the people that I love, to bring me to the brink of insanity.
It showed me what is was like to choose between dying and living.
It never occurred to me why Wonka did what he did until a few weeks ago. Wonka made his candy for everyone. He made his dreams a reality for everyone to enjoy. Not just kids or old folks. Not just for the rich or the poor. Not just for Americans or Europeans. He made them for everyone because life can be ugly, monstrous and destructive. It can take the thing you love the most and corrupt it into a demon that consumes everything in its wake. Life can be an awful thing one can experience.
But the candyman can.
The candyman can take the awful and cover it with laughter. The candyman can take a broken dream, stitch it back together with cotton candy and make it better. The candyman can fill those cracks within our hearts with marshmallow and nougat.
Because the candyman’s been exactly where you were. He knows how painful it can be.
I wrote that 45,000-word story to see if I wanted to be a writer. Today, I’m deciding to not be “a writer”. I don’t want to be “a writer”. I want to be Wonka. I want to make the world taste good again.
Because we need it.