She sat in the assigned seat although her demeanor expressed dislike in leaving the far back corner of the classroom. The corner protected her from sounds of gun shots fired in the middle of the night, boisterous laughter, groans, cursing, and rhythmic squawking of the lone bed separated by the thin wall of her room. The smell of smoke, crack, meth, and putrid body odor seeped through the rotting wall’s cracks and crevices. Even the cockroaches ran over each other getting to the bare floors of her room. Wearing the jacket over the bulky sweater she wore night and day to disguise any resemblance of a girl with female parts, she sat huddled on the single bed, back against the wall, eyes glued to the door. The girl’s fear burned at a constant level while her mother worked the streets and spiked each time a second pair of footsteps returned with her. She relived every second as the tape played inside her head. It happened two years ago. Ten years old but far from innocent, no child should hear, see, or experience what she had. His putrid taste and smell stayed with her no matter how strong the mouth wash, or how red her skin turned as she scrubbed. Her mother promised that it would never happen again, but the words offered no consolation. They found her underneath the bed, the sanctuary she visited when she escaped to that place in her mind with grass, daisies, sunshine, and blue sky. A voice crackled through the police car radio. She sat in the backseat with her jacket pulled over her head, but it wasn’t the dispatcher’s words she tried to deafen. The sounds of kicking, splintering wood, and firing gunshots rang in her ears. The woman in the second police car hadn’t lied. Do personal struggles and those of friends and family affect the way you relate to characters in a story? Does personal tragedy enhance the story and create an emotional bond to the characters? Please share your thoughts.