If you’ve caught me wandering around town on one of my infrequent escapes from work or home, you might’ve noticed the dark crescents shadowing my eyes or the stringy weight of my unwashed hair. For most of the past year, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed before dawn to sit at my laptop and write a novel about three children who try to stop the emerald ash borer from destroying the world’s ash trees.

It is a story of loss and resilience. It is also a story that is very close to my heart as it involves the death of a child from complications related to cerebral palsy – a loss my own family knows too well. But despite rising early and neglecting my hair, I’d been stuck about two-thirds of the way through my novel for most of the fall and winter.

The plot had stalled soon after a villain showed up and tried to take over the story. Much as I wanted to get rid of him, I couldn’t. He presented an obstacle the children needed to overcome. Only instead of doing what I wanted, he tried to steal the show.

Then one morning, walking back to my writing shed with a mug of tea, it hit me. Evil always tries to steal the show. Easy or not, I had to put this character in his place. So I demoted him. Then I cut his scenes, giving him a minor role in the story, not a major one. And wallah! I finished the book, which I am now hard at work revising.

But those words – Evil always tries to steal the show – stayed with me. In fact, I wrote them on my calendar, where I jot all types of odd tidbits that I don’t want to lose track of. Because, isn’t it true? Whether we are talking about the news or about our day or pondering the future, evil – the darkness that dogs us all – is always trying to take over. It causes us to focus on the negative. It predicts the worst. It fills us with fear and tries to steal the show.

Yet, like a character in a novel, evil only has the power we give it. So why not demote it? Instead of focusing on the negative, find something positive to share. Instead of fearing the future, face up to the challenges you face while making room for all of the good things in store. And in place of fear, pray and ask God to give you his peace.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” II Timothy 1: 7 (NKJV).

This is the peace that God promises to all who seek him. Invite him into your plot, and he will put evil in its place: an obstacle to overcome, not the whole story.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Best Birthday and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.