1) Something bad happens in the main character's life.
3) Main character creates coping mechanism.
4) Main character has to fight a knife-wielding maniac.
I really liked "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe" (I listened to the audio version so many times I can quote the opening few paragraphs), which is probably what made "Gingerbread Girl" so lame. It tried to do everything that Lunch did, and didn't do it as well.