The story of Bridge to Terabithia is loosely based on a real life event where Paterson's son lost a friend in a tragic accident.
The experience lead to Paterson developing the characters of Jesse and Leslie. The plot surrounds their growing friendship as outsiders who create their own world of Terabithia where they explore through fantasy the challenges of the real world. Together Leslie and Jesse are able to express thir individuality and experience freedom from the pressures of adolescent life. After the tragedy of Leslie's death, Jesse is able to rejoin the real world with confidence and faith in te future.