Hello again! I missed my WordPress community. I am back and in the midst of working through the second novel a sequel to The Cause: Love & War. Most of my work until now has focused on researching, and toiling over the new story structure. I started this blog as my writer’s journey and it will continue. My hope is to inspire writers to write and others who want to write to finally pick up the pen and fill books and journals with their talents. I am finally organized to share with you the development of book two.
Book Two, title still pending, is developing. The reader will revisit old friends and meet a new supporting cast of characters. The research is beyond fascinating for me. While most history books stop at the signing at Appomatox, we know the Civil War and its aftermath went on for many years to come. This is the focus of book two. What happened after the fighting stopped? The husband, brothers and lovers did not simply put down their weapons and go home to pick up where they left off four years earlier. How did the civilians at home receive their loved ones? How did the South begin to rebuild?
The emotional, social and financial impact of the war only scratches the surface. What about the physical, mental and environment impact? These men were four to five years older. A majority of them who, by the grace of God, survived to arrive home with physical and mental scars. They arrived home to a family who knew them as the person who left. The families expected the same man to return to them. War is not that simple. Can you imagine the shock for both family and soldier? A shift in decision making roles, family roles and expectations. Nothing was the same in Post Civil War Era. Everyone had to define a new normal for themselves.
A portion of the book will talk about the reconstruction of the South. History books are written from the victor’s point of view. Every story has two sides and I am compelled to tell you the other side of that story. Continue reading
Characterization is a challenge writers’ face with every piece they write. What makes a compelling character? If characters are people, say friends or enemies; how complex does a writer need to create a character the reader will love or hate?
I recently sat down to chat with two groups of readers. They gave me insight about my characters from my novel, The Cause: Love & War. It was inspiring to listen to these women, age 14 to 65 years. These conversations taught me what works and what does not work with my characterization.
Every writer’s goal is to connect the reader to the pages he holds in his hands. Mantras echo in our heads- Don’t allow them to put that book down. Create a world a reader does not want to leave. When a reader shuts out the world around him, you the author have done your job. How do you know your characters touch your readers? Here are a few good indicators I heard from my readers.
Strong Emotional Response: As a writer, I love hearing strong emotional reactions from my readers. When they tell me they needed tissues to get through a few chapters, I sincerely say, “I am sorry I made you cry.” While doing a happy dance behind a “yes, I did it” smile. Their reaction strongly connects the reader to the character. The characters breathe within the pages. They are alive, living unpredictable lives. One critic disliked Emilie noting she was whinny and spoiled. Others describe her as very strong willed and outspoken for her time. Emilie’s character did have all of these qualities. The main ingredient is Emilie grew up. She was not the same girl in the beginning of the story as she was at the end. Either way, Emilie’s personality kept the readers reading. When readers identify with the characters, a bond connects them to the story.
Debate over a character’s action: The book club debated Emilie’s decision to marry after being touched by tragedy. The younger group felt drawn to discuss Emilie’s right to return to teaching after marriage. After a quick history lesson about women’s roles in the 1860’s the young ladies gushed about who was their favorite male character. I felt like they were chatting about the latest movie star. While the book club tried to analyze her logic and that of her parents. Historically, Emilie needed to marry; she was becoming too old to remain single. She understood love and was ready to marry. She would have felt pressure to move on with her life. This discussion shows everyone is thinking about history and Emilie’s well-being.
Leave them wanting more: My plan for The Cause: Love & War is to make it into a trilogy. I wanted to educate the readers about Civil War history in a non-lecture format. The recipe was not complicated; Add a good dose of historical facts, combined it with relatable characters, add a twist and unpredictable turn and tell the history in an enjoyable format. This recipe seems to work as most of the readers wanted to know when the second book was coming out.
The best compliment I received through the discussion group was from a reader who put off reading the story because it was not her genre. She happily said she enjoyed the story and learned more about Civil War history than she ever remembered learning from school. Characters are the heart and soul of every memorable novel. Take time to listen to your readers and let them tell you what they think. It will make you a better writer.
While researching the historical background for The Cause: Love & War, my goal was to move away from the history books and uncover true tales of the time period as told by the ones who lived it. I found a wealth of information in diaries, letters and oral histories. These histories allowed me to see “life as usual” for a common person as pivotal historical events unfolded.
I use these histories to understand people’s personalities through their thoughts and written words. Reading these words set my creative mind to work. Using these stories as a springboard for character development and story line I began to weave my own tale. Their words taught me dialects, phrasing and vocabulary. Mimicking these historical elements created a believable storyline.
While writing this historic specific story, I found it difficult to “stay in the period” while present day flowed around me. Historical novelists must keep vigilant watch to prevent modern phrases slipping into the storyline. It takes mindset and concentration.
Diaries and journals add realism to the storyline. My goal is to create a reality within the pages. I want the reader to think they live within the pages alongside my characters. I believe this transformation only happens by listening to the past. I dug deeper to uncovering a set of oral histories about slavery in the South. I excitedly found documentation about slave life different from the horrors we read about in textbooks. Slave owners who treated their slaves as people. Another oral history talked about a slave owner hosting a marriage of a black couple at their home. The afternoon said to be a joyous occasion. Not all white slave owners mistreated their slaves. This point often overshadowed by the blatant atrocities seen in movies and book.
The ladies of Gettysburg had an incredible talent for writing everything down. Sallie Meyers, Sarah Broadhead and Tillie Pierce bring the war to our doorstep as it arrived at theirs. I am sure some of these women never intended their words to be published. Their views about their lives help us to understand their experiences in a time we can only read about today.
Each aspect of The Cause: Love & War was touched by some letter diary or oral report, I read. Using various elements of these letters personalized the book and made it unique. The Prescott family’s views toward slavery came directly from the oral histories I read. The letters between Emilie and Thaddeus were written in the same spirit as many lovers, husband and wives. Emilie’s journal entries, helped her express herself, in a voice she was not allowed in Victorian times as many journals written by young women allowed them to express emotions they weren’t allowed to show to anyone else. These therapeutic memoirs open a new world of history for us today.
If the history bug bites, you may want to consider delving into books about collections of letters and diaries about people like you and me.
Spring is finally here! I am sitting in Texas as I write this blog excited to feel the warmth of 65 degrees, experience rain instead of snow, and see flowers and trees in bloom. Wisconsin is still in the tight grip of Old man winter. Since I last updated you, I am officially an author and truck driver. I needed my new occupation to support my writing habit 🙂
Transitions are exciting, and this is a good time to refocus my blog. Most bloggers experience the “post rut” or lack of fun things to say. When I finished the Blogger for Peace posts last December I discovered the blog lost its platform. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of Blogger for Peace and my distraction with the book release did not help. Last summer’s schedule swept me up with book signings and lectures. Fall into winter, the excitement of my wavered a bit. The blog lost its way, and I miss the challenge of posting. I miss your feedback.
Months of brainstorming led me to realize I still have a long way to go and a lot to say. The blog had two purposes, my writer’s journey and an educational format, that highlights history. I want to bring you the history not written in the textbooks. It reveals history as experienced by people like you and me.
The Cause: Love & War to highlight a Southern girl’s views of the Civil War as she sees it. My southern character is not wealthy; she does not have the privileges of the elite southern class. Her perspective is different because she is southern-born woman who lives in the North. A different culture and a different outlook, how does she does she understand the changing world around her? How would you consider this world if you were in her shoes?
How did you experience 9/11 or Boston Marathon Tragedy? My passion for research and history help me understand people are people. Our world events shape the way we think and feel about things. Our history books only scratched the surface of what people experience.
This blog will share more about who I am and my ideas of how history shaped the world we live in today. I am excited to share the research I did for the book and the new one coming soon.
Thank you for being patient while I was away. I hope you enjoy the journey to come.
If you liked this post, please feel free to share it on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.