For the thousands of you impatiently waiting to see if I present the second installment of my Author Diaries, well, wait no longer. You lucky people are hereby being rewarded with the long-anticipated second episode. When will this insanity stop? Probably as soon as you and I get a life…or a better idea for a blog.
Okay, here we go. We last left the Author Diaries when our hero—that’s me—finally got off his duff and hit the keyboard, thus commencing writing his fourth book tentatively titled DEAD LETTER. Catching some of you up, a dead letter is one that has been mailed but determined undeliverable because neither its recipient nor sender can be determined. The necessary info is illegible or has been damaged in some way. Such letters are sent to the so-called dead letter department of the postal service.
In the first chapter we established two characters, the time period and the setting. Pretty good so far, huh? In same order, they are: Robert Harris and Sandra Henderson; 1943; the small town of Centreville on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Real time, real place, phony people.
I explained that this is an historical novel and that my writing process is difficult to follow because I have no process. I spend little time prepping the fictional parts (there are a few notes written down sometimes, but mostly some far off little territory in by brain takes care of the rest). I do, however, spend lots of time and energy on the preparation of the non-fictional parts—the historical events and real places I include in my story.
As I begin writing Chapter 2, I have spent a few moments in the lawn chair on the small slab of concrete outside the back of my house. Here, I am about 30 feet from a scenic canal and a zillion of Mother Nature’s offspring (see January 30th blog,”…For The Birds). The lawn chair, like that overstuffed chair in Blues Clues, is my thinking chair. By the time I get up, I have pretty much determined what it is I have to accomplish in Chapter 2.
I hit the Keurig for a fresh cup, grab a biscotti, then head upstairs to my writing sanctuary. There, I politely ask the cat to get out of my chair and move on over to the printer where she usually sleeps. I sit. I begin.
My two characters need a lot more development so I will do that now. Oddly, neither of these people will be prominent after another chapter or two. But their establishment and a good understanding of their personalities are important to the story.
I do some physical description. Reminder: these are two high school seniors. They have known each other forever—it’s a small town—and being two incredibly attractive and personable individuals it is no wonder they have fallen into the deep heaves of young love. I will build on this later in the chapter, but first, more background stuff.
I give Sandra a younger sister, very much like her. They get along like, well, two sisters. They are close in age so they share clothes and lots of drama. Robert, on the other hand, has no direct sibling but I need him to have a best friend. Enter cousin Eddie who has lived with Robert’s family most of his life.
Eddie’s mother died when he was two and his father felt it best if Eddie were to live with his brother’s family. Hence, this fulfills the premise I have for Robert needing a best friend. Robert and Eddie are the same age and are pretty much inseparable as they grow up together…until now. Robert’s attention to Sandra has grown to such a state that Eddie needs to back off. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
Like Robert and Sandra, Louise and Eddie are critical elements of the story. Oddly again, they won’t be around through most of the story. Louise and Eddie return during the outrageous-holy-crap ending chapters so I have to establish them and make them memorable in the beginning of the book.
Both boys yearn to leave their small, secluded town, but the circle of life there is formidable. Generation after generation recycles into the region’s isolated geography and lifestyle. Here, children grow up learning, then taking over, the family vocations whatever they are–farming, oystering, or shop keeping. There is little escape for anyone young who dreams of a different life…until now, 1943. There is a war and it provides a pathway out, at least for the town’s boys who have reached the age of 18.
All this background material is not made up. It takes a good deal of research and some educated assumptions to proceed with the kinds of descriptions I have in place for the town of Centreville and what life was like there in the 1940’s. I do not envy my previous generation of writers. They did not have the luxury of the Internet. They, as I did as a student years ago, had to take up a second residency at the library or travel to wherever it was that had to be a part of their book.
So, all these things about my characters and settings are discussed and embellished in Chapter 2. My attempt has been to “plant seeds” in this chapter that will make the reader later say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense because remember back in the beginning we were told about Louise when she…” –stuff like that. These are my “hey-cool-that-works” moments when I am writing. If they are really good I even surprise myself. It takes a lot to make those tiny hairs on the back of your neck get bristly…but ain’t it “wow” when they do!
Stay tuned for the next thrilling chapter of Author Diaries, brought to you by Blog. Feeling sluggish and unproductive? Try Blog and find new energy and meaning to your life. Blog…available at fine websites everywhere.
Marc Kuhn is the author of three books. Recently published is an adult historical novel, THE POPE’S STONE. The other two books are for children: NEVER GOOSE A MOOSE…And a bunch of other things you should never do!; and ABOUT A FARM, lessons for life regardless of where you live.
All three books are available at amazon.com and each has its own .com website under its title.
All editorial content of this Blog, excluding illustrations, is copyrighted to Marc L. Kuhn, 2013.