Friday, July 13, 2018

World-building: More important than story?

My current work-in-progress, The Seventh Tapestry, has historical roots that reach back to France and Scotland in the 16th Century. But the main story is set in contemporary times. I thought maybe I could write this story a little faster than my usual three-year turnaround. Ha!

Did I pick easy settings, located just around the block? Nope. My story is set in Scotland and Paris. So, I'm re-exploring neighborhoods near the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, with a side trip to Stirling Castle about an hour's drive away. Although we stayed in Edinburgh for a month several years ago, I'm wishing we could go back for at least another month.

Luckily the internet is the mother of all resources. This afternoon's jaunt led me to Deacon Brodie's Tavern in Lawnmarket. They have a scrumptious menu, and a quiet dining area upstairs, a little removed from the bustle of the bar below, and a fascinating back story. Apparently Deacon Brodie was an upstanding merchant who made cabinets and repaired locks during the day, but at night, he became a thief and broke into the wealthiest houses. He was hanged for his crimes in 1788.

Here's a view of the bar at Deacon Brodie's. Now, notice that slogan on the front of the bar that begins "A pledge to Scots . . ." It took a little bit to search out the rest of what is etched just below the bar. I finally found the rest of the quote on Twitter, of all places! Here's the full quote:

"A pledge to Scots: In love and life I hath no fear as I was born of Scottish blood."

Here's where the link to storytelling comes in. My heroine and hero will have a delicious lunch at Deacon Brodie's, most likely upstairs in that quiet dining room. And they'll talk about the original Deacon Brodie as they hunt down the thieves plaguing their museum, who might well be hiding in plain sight, just as Deacon did so long ago.

If you've read my previous historical fiction, you'll remember how Mac McDonnell used to say, "Bend, don't break," a rather useful Scottish proverb when all seems lost, when the only way to get through is to simply be stubborn and persevere.

In this new story, my characters will face down danger, various villains, and  their own doubts as they fall in love. So that statement carved into the front of the bar resonates. Suddenly, I knew what my character would say:

“In love and life, I have no fear,” Sandra whispered.

Meanwhile, more research is needed. For now, I'll remember our apartment overlooking the Writers' Museum at Lady Stair's Close just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. And, there's always Paris.
View of Writers' Museum, Lady Stair's Close, Edinburgh (Camp 2009)

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

IWSG: Waffling and Decluttering

This month's post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group asks us to consider how we're doing with our ultimate writing goals and to ask if they have they changed?

As I'm in the midst of waffling my way through a first draft and decluttering my office (3 boxes of books are simply gone, not an easy challenge), I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps the purpose of decluttering is clear -- I want more space to focus on my writing and fewer distractions. But the process of organizing and 'deleting' extraneous or nonessential projects, books-to-read, and evaluating whether some unfinished projects are worthy, can be a distraction in itself.

My books, finally decluttered!
I'll return to beginnings. I knew I wanted to write when I was 8 or 9 years old and struck by the injustice of birth. Why were some children in some families (mine, blue collar gritty), and others lived in that mythical cottage on the hill? I sporadically wrote and worked my way through college, but writing always came second to paying the rent, buying food, then building a career. I lamented the reality that writing came between those other commitments, until finally, at retirement, I dove into writing as if I had unlimited time and stamina and heart to do what I'd always dreamed.

What a blast this last decade has been. Three books complete and published. My historical fiction draws on the dark side of history (underlying themes of displacement, abandonment, and that age-old struggle for survival), as my characters work toward that happy-for-now ending. Along the way, I've learned much, but my writing goals are unchanged: To write stories that celebrate our dreams and our struggle to achieve them, despite historical realities. Perhaps that's not such a bad goal in today's climate.

Thank you to Alex Cavannagh for inspiring IWSG. This month's co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne! Why not visit other IWSG writers to see what's up? 

And my question to you: Has the underlying theme that resonates through your writing changed? How would you describe that theme?