An Emerging Theme in My Writing: Fathers and Daughters

As I’ve been working on The Rebel’s Touch and Atlanta & the Lion and Other Tales, I’ve begun to notice a pattern: I tend to write about young-ish women who have lost a male authority figure in their lives. I did the same thing with Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood. The fact is, the topic fascinates me.

You see, my father has played a huge role in shaping my life. For the longest time, his morals were my morals. His rules were my rules. His ideas about relationships were my ideas about relationships. To think of a life not shaped by my father, or any male authority figure, boggles my mind. I explored the idea of what happens when a girl doesn’t have a father to protect her from an arranged marriage she doesn’t want; how does she take care of herself when her mother can’t help her (Catching the Rose)? I explored the idea of what happens to a girl whose father had shaped her daily existence due to his illness but when he finally succumbs she has to pick up the pieces and start living her own life (Haunting Miss Trentwood).

The short story I’m reworking for Atlanta & the Lion is unnamed as yet; it might be called “The Friendly Suffragette,” or “Killing with Kindness,” or “A Smile with Arms.” The heroine has lost her grandfather, and she has joined the suffragette movement as a way to fill her days. The tactics of the other women don’t seem to be making headway, so, she tries something radical: she offers hugs to those who need them.

First off, as an aside, can I tell you how frustrating it can be, writing historical fiction, sometimes? I was halfway through writing the story when I realized I didn’t know if the word “hug” was something someone would say around 1913. Thanks to the internet, I now know the word “hug” was first used to mean “affectionate embrace” as early as the 1650’s. So phew.

I’ve had a couple people comment that Haunting Miss Trentwood is unsettling because it’s about a father dying and haunting his daughter. Totally understandable. The beginning of the book is a true gothic tale but it descends into silliness fairly quickly once Mr Trentwood starts quipping his one liners. I learned from that book to establish the level of silliness as soon as possible so the reader knows what to expect.

In The Rebel’s Touch, I keep paring back the plot. First, it was to be about the Underground Railroad. The heroine, Tempest Gray, was to have stumbled onto a group of slaves and their guide at the shore of the Ohio River. She gets kidnapped, and discovers that the man who kidnapped her has no memory… but when he touches her, he remembers something. Throw in a greedy father and mother who want to marry her off to the local rich man who has access to food stores despite the blockade on the Confederacy, and you have one convoluted, confused mess of a book.

The Rebel’s Touch is no longer about the Underground Railroad. A shame, because I bought a bunch of books on the topic and am now somewhat of an amateur historian in regards to Ripley, OH and its Underground Railroad celebrities. The book is now set somewhere in Kentucky, Lexington, I’m guessing, because I will be there this fall and so will have access to their libraries and historians if I can plan everything properly. It’s still about a girl who finds a man without a memory… but in the days after the Civil War, and thus is a story about the American Restoration. As always, I’m beginning my journey with this book by hunting and gathering images to inspire me, which you can follow on Pinterest.

The first sentence goes something like this:

Everyone else remembered it as the day the president died, but Tempest Gray remembered it as the day the man with no memory fell from her tree.

Looking forward to the restart of this adventure. Not sure where the father-daughter relationship will come to play, but since the theme has emerged in my other works, I expect it will manifest soon.

Writing up a Storm

Dear Reader,

Last week I started The Rebel’s Hero over again. Yes, again. This is the third try, and I already feel much better about it. I’m keeping to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week in these crazy creative bursts that leave my head aching afterward.

Case in point: I’ve written about four thousand words so far, using much of what was already written, but rearranged and with more sensory detail. I got some critique from Haunting Miss Trentwood where readers wanted more description to really feel immersed.

Writing is becoming fun again, because this is a fun concept. The Rebel’s Hero is about a young woman who stumbles onto a runaway attempt and gets kidnapped by the Underground Railroad agent determined to keep his operation secret. Things start to heat up when physical contact triggers memories from his lost childhood.

This is still in keeping with the original plot I’ve been talking about for The Rebel’s Hero, with some tweaks. This should be a fun read, because I’m having fun writing it. I’ll probably be asking newsletter subscribers whether they would like to

Facts of the day

Slaves had been escaping captivity since the peculiar institution was established in America back in the 1640s. The Revolutionary War was a huge boon for slaves bent on escaping… according to my sources around 100,000 Africans and African-Americans took the war as an opportunity to run away.

Around 1500 slaves escaped successfully each year between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, i.e. not including the slaves who were recaptured.That’s a much larger number than I expected!

As the nation expanded westward, the Ohio River became pivotal for escaping slaves. In fact, the river gained such nicknames as the “River Jordan,” and the “Dark Line” between slavery and nominal freedom.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Best,

Belinda

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Write Every Day

I am now a Master of Science. Fear me!

What have I been doing with myself?

I have taken my time detoxing from the intensity of my masters program. Graduating has felt like how I imagine transitioning to civilian life after being in the military for two years must feel. I didn’t have to kill anyone (though I wanted to), but life in the “real world” such as it’s described is very different. For one thing, I get to make money. For another thing, I actually pay taxes now.

Welcome to the world of adulthood, Belinda.

My first week after graduation was spent hanging out with friends and watching movies, as well as moving home to the parents’ house while looking for a job.

The second week out of school, I began to read fiction, but not necessarily romantic fiction. After my stint as a literary short story writer for one of my elective courses, I realized that while I love to write about love, it doesn’t always have to be distinctly romantic, or at least belonging to the romantic genre and the dogma that goes along with it.

And you know what that means, if I’ve begun to read fiction again. Yes, you assume correctly, it means I’ve begun to write fiction again.

Starting over

As mentioned in my previous post, the last two years have been… an experience. To say the least. And with the aplomb of any good writer, I mean to use my experiences to inform my writing. Not explicitly, of course, but I have learned so much about how people actually behave versus how we read about them in fiction.  I wanted to continue writing Trentwood’s Orphan; I’d had a dream about the characters about a month ago, which hinted at my shifting interests from academics back to fiction writing.

The problem? Everything seemed too fantastic, too dramatic, too… forced. I was trying to create drama rather than allowing the inherent dramatics of being human speak for themselves. Which brings me to my point: I’m starting over. I have cut 75% of the character list, 100% of the plot, and 100% of the theme.

I pulled out my whiteboard and began scribbling thoughts about the new theme, which I had realized while falling asleep the night before. I thought about the experiences I’ve had over the last two years, and pulled in what few characters I actually needed to tell the story. I put major plot points on post-it notes and arranged them on the whiteboard under the headings Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. I copied my notes into my notebook, and walked away for an hour.

And then I began to write Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Write every day

If you’re having trouble writing, I’d like to point you in the direction of a really simple online writing tool that has worked wonders for me. It’s called 750 Words, and that’s the entire point. You log in with your existing online profiles, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and write.

After you log in, you are greeted with a blank screen with a cursor, with the date at the top of the screen. And you write. There is a running total at the bottom of the screen. When you reach 750 words, the number turns green and you get a little notification saying “Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!”

You have the option to change the color of your text, background, etc. Other than that, the only thing you can control is your writing. The website doesn’t care how long it takes you to write, it simply expects you to write 750 words that day. It logs your typing style, and autosaves for you. There is no formatting of the text so you can’t get distracted.

It’s simple. It’s brilliant.

My friend used 750 Words to spur his writing of his masters thesis, and while I had no problems with my masters thesis, I’ve been a little intimidated to start the new incarnation of Mary’s story. So I logged into 750 Words and gave it a whirl. Next thing I knew, I had 1000 words, and a solid first chapter.

Give it a try. It might work for you.

Worderella Writes schedule

Given the fact that I want to focus on my writing, I’m taking a much-needed actual vacation, I’m starting a new job, and I’ll be moving out of the parents’ place in a couple of months, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and commit to too much all at once. Or rather, more than I have already. So I’m only going to promise to write once a month, probably on a weekend. It might be a simple writing update, it might be a book review, it might be a cool link, it might be all of the above.

Most of all, I’m just glad to be back. Sincerely and truly back, doing what I love: sharing my love of writing with my peers.