Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ladies First

Over on the Cross & Cutlass Blog, host Marylu Tyndall posts a piece by Nancy Moser about Martha Washington. This is her portrait. As a historical fiction author, the lives of those who came before us are especially meaningful. The lives of the first ladies of the 18th and early 19th centuries are intriguing, their strength to hold their families and marriages tightly bonded through adverse times is a legacy each woman should ponder.

In my current NIP (novel in progress) there are five female cousins to my heroine, Darcy Morgan. Darcy's name alone is irrevocably early American. Her cousins are all named after first ladies. Martha, Abigail, Dolly, Lizzy, and Louisa. Martha is the oldest, the most controlled of the five. Abigail is more outspoken. Dolly is young and demure. Lizzy shy but interested in gaining suitors. Louisa is reserved and not yet old enough to find affairs of the heart her pursuit. Darcy, on the other hand, possesses all of these qualities.

I am in love with my characters in Beside Two Rivers, and I've missed them lately while working on the final revisions to Surrender the Wind. I am hoping that within the next two weeks, I will return to this novel and write my heart out about a heroine who follows her heart, but not her dreams.

When planning a novel, I have a file of photos and paintings that reflect how I imagine my characters. This gives me a wonderful inner visual. Alongside the pictures I have the names of the characters and a few sentences about their personalities. I find this works better for me than character charts.

I have found one painting of girl that reflects Darcy. Then there is a photo from the movie 'Becoming Jane', that says it all about her character.

Here are the finest portraits of the first ladies. Art has and will always be a source of research for writing historical fiction. These paintings inspire as well as educate a writer on clothing, hair style, and if you look closely demeanor.

Abigail Adams

Dolly Madison

Elizabeth Monroe

Louisa Adams

1 comment:

MaryLu Tyndall said...

Wonderful article! I love hearing about our country's first ladies. So many of them were such wonderful role models for young women. And I adore the artwork! I'm like you, I surround myself with a bunch of paintings and pictures of my characters while I'm writing. And they become more and more real to me as I tell their story.