Monday, September 21, 2009

History in My Own Backyard

History surrounds me where I live in Maryland. How fortunate I am that I have Fort Frederick to the west, Fort McHenry to the east, Civil War battlefields such as Antietam, Sharpsburg, and Gettysburg nearby. My town was founded in 1745, and old houses, churches, and other buildings have been preserved with pride.

A few Saturdays ago, we drove up to Baltimore and I had the privilege to meet author Marylu Tyndall. She was in town from California to do research for a series of new novels she is writing set during the War of 1812. After galavanting around the Inner Harbor, we headed to Fort McHenry.

I was embarrassed to admit as a Marylander I had never toured the fort. It was breathtaking, especially as we stood on the high hill overlooking the harbor and watched the sailing ship, The Pride of Baltimore, glide silently as a butterfly across the water.

One thing that clung to me, besides the awesome sense of the sacrifice men made to keep our country free, was as a storyteller there must be a dramatic question to every story I write. Without a dramatic question in a novel, readers will set it down. It will not be a page turner.

A single, powerful question is what a good story is based on. It will unfold to the reader through the actions of your characters and vivid scene that grips them with cliffhangers. I will illustrate through some well known stories.

Jane Eyre: The dramatic question is will Jane find true love and acceptance and will Rodchester ever have her as his wife?

Pride & Prejudice: Will Elizabeth and Darcy see that what one thought was pride is actually a subtle insecurity, and that what the other thought was prejudice is really caution, and will they ever declare their love for each other?

Post the dramatic question of your novel where you can see each day. Practice writing is several different ways.

What is the single powerful question that is about your novel?


Edna said...

I really enjoy reading about history and enjoy seeing all the old things around. I have done my genelogy and learned so much about the wars and a lot of my people were in them. I would love to win a book if you are having a drawing,


Jessica said...

That's so neat! I love seeing things from the past. Wish we had more here. I believe we do have some sort of Native American mounds in a city nearby... I can't remember now.
Thanks for sharing. :-)

Carla Gade said...

Looks like you had a great time with MaryLu! Sometimes the best field trips are right in our own back yard.

I really love that tip - having a dramatic question to keep in view while writing. I'm going to have to think about that one now a write them out for my WIPS. THe thing that I think is just great about that question is it helps motivate the writer as well as the reader!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

Ahem. I've lived in the Greater Philadelphia area for six years and have yet to tour the historic sites. Life interrupted those plans, but I must make an effort to get there.

Susan :)