1. Trey
    Offline

    Trey New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pisgah Forest, NC

    Historical fiction - development and setting

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Trey, Dec 25, 2012.

    Hi gang!

    My current book project is based on my own family history. I am the family genealogist and while researching one particular family line, it occurred to me that this might make a good story. Now that I'm actually writing it, I think it will be a GREAT story! Here are the basics:

    The setting is central Alabama, antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods plus at least 2 decades following.

    The back-story: In 1852 the central character's mother, Rachel, owned land in Lowndes County. She was also listed as head of household above her husband on the 1860 census. That is a significant fact. Doing some digging I found that Rachel had been assigned a land patent that had been warranted to a guy named Tilman Leuk, totally unknown to the family as far as I can tell. He received the land warrant for fighting in The Florida War in 1832. He must have sold her his warrant in 1852. Maybe he was desperate, or decided to go off and join the gold rush. Problem with that is, that it was not legal for married women to own property in Alabama in 1852!

    Another interesting fact is that Rachel was only 13 when she married 21 year old Elijah. She bore her first child at the age of 14, while raising Elijah's 2 children from a previous marriage. Elijah's 1st wife probably died from malaria in South Carolina. Shortly after marrying Rachel in South Carolina, he moved them all to Alabama.

    The family wasn't a wealthy planter family with a plantation, but were the middle class farmer of the day, commonly known as "plain folk." The large family worked the farm alongside the 2 or 3 slaves that they owned. It was pretty typical for the family and slaves to have a very good relationship and frequently, the slave was allowed to work off the farm when time was slack to earn money so that they could buy their freedom.

    The central character is Lizzie, who happens to be my great grandmother. According to the census, Lizzie was 5 in 1860. Lincoln was elected the first time in November of that year. The novel begins in October of 1860. They were a financially secure family with at least three parcels of land, including the 240 acre section they lived on. They had 3 field slaves and 1 house slave, probably a family. Suddenly, in 1870, Lizzie is a 15 year old prostitute in Greenville, AL living in a bungalow next to her 21 year old friend, Josephine. The men are gone, the land is gone, Rachel is living in a boarding house with 2 of Lizzie's sisters in the neighboring county. In 1880, Lizzie is back with her mother, with two little boys that share their mother's surname. In 1885 (Florida census), Lizzie, Rachel, the boys and two more children are living in St. Augustine, Florida. Lizzie has married Joe Allen (my g-grandfather) who has adopted the two bastard children and they all, except Rachel, share the surname Allen. There is little to no census record for 1890, due to a fire in Washington D.C. that destroyed the census records for that year.

    In 1896, Joe Allen had a political argument with a friend in a bar over "The Silver Question." http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/bryanreligion.html Joe pulled a knife and cut Jim Weidman, Jim pulled a gun and shot Joe. Both men died leaving families. Lizzie is left in St. Augustine alone with 7 children to raise. From 1900 to 1947 they are in Jacksonville, FL.

    Not sure where and when the novel will end, but my job is now to fill in the blanks . . . answer the unanswered questions. What happened during the decade of 1860 to 1870? How did they lose their land, confiscation or foreclosure? What happened to the apparently feeble minded or disabled Elijah? Where did the boys go off to fight and who came back? What happened to the slave family during those years and after emancipation? How did Lizzie end up a whore in Greenville? :confused: After 1870, how did Lizzie meet Joe Allen? Were they childhood friends or acquaintances, or did they meet as whore and client? Did they fall head over heels in love? What form did that take? After all, she WAS a whore, with two bastard whore children! Did he feel the need to rescue her? Why did they leave for Florida? Of course it was the scandal! Right? Were they run off, did they sneak off, did they ride the train or go by wagon? What was life like in Florida in the late 1800's, especially in St. Augustine? How did my grandmother grow up in St. Augustine? Perhaps a sequel!? She was a flapper, the wild child of the 1920's. They make our 60's look tame!! Lizzie died in 1947, a proper, stern matron who showed affection only to her little black dog. My eldest sister remembers her.

    Then there is the cultural setting, what did their farm look like, what did they eat, what music did they enjoy, how did they "do" church, what was the social networking of the time, what did they do for fun, what games did they play, how did they dress, how did they talk and what was it like to be a prostitute in 1870? I have about 4 years of research to do!! Fortunately, I already know quite a bit about the period, but not nearly enough. :eek:

    By the way, Lizzie's brother is Irvin Williams, the singer Hank Williams' great grandfather! I am Hank Jr's 3rd cousin.

    Now I need to develop a plot, conflict, action, and suspense! I have no idea how to develop the story except to write it, and research the questions that come up along the way. I am open to any suggestion or feedback, including critique. I don't want it to be Michener saga heavy, but I don't want it to be too light either. It is a story of joyous life, bitter death and disappointment, and survival. I would like to hear suggestions on organizing research too. As a genealogist, I do know how to organize data, but organizing historical research is quite another matter!

    What do you think? Do I have a chance for a blockbuster?? :D

    Have a GREAT Christmas everyone!!

    Trey
     
  2. capturedpotential
    Offline

    capturedpotential Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2012
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    0
    This is a lot to take in...

    I have to say that it already sounds so interesting. Putting it into story form, if done well, will probably be quite successful. I strongly recommend you read The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. These are non-fiction stories that are absoloutely stunning. I think it may be similar to what you want to do, minus the fiction part. I'm sorry I can't add more advice right now, but I think many others will help you more with the mechanics of it.

    I think writing an outline would be helpful to you, come up with everything and then start writing. I've always been the write then research type. Now am discovering that it would've been easier to plan it out first...if you can. Sometimes its fun to just write than really sit down and do a lot of shitty editing. Really depends on the person you are. But anyway, I think it's a great idea! Sounds like quite the history in your family! I look forward to seeing what you do with it.
     
  3. Tales of Anima
    Offline

    Tales of Anima Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    America
    I second the outline bit, because this story sounds like it needs a skeleton to put all the bits (historical facts) and pieces (character motivations) on.

    It sounds like it would make a very cool story, and it only reminds us that truth is stranger than fiction.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    a chance, yes... how big a one depends on how well you can write...

    best of luck with it!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  5. Trey
    Offline

    Trey New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pisgah Forest, NC
    Thanks for the encouragement! Fortunately the genealogy part lends itself well to an outline. I want to be very careful not to get bogged down in historical trivia and minutia. Weaving the history into the dialog will be my biggest challenge. I'm sure I will be here a lot over the next many months, asking for opinion and correction!

    Trey
     
  6. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I'd definitely glam it up and change the ending. Always a good starting point.
    Good luck! :)
     
  7. auntiebetty
    Offline

    auntiebetty Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2012
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Ohio, Arizona, Colorado
    Hi Trey:

    The good news for you is that your story is personal, so you don't have to worry about someone else publishing it before you do. It's a facinating story and you can have a lot of fun dreaming up your own answers to those haunting questions. And, you might decide to write the story one way, publish it; and then rewrite it answering those questions in a different but just as interesting way. One book might be romantic, another a wretching story of survival.

    Good luck and please post your questions often. Your questions and the answers you receive will provide an excellent tutorial to myself and others who are attempting to write historical fiction.

    auntie betty
     
  8. Trey
    Offline

    Trey New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pisgah Forest, NC
    Thank you Auntie! This is going to be fun!

    Trey
     

Share This Page