1. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    WWII Novel

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jo spumoni, Sep 15, 2010.

    I really want to write a novel that takes place in the WWII era, but it's still in the planning stages. This is what I have so far:

    Two German art students, Johannes and Frederich, meet at the Fine Arts Academy in Munich during the 1930s. Johannes is a highly-principled, "art for art's sake" modernist who believes whole-heartedly in free expression. Frederich is less sure of who he wants to be, more inclined to paint what everyone likes. When the Nazis take control of Germany, Frederich finds his art in high demand as he paints a great deal of realistic, Neoclassic pictures featuring Aryan nudes. Johannes, however, holds that it is the artist's job to question authority, paints a variety of modern paintings bluntly against the Reich, and is labeled "Degenerate", which prevents him from getting any kind of job associated with art. He winds up being evicted from his apartment (too proud to get a menial job) and sleeping on his Frederich's couch, with a terrible job waiting tables in a cafe. Frederich's art is placed on the walls of all the highest ranking officials, and despite his personal dislike of the Nazi movement, he finds himself content with his fame and unwilling to risk his career for the higher cause. Johannes, meanwhile, goes into the underground against the SS.

    I'm kind of stuck there. I don't know exactly what happens after the artist gets evicted. I know I want a romance, probably between Johannes and the daughter of an SS official (one of Frederich's models), and I wanted to incorporate the Entartete Kunst exhibition of 1937 because it's a topic I actually know something about.

    Thoughts about the plot thus far? Does it sound boring? Unrealistic? Ideas on how I can end it? Thanks for any help.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as i've said in many other such pleas for help, don't try to write by committee...

    if you want to be a writer, you'll have to come up with your own story/plot ideas...
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    The one thing that could bring an edge to it especially in the 1930s was if they were suspected of being a couple.

    I think it has legs would you like me to ask questions to help get going? I know I find bouncing ideas remarkably useful and asking plot questions etc. The story remains mine but people are great for ideas:) Even when you don't like someone's idea it can lead to a new better one of your own.

    I am having slight grin it makes me wonder which one has painted the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies (a major plot piece in the comedy Allo Allo)
     
  4. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Mammamaia,
    Thanks for the advice, but no, I was not attempting to "write by committee" as you put it. I was merely hoping to bounce a few ideas back and forth because I find that the act of discourse helps to get me thinking. Perhaps I am naive, but I would imagine that other writers feel the same way, considering there is an entire forum for Plot Creation. It is not my object or intention to steal ideas and I assure you that I fully intend to come up with my own plot.
     
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  5. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Elgaisma,
    Thanks for the encouragement. I considered homosexuality as well, but I'm not sure exactly where I'd go with it. I thought I might make one of the guys (probably Frederich) gay, just to ratchet up the tension a little and make the decision to obey the Nazis a little more difficult than for most people. I don't think I'll have a homosexual relationship between Johannes and Frederich, though, although you're right, in the 1930s they might have been accused of that.

    I would very much appreciate some questions to get me thinking. Bouncing off ideas would be extremely helpful. Thanks.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    ok why is waiting tables so bad? What kind of place is it? Does it have music is it more a bar or tea house? Do either of them have any kind of religious basis?

    EDIT: I agree they dont come across as a couple but in an age of suspicion it could cause their arrest and maybe even sent to a concerntration camp.
     
  7. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    It's not a bad job for waiting tables, it's just that the character of Johannes finds such a subservient job demeaning. He's from a middle class background and he's got a degree from the Fine Arts Academy in Munich, so he feels it's beneath him. He's a bit stuck up. Also, it's a popular hang-out for SS officials and serving them really pisses him off, since the SS blacklisted him.

    The place itself is a little moderately priced cafe, outdoor tables and that sort of thing, mostly snacks and drinks. Pay is pretty low, and the boss is rather tyrannical. It plays stiff classical music on the weekends, employing Aryan violinists to play only German songs--Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, etc. I was thinking that it would be right next to a government office, so there would be a lot of clerks and officials who'd go there during their breaks. Johannes gets to serve them crappy coffee (due to rationing beginning 1939) and stale pastries (there was rationing after 1939 in Munich). He often spits in the coffee when no one is looking.

    Good point about the homosexual thing. I hadn't really thought of that. Maybe I'll make it just a very brief stay, until Johannes can get his own apartment. I don't really want them to go to a concentration camp--I'd rather stay out of that aspect except obliquely; too much emotion for me.

    Thanks for the thoughts.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    if it is a cafe or SS officers present willing to bet rationing didn't affect them so badly - they may have some bootleg alcohol to spice it up etc

    Is the cafe where he is recruited? Maybe their could be mounting suspicion and a mysterious stranger offers him a bed? even the daughter of the SS officer?

    I need to go to bed now but will ask more tomorrow.
     
  9. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    You're probably right about rationing among the highest-ranking officials, but I was thinking more along the lines of clerks and smaller posts (I did say officers, though; you're right). I bet the clerks and secretaries and etc still had to deal with rationing, if in a slightly smaller capacity than the average citizens.

    I don't know what you mean by recruited. Like where he meets the girl? I hadn't really planned on that, but it's something to think about.

    Happy sleeping.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    sorry you said he joined a resistance movement so someone would probably have introduced him, or recruited him. There were children of SS officers involved in the resistance movement.

    I should be in bed but baby is awake lol no rest for me tonight:)

    -Charlotte
     
  11. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Oh, I see what you mean now. I need to do a whole lot more research on the resistance, since right now I know zip. But that is an interesting idea--good way to involve a job. I shall ponder it. Thank you. I hope you get some rest.

    --Sara
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    me too lol

    Is Fredrich from a poorer background? if he had met Hitler through his work he was a charismatic cinvincing man and he did help provide jobs and stability for some groups, if you look at the good Hitler did looking at him from 1930s German perspective not 2010 US one Frederich supporting him isn't far fetched
     
  13. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Yeah. I was thinking Johannes would be middle-class, and Frederich would be on the poor side. Reluctant to part with his success, and kind of with the Nazis on disliking the rich Jews and the intelligencia.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    they had good reason for the first time some Germans were being offered hope and it felt positive. Hitler Youth provided focus etc
     
  15. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Yeah. I read an interview with a guy who'd been in Hitler Youth. It was funny, because he was only 7 or 8 and didn't really understand why he was there. He just liked to wear the uniform and carry the knife--that was pretty cool at the age of 7. It's that sort of thing that I'm interested in--the way the ideology just sort of took over. Whether you can really resist something like that. It's those questions that really inspired me to even think about writing this.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    a really useful exercise was an essay I wrote at uni where we had to show why Hitler wasn't evil.

    I started with his childhood, to the Jewish officer that recommeded him for the Iron Cross in WW1 etc
     
  17. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Wow, that sounds like a hard assignment. Although I bet it wasn't as hard as it shouldn't have been. A person orders the murder of 6 million people. But he was a person, nonetheless. He must have had his good qualities.
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I learned a lot from it, I have an Aunt who escaped from Eastern Germany leaving behind a son who had been one of the super race babies.

    It wasn't as hard as I had expected to write the essay, I learned to put it in a wider context about the abuse Hitler suffered in his life, his heroism etc Things I normally wouldn't think about it makes understanding the historical events in Germany easier to empathise with. I am in no way condoning what happened or think it is right. Nothing like that. But it revises the way I speak about the other side as well.

    What your characters look like I should imagine will be important as well will they be required to breed etc
     
  19. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    It's hard to see Hitler as anything but evil in this day and age, along with the people who went along with him. But everything and everyone deserves to be placed in its context, I suppose.

    With looks, I was thinking Frederich would be blond, blue-eyed classic Aryan. Handsome, muscular, every woman's dream, and ironically homosexual. Johannes was going to be darker-haired with thick glasses, but no Jewish or Gypsy blood. Kind of awkward-looking, walking with a limp from a bout with polio as a kid. What do you think?
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    thats how i imagined them
     
  21. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    That's a good sign, I think.
     
  22. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fertile territory, Jo!

    An underpinning theme might be the accord - or discord - between good taste and good morals.

    The dismissal and neglect of Joh's output might be seen as a perverse echo of young Hitler's failure to make it as an artist. If you are feeling very brave you could write parallel scenes of the two hawking their wares..

    How to bring it all to an end? Happy endings are splendid. Fred coming to his senses would be lovely...

    He's painting a portrait of high-ranking Nazi. The chap is no idealist. He fits in because he's a genuine sadist. In truth he regards the Nazis as peasant upstarts etc etc Discussion turns to art and the fellow reveals a taste for the the modern and free. He shows Fred his - hidden - collection. Amongst the paintings is one of Joh's, one that Fred and Joh had argued about years previously...
     
  23. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    I hadn't considered the parallel between Johannes and Hitler at all. I don't know about a parallel scene; I didn't really think the book would be much about Hitler himself. But yes, certainly they are both outcasts in their own way.

    I was thinking that this book would discuss the danger of resistance vs. the incredible easiness of acceptance. My characters are just artists--they have the option of facing no persecution at all and in fact of living quite successfully if they paint the right things and turn a blind eye to the whisperings. The success is at the price of destroying ideology, but many, tragically, would think this a small price for assured safety.

    That's a great idea for a scene--I very much like the idea of Nazi hypocrisy and it would be a good tie-in to the fact that even today, they're discovering great works of art hidden in basements and closets. "Genuine sadist", however, may be somewhat simplistic. He'd be a family man, with two perfect Aryan children who he reads aloud to every night before they go to bed; he'd have a beautiful wife and he'd be active in high German society. But by day, he would order the murder of 6 million Jews, homosexuals, and Gypsies because to him they are not people.

    What do you think? Have I seen too many Holocaust movies?
     
  24. Lothgar
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    Hmmm..."Art for Art's sake" and "Artist's job to question authority" seems to be a conflict.

    First of all, I thought it was the journalist's job to question authority and the artist's job to lampoon it (or in the case of the third reich produce propaganda for it), but maybe that's just me.

    Secondly, Art is expression of thought, ideas and emotion through medium, thus art for art's sake would have nothing to do with questioning authority, as questioning authority takes you out of "for art's sake" into the realm of political activism, or am I wrong?

    Thirdly, in the 1930s the Nazi party SA (commonly called the "Brown Shirts") were the stormtroopers on the streets, beating up political dissidents, rivals, Jewish minorities and basically anyone who opposed them. Vandalism, arson and even murder were not uncommon. So taking a stand against them implies one of three things.

    Either the person is belligerent and rashly jumps in the face of whomever there is to oppose, without any clear understanding of the likely consequences of their actions...

    Or the person is heroic, principled, naive and doesn't understand that he is inviting violent retribution and possibly murder on himself...

    Or the person is heroic, principled and resists in an intelligent manner that both conceals his identity from those who would come after him and allows for him to inflict the greatest harm on his enemy (such as the resistance movements of the era)

    I'm just tossing out a few thing you may wish to take into consideration.

    There is a ton of information available on the Third Reich. I'd suggest the Time Life book series dealing with the rise of the Third Reich and World War Two, the numerous documentaries on the History Channel and www.google.com for internet resources.

    Some things you may want to keep in mind for your story is that the vast bulk of the German people actually thought rather highly of the Nazi Party at first. There were, of course, political parties opposed to them, but for the most part the Nazi's did many great things for Germany in the 1930s (it didn't all go to hell until the 1940s).

    After the defeat of Germany in world war one, the German economy was destroyed, the citizenry was unemployed the national infrastructure was destroyed, etc. At first the German people sang the praises of Herr Hitler for rebuilding the roads and factories, creating jobs for the unemployed (They didn't realize at first that many of these jobs were in factories building tanks, planes, rifles and bombs) and revitalizing the sense of German national pride that had been so bruised with the defeat in world war one. This sense of pride stemmed mostly from grand scale monuments to Germanic heroism and the new national army (that gradually kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, etc.).

    The German people didn't start losing faith in der Fuhrer until he brought the wrath of the entire civilized world crashing down on them (and the extent of the war crime atrocities didn't come to full light until the close of the war, as the various concentration camps were liberated by allied forces).

    To my knowledge the SS was divided into subsections with the Gestapo, who were tasked with finding traitors, saboteurs and assassins in Germany trying to undermine the German war effort. The Allgemeine SS operated concentration camps in occupied territory and the Waffen SS were elite commando units who operated as regular military units. While there were resistance underground fighting the Nazis, most were directed at military occupation forces, and only a lesser extent towards the SS (What I recall of resistance to the SS was predominantly Jewish resistance in places like the Warsaw ghetto, once they realized the Jews were being rounded up, taken away and never coming back).

    I freely admit I'm pulling this information out of my own recollections, so I advise you NOT to rely on my memory and look up your own research on the matter.
     
  25. art
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    Genuine sadists can function - apparently - entirely normally. A small matter... but to make things impactful his vileness should be made clear: gloating accounts of his works as Fred paints on, perhaps (Fred is the sort of chap one opens up to - he is, in his work and interactions, a mere pleaser of others).

    You know, make the chap responsible for grim things but perhaps not all of the Third Reich's crimes..;)

    A doctor or scientist, maybe, involved in the dysgenics programme.
     

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