It's important to read books in the genre we're attempting to write. I've mentioned the Historical Novel Society and their great Facebook page before. That's where I found Tamara Eaton and her new book, Weeping Women's Springs, about a strange town and how five women are affected by war. It's beautifully done and I contacted Tamara to find out more about the techniques she used. Her responses follow.
An Idea Develops Over Time
The idea for Weeping Women Springs came to me in college. I had an image of an almost deserted town frozen in time and they had isolated themselves from the world. That image haunted me, the flag draped altars in every home, and these women left behind. It took me another twenty-five years to write the story. Upon completion I realized that I needed to wait for my maturity/life experience to catch up to the idea.
A Unique Way to Tell a Story
The use of an interviewer to relate the story was a late addition to the novel. I always pictured the women telling their story to someone. Then I read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and she used an archivist to fill in gaps in her story much like I did with the Reporter's notes. It worked for me to have the women tell the story to an outsider who is trying to understand what happened to them.
My goal was to show the different effects of grief and the stages of grief. For each character one stage of grief became their focal point, the stage they get stuck in. For example, Maxine is mired in the sadness while Liv is angry and Ruth is in denial and wants to move on. As I kept those stages at the forefront, the characters developed from their attitudes and what they would do within that framework.
You must read Weeping Women's Spring. You'll be surprised how creatively the women deal with their sorrow.
Next time: Postcards and letters help tell a story