1-C 2-D 3-B 4-E 5-A
- “Secrets and stuff. Like the name of our town. It’s got an “s” inside but you’re not supposed to say it.” —Junior Thompson
Indeed, secrets abound in Junior Thompson’s war-torn hometown, Carlisle, PA. His voice narrates the opening of Soldier’s Heart. He’s grown up fast during the Civil War and bravely tells the truth about what lurks beneath the surface of appearances.
Junior’s voice was the first to come to me after I found the historical documents my parents had forgotten. One sleepless evening night, when I was agonizing over the slave documents I discovered, Junior’s face came to me: a sober and wise 12 year old. He fixed his unblinking eyes on me and said: “…this is your story, too.”
- “…what does thou think, that Ned and me want to live here, where the soil and the people are harder than any in Maryland? No child, we’re here ’cause thou art here.”—Ester Tilghman
Ester and Sarai Tilghman are sisters and former slaves. They were separated in childhood and had radically different growing up experiences. Ester had a healthier living situation and the benefit of a Quaker education. Sarai still battles demons raised by the abuse she endured, but has kept hidden; until now. In this scene, the sisters’ relationship and identities are endangered as they confront what divides them.
- “See how quickly the human heart turns? From needing forgiveness, to needing to defend and avenge what’s ours.”) — Chance Thompson
- “Stop right there. I get your meaning. Don’t say that last part. Don’t say it to anybody, understand? Words have two meanings. What you mean and what other peoples hear.”–Yancy Swonger
- “We shall have to jump the creek at that point, but don’t worry, your gelding knows every groundhog hole and water hazard on this land.”–Maggie Henderson
Funny, the tweet message that starts this post is a case in point. That’s my voice up there, sounding like a poorly educated robot!
Writing authentic voices is tough, hard work. Especially in historical fiction. Soldier’s Heart is a Civil War era tale based on a true story. If I visit a geographic place, only echos remain, the original voices are long gone. Except in correspondence and journals. I do have letters, so I had some clue. But not for all of the characters. How to create authentic (believable, and of the period) voices that are also distinctive (reader can recognize the character)? And let’s face it, my reading friends, we also have current political and social viewpoints influencing our thinking and perceptions.
Just for fun, let’s try a little matching experiment with some voices from Soldier’s Heart. (I’ll provide answers in a future post.) Our characters include:
a. Maggie, a white southerner from a Quaker and formerly slave owning family who married a Union officer
b. Chance, a free black man (no slave background), landowner and business owner in Carlisle, PA
c. Junior, Chance’s son
d. Ester, sister of Chance’s wife, Sarai. Both women are freed slaves
e. Yancy, a black War of 1812 veteran employed by Maggie
- Secrets and stuff. Like the name of our town. It’s got an “s” inside but you’re not supposed to say it.
- …what does thou think, that Ned and me want to live here, where the soil and the people are harder than any in Maryland? No child, we’re here ’cause thou art here.
- See how quickly the human heart turns? From needing forgiveness, to needing to defend and avenge what’s ours.
- Stop right there. I get your meaning. Don’t say that last part. Don’t say it to anybody, understand? Words have two meanings. What you mean and what other peoples hear.
- We shall have to jump the creek at that point, but don’t worry, your gelding knows every groundhog hole and water hazard on this land.
Submit your answers here. Include your email and you’ll receive, free, the first chapter of Soldier’s Heart.
In “The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice” Italian researchers led by Loris Vezzali found that school children and high school and university students who read Harry Potter showed more positive attitudes toward people from disadvantaged groups. “…extended contact via story reading is a powerful strategy to improve out-group attitudes.” Isn’t it lovely when research confirms what we as readers have known all along?
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My new logo and website feature a bridge motif (kudos to Meaghan Burnett). Why a bridge? There’s some personal history. And there’s you, the reader, the world changer.
Personal stuff. That stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge brings on a flood of happy memories. Frank and I started our marriage in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Roof-hopping in the Embarcadero. Name changing at Tadich’s Grill. Famously lost flip flops.) We try to get back to the west coast every year or so (especially during spring training, Go Giants!) hanging stuff.
World-changer stuff. Readers drawn to my books (Sandpaper Sisters, Soldier’s Heart) likely are bridge builders between different groups of people. Not a researched fact, but it bears out in my chats with readers. As a bridge builder, you see the positive power of connection. You bring together people and groups who might not otherwise relate. Organizations love having you around because you bring out the best in the community, the culture.
Whether you’re religious or not, know that this is a holistic and spiritual gift, in that you are motivated by a desire to achieve a greater good, not by self-interest. Our fractured, polarized world has tremendous need for your enriching, life-changing work.
The bridge-builders, the big challenge (and irony) is this: it can be a lonely calling. Here’s why (with words of encouragement for you). Your bridge-building work…
- …at the boundaries of groups may mean you never become a part of groups’ inner circles (Inner circles may be why connections broke in the first place. So bridge builders especially need some steadfast, positive relationships in their lives.)
- …may never be formally recognized (but be mindful of the informal rewards, they are special and lavish. Bridge builders get the new and better assignments, are granted flexibility that a hierarchical role can’t enjoy, and other relationally savvy people recognize your work, thank you and bless you.
A final word: your mantra is “we did this” which is part of the power of this super-gift. Don’t succumb to the temptation to claim sole responsibility for your work, that’s kryptonite.
Have a bridge-building story to share? We’d love to hear it.