Thursday, August 1, 2013

Imagining Scenes

Last Tuesday I joined another writer for an event that was called "A Literary Adventure." After reading some brief selections from our books we invited the audience to participate in a discussion about what they'd just heard and about writing in general.

There was one question that I found especially interesting. And original.

I'd told the group that while writing Laura Secord, Heroine of the War of 1812 the publisher had told me I was free to dramatize certain events in Laura's life — as long as the event had actually happened. The book begins with a scene I created around what I felt must have been a traumatic event in young Laura's life — the day she learns that her father has made arrangements for her six-month-old baby sister, Abigail, to be adopted, to be taken from the family home to go and live with relatives.

Laura's mother, Elizabeth, has recently died, leaving four little girls. Laura, aged eight, was the eldest. It is a poignant scene, the child rushing outside where the baby's cradle has just been loaded into the horse and cart that waited in the road, hoping to say one last goodbye. ". . . to kiss again the rosy lips and breathe in the baby's sweet, milky scent."

The question was: How much did you know about the event that you chose to dramatize before you wrote it?

Well, I knew that the baby's name was Abigail and that she was adopted when she was six months, and I knew the names and ages of Laura's siblings, the date of Elizabeth's death, and that the baby was adopted by "the Nashes." The rest — Laura recalling her mother's last days, her Papa turning Laura back to the house so that she could "Run up and check that we haven't forgotten anything," were all imagined.

That scene always draws a response from my readers. Writing little scenes, almost as if I were watching them on a stage, helps breathe life into the characters. Let me know what you think.

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