Over and over I heard the same phrases. In fact, I heard those words so many times I began to think they were part of an author conspiracy that was as far-reaching as it was annoying.
“I got to a point in writing the story where the door was opening and I, the author, had no idea who was coming in.”
Or some such similar phrasing. Authors would say this; I didn’t believe it was possible. Of course the writer knows what is coming next, who is stepping inside, which character is about to be killed.
Almost nine years ago I started my own journey writing novels and guess what? Now I’ve experienced the exact same thing. Letting the story have its own head, so to speak, has become quite a lot of fun, not to mention a marvelous way to access my subconscious and see what happens.
And I’ve learned that great and wondrous ideas come of their own accord if I just let my thoughts canter along, unbridled, free, taking their own paths. Now that doesn’t mean there is no structure to my writing because of course there is. But in that rough draft, loosely following a plot outline, elements do actually come of their own accord into my work. And I don’t edit them out too quickly.
The connection between our fingers on the keyboard and our conscious mind is so illuminated by the unconscious mind. I guess that’s what is called imagination but it’s more than that. It’s informed by the sum total of our dreams and our nightmares, of all we’ve read and done, and most certainly of the people who share our lives.
In my Loyalist trilogy are a dimpled chin, a particular grace before meals, an oldish sounding character name, a mill on a specific lot and concession–and many more tidbits which have found their way out of my life and into my writing. My fingers have simply gone to them as I write. I even realized a few months ago that the character Joseph Brant, Thayendenagea, whom I researched deeply before using him as a Mohawk war chief in The Loyalist’s Wife, came easily to mind because I had written about him for my memorized speech way back in Grade Eight.
So when people tell us to write about what we know, maybe this is what they mean. I have learned to lean on that undercurrent in my brain. It may have more surprises for me. And I no longer hate hearing other authors refer to that unknown character behind the door.
This weekend my husband and I leave on our wonderful Authors and History Cruise out of New York and up the Atlantic coast to Halifax. I’ll try to write next week’s post about the history we explore as we travel, as long as the Internet is not too impossible. I’ll be taking a break from writing The Loyalist Legacy, number three in the trilogy, but ideas will be floating in my head. I may even have someone wanting to surprise me and rush through a door!
For All Lovers of Historical Fiction!
The Loyalist’s Luck, Book Two in The Loyalist Trilogy!
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.
The Loyalist’s Wife, Book One in The Loyalist Trilogy!
by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship
Short-listed for Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair’s Canada Self-Published Book Awards
When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.