Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw
We write stories, we tell tales, our imagination runs wild. Well, even when we write non-fiction, the stories are still there. But what makes a story one that keeps the reader engaged? My thought- details.
As most of you know, I have researched and been writing about the early women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900. I can write about when they were born, where they lived and where they died. Basic information. But will that keep the reader engaged? To ‘create’ the story of their lives it would be the details that add the joy and sorrow to what these women did.
When Alida Avery left Vassar to move to Denver, Colorado in 1874 she probably came by train. To add details to her trip I could talk about train travel at that time. Fortunately for me, Helen (Hunt) Jackson wrote about just such a trip. Below is an excerpt from her essay, in Bits of Travel at Home called ” Chicago to Ogden”.
Next morning, more prairie,-unfenced now, undivided, unmeasured, unmarked, save by the different tints of different growths of grass or grain’ great droves of cattle grazing here and there; acres of willow saplings pale yellowish green and solitary trees, which look like ‘hermits’ in a wilderness. These, and now and then a shapeless village, which looks even lonelier than the empty loneliness by which it is surrounded,- these are all for hours and hours. We think,”now we are getting out into the great spaces.” “This is what the word “West” has sounded like.”
Would I use all of the above when telling Alida’s story? No, but the details of the endless miles of prairie, the solitary towns, that is a commonality that everyone traveling west would have seen. There are such wonderful resources to add the details to your story, you just have to find and use them. By adding the details the reader can see what your character sees. The details help them understand how your character may have felt. To me it helps make them human and relatable. It brings their journeys into a sharper focus.
How do you find details for your work? What does your character see? Does their environment play a major role in their story. One of my favorite stories, and it was a children’s story by Helen, is “Nellie’s Silver Mine”. This story was one of the first, if not the first children’s book to have setting be a character in the story.
If you wish to read the Guttenburg projects ‘Nellie’s Silver Mine’, below is the link:
Here is to story, both fiction and non-fiction and the details that bring it to life! Happy writing!
Follow my haiku post five days a week at: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com
Below is the link to my non-fiction piece on the first state film commissioner in the United States included in this book.
“Film & Photography on the Front Range” : the stories of the people who made film and photograph history on the Colorado Front Range. You can purchase online at: http://www.amazon.com