OpenFiction [Blog]

Research – Authenticity

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on June 24, 2005

What’s this?

It occurs to me that one approach to finishing the lost chapters of the courseware is to blog about the topic often enough that eventually I can extract a chapter out of it. This, then, is at least a small start in that direction.

I’ve felt since grad school that many of the secondary characters had not been well imagined (not to mention a few of the main characters). The biggest of these failures of imagination was making Annabel a book-seller, a passive occupation that had nothing to do with the main drama of the story and was an artifact of one of the people I’d known in Greensboro, the Pennsylvania town on which Endenboro is based. Annabel’s become the publisher of the town paper, a role that involves her more directly in the action. This change alone drove me to circle back and start yet another draft of the novel after ten chapters.

One of the other failures of imagination in the early drafts of the novel was Foster’s first wife being a country singer. It was too easy, and too clichéd, to do this, and so I was seeking some way to make her interest, and her character, more authentic. I’d been reading a book called Appalachian Ways, which had been published in the seventies by a cultural agency. It’s a collection of forty or so vignettes about various aspects of traditional Appalachian life. One of these vignettes described a gathering of bluegrass musicians at a country store in Tennessee. This provided both the impetus to make Gina a bluegrass and folk singer, and also the inspiration for a similar scene in the book, which replaced a one paragraph, poorly imagined trip to a country bar.

In addition to making Gina’s musical interests more authentic, this also led to opportunities for further developing Foster’s character, and making his growing involvement with Gina more convincing. In the scene, he dances with Gina, and has a flashback to dancing with his mother. I am also able to seed some of the later exposition about Gina’s family. Only drawback seems to be that to complete the scene, I need to do yet more research to get the names of appropriate bluegrass songs and dances.

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