Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Romantic Friday Writers February Challenge: Fan Fiction

The February challenge for Romantic Friday Writers is to come up with a piece of fan fiction, something I'm not familiar or comfortable with. I decided to take a shot at it and this entry is the result. First a little explanation about the fiction I chose to base my piece on.

Gone with the Wind is the quintessential American novel. Some debate if it is a true romance or a historical novel. This book was originally written in 1937 so by the time I read it as a teenager or saw the movie, it was deemed a little quaint, perhaps dated. English professors dismissed it as an inconsequential romance, but it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and probably has been read by more young women than any other novel. It is a rite of passage and a story about the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the southern society that was forever changed in its aftermath. In many ways, America is still living this story. We revisited it in the 1960s with the civil rights movement and we are dealing with it still today in terms of the ultra conservative elements that are strongly entrenched in the southern states. 

The story revolves around two strong characters, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. They are not your typical romance characters. Scarlett is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy Irish immigrant who owns the Tara cotton plantation. Scarlett is a charming southern belle who has a powerful effect on men. She is spoiled, self-centered, willful, devious, haughty, manipulative, and in love with her cousin Melanie’s husband—not the kind of character most readers would identify with. Rhett is a rogue, darkly dangerous, hard-drinking, and selfish. He more than anyone else understands Scarlett’s true character and pursues her. They are kindred spirits even though Scarlett is obsessed with Melanie’s husband, Ashley. The story, told against the backdrop of slavery, Southern society, and the Civil War, does not have a blissful, romantic ending. Nevertheless, 76 years later we are still fascinated with this love story and its leading characters.

The following is a work of fan fiction that mentions the characters from Gone with the Wind. My story is about a fictional descendant of Rhett Butler and is not a part of the original story and characters created by Margaret Mitchell. http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Wind-Margaret-Mitchell/dp/1416548947 
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      Trent Butler watched his eight-year old granddaughter, Lorna Lee scramble out of her chair at the dining room table. “Done,” she said, bouncing into the living room where she dropped onto the plush couch and grabbed for the TV controller.

     “No,” his wife Ophelia said. “There’s nothing suitable on TV at this hour for young children. If I hear one more derogatory remark by some Northern journalist about how your granddaddy must be a member of the Klu Klux Klan, I swear I’m going to have a screaming fit.”

     Trent shot his wife a warning look. His job as a Georgia senator made him open to all kinds of ridiculous accusations. It was the nature of politics and Lorna didn’t need to know about that either.

     Lorna rolled her eyes and reached for the heavy photo album on the cocktail table.

     “You shouldn’t concern yourself about such things, Ophelia.” Trent strolled into the living room and sat down next to Lorna. He picked up his pipe, tapped in some tobacco, and lit it.

     “Mama says it’s bad to smoke.”

      Trent puffed on his pipe. “Don’t be impertinent, girl.”

      Lorna cracked open the album and stared at the photos. “Who are these people?”

     “Your family, little darlin’.” He pointed to a picture. “This here is your great grand pappy, Rhett Butler.”

     “The scallywag,” Ophelia muttered under her breath as she seated herself next to Lorna. “Not to mention that wild woman Scarlett he was married to.”

     “He was a handsome man,” Grandpa said. “A ladies man.”

      “He was a drunk and no gentlemen.” Ophelia leaned over the album. “This here is your great grandmama Lucinda, Rhett’s second wife, and your Grandpa’s mama. She was a good woman. He certainly didn’t deserve her.”

     “What is this picture of colored in here for?” Lorna asked. “They aren’t family.”

      “They were employed by my daddy as housekeepers, gardeners, and kitchen maids when I was growing up. ” He lay his finger in the upper left corner of the photo. “This here is old Joe and his wife Minny. Saffron. Kettle.” His finger came to rest below the image of a wide-eyed young girl. “Myrah.” He recalled her smooth chocolate skin. He was 21 that summer when he came home from college. One afternoon when his parents had left for the country club, he invited Myrah to his room. Myrah was a shy 16 but she came easily to his bed and as fate would have it, he got a child on her. Thank God that child was born with nappy hair and brown sugar skin. He promised Myrah if she would keep their secret, he would provide for her daughter Jenna Lou. And that’s how it was between them. No one, not Ophelia, not his family, not Myrah’s people, ever learned about his illegitimate daughter. He secretly saw to it that Jenna Lou got what she needed when she was growing up and even paid for her college education. He got his career as a senator, and Myrah got her life too.

     “Who’s this girl with the kinky pigtails?” Lorna asked.

     “That’s Jenna Lou, Myrah’s daughter.”

      “Where’s her father?”
     Trent shrugged. “I have no idea.”

     Ophelia sniffed indignantly. “Half of those jigaboos don’t know who their father is.”

     Trent cleared his throat. “That doesn’t change the fact that Jenna Lou is a very bright, ambitious young lady. She is in college now and about to graduate.” And she knew he was her father, but like her mother, she kept the secret well.

     “Do you like nigras, grandpa?”

     “It’s not about like or don’t like. The negro culture is different than ours and therefore separate.”

      Trent glanced at Ophelia as she settled her reading glasses on her nose and turned her attention to the Better Homes & Garden magazine. What would she think of him if she knew about Myrah and his illegitimate daughter? 

     “You really must remove those photos Trent,” Ophelia said. “They simply don’t belong in the family album.”

     “I will not,” Trent said. “They were a part of my life.” He wondered about the foolishness of youth and his attachment to the shy little girl of sixteen and now his attachment to their daughter. Oh, he would deny them with his last breath, God forgive him.

18 comments:

  1. I loved the way you've taken another generation but woven it into the premise of the original story. The underlying currents of the problems that were in the original still seem to be there today unfortunately. Great writing.

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  2. Yes, beautiful job of making the story current. Those problems still exist, sadly -- shamefully!

    Very well done!

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  3. Nice. Another one I haven't read, Gone with the Wind though I've heard of most of the ones people are picking. You did well creating the scene and showing the situation. Well done.

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  4. This left me sad. The man wasn't strong enough, didn't have the conviction behind his sentiments, even as he left the slurring go on around him. But it was also a part of the times, and I like that he's giving his granddaughter an opportunity to be more open than he was allowed to be.

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  5. February 22nd, 2013 05:20 A.M.
    Dear Linda,
    Clever use of setting this story at a later time with the descendents of Rhett Butler as your characters. Excellent use of the photo album! Your text rings so true too. Times have perhaps not changed that much. You have succeeded well in weaving a plausible continuation of Mitchell's story that feels like your own. Good job! And you wrote with a touch suspense: Will Senator Trent Butler be able to keep his secret from his wife and granddaughter? How long? (Love the choice of name 'Trent', like 'Trent Lot. It sounds more like our time that 'Rhett'! Is 'Rhett' really a name?)
    Well done!
    Best wishes,
    Anna

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  6. Thanks, Anna. Southerners have unusual names that call attention to themselves and seem to want to evoke charm, elegance, and decorum.

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  7. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe!Best wishes with your endeavors. I'm following you back now. :) Great blog!

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  8. I haven't read the original...but, your story is a great read.

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  9. Hi Linda. You've written a great piece. I LOVE this book/characters. I was a little peeved that Rhett married another-i always imagine he and Scarlett getting back together, lol! Why not?
    Great way to incorporate culture through time...sad in part.

    Thanks for posting

    Denise

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  10. Hi Linda
    Oh boy, what a story. Well written and unfortunately well defined of southern attitudes even to this day. I will tell you that your choice of descriptions for blacks in the USA would come under fire if you published this. It is true however, that many people still refer to them with such language and teach their children to do the same. I had not heard that some believed 'Gone With the Wind' was a true story. I don't think it is, but I never studied it in college. We have a black President as you know, but the rumors about him here are full of superstition. Some have said that he is the antichrist and many of these people are not southern. Ridiculous.
    Nancy

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  11. February 24th, 2013

    Dear Linda,

    I would like to say something in behalf of the South and Southerners. I have spent a lot of time in Northern Virginia, which according to the author Rita Mae Brown, is 'Occupied Virginia', but even Central Virginia too. So even though it was not the 'Deep South', I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with Southern hospitality in varying degrees.

    There are a lot of wonderful people living and working in the Southern States. I love them. Not everybody in the South is a bigot. Many fine people in the South have worked hard toward making their region a good place for people of all colours.

    Let us be careful not to fall into the trap of condemning an entire region. Then we become the bigots. Let everyone be heard before he or she is judged.

    Sometimes I get tired of rudeness. Sometimes I think that I would prefer to be among genuine Southerners (if they have preserved their culture of genility) because they are, at least, polite and try to be fair!

    I am not a Southerner myself, but I can appreciate them.

    Best wishes,
    Anna

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  12. Dear Linda,
    I almost forgot why I came back here! Thank you for your kind words about my post! I did put some time and work into that text and the backstory, so I am happy when someone has seen that.
    Best wishes,
    Anna

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  13. Dear Anna,
    This was a piece of fan fiction and since Gone With the Wind takes place in the South, it seemed appropriate that the fan fiction should also be placed in the South. This was not an attempt to condemn a region. I can assure you that bigotry is alive and well in every state of the Union. There are good people everywhere, but there are enough of the bad ones around to make life difficult for everyone.

    As for this particular piece of fan fiction, it was loosely based on the actual story of a southern governor who fathered a child with a 15-year old maid. The daughter recently died.

    If you want to understand something about racism in the United States, it helps if you've lived here most of your life. Read the history of Lincoln and the Civil War. The repercussions of the war that almost destroyed the United States are still felt to this day. If you want a quick understanding, see the movie Mississippi Burning about the murder of the three civil rights workers in the 1960s.

    Racism today is more sophisticated and subtle than it used to be--for the most part. We have a black president, but you can be sure that a lot of the hatred that is directed at him is simply because he is black. I only have to walk across the street to hear conversations that confirm that truth.

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  14. Very well written, well constructed piece, and haven't you gained some reactions! Good for you for being brave enough to touch the taboo, I like that you've included some difficult characters. My only snag was a technical one, working out his daughter's age, because she would be older than his children to Ophelia, and one of those has an 8yr old daughter. Other than that, I found it very entertaining!

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  15. Well done Linda. You capture the sentiments and tone perfectly. I loved the authentic verbiage. Rhett and Scarlet's torid affair is one of my favorite romances. I understand their motivations, even if their characters were unsavory. There was a lot of growth to Scarlett by the end of the novel. I would have been disappointed had she turned a total about face :) Perhaps my love of the bad-boy types started with Rhett.

    I can see how their children would have grown to be these people. Your Trent does match what I saw of his Grandfather Rhett, and Ophelia makes a perfectly modern Scarlett. I like the direction you took with this, showing the aftermath, and having the little one ask questions that have no easy answers.

    Thank you for participating with this RFW challenge; and for stirring such controversy. This is, after all, a writers job. Well done.

    ........dhole

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  16. This is very well written and seamlessly fits in as a continuation of the original story. there is atrace of rhett in Trent. The story rings true.

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  17. I really liked reading your story, partly because I love GWTW, and mostly because of your idea of spinning out the story onto descendants of the original characters. So very cool! Trent feels real too, as most politicians/leaders seem to lead double lives, and not just in USA, but all over the world. Great read.

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  18. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

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