What could happen?
As I said last time, I’ve got these three characters who’ve come to appreciate one another and hang around together and two of them have basically nowhere else to go anyway so they have to hang around with the first one.
They’re teen-aged guys, somewhere between 15 and 17. Two of them may not even know their birthdays because they were never celebrated. They’re basically military brats. But that had a very different meaning in 1782 than it does today. They were kidnapped by the Navy or Army of their respective countries (France and England) and forced or allowed to serve, depending on how you look at it. Neither had great prospects apart from the military and not real sweet opportunities there, either. So maybe getting left in America wasn’t such a bad thing.
The third character, hero of A Drummer in Red, now understood to be the son of a super-patriot, has his Dad, of course, but… well, I don’t want to include any spoilers here so you can read A Drummer in Red without knowing what’s going to happen.
Anyway, it’s 1782. the ‘Peace of Paris’ won’t be signed for another year. The colonies, shocked to be free and shocked at the price of freedom, are still reeling and dizzy from the fray. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union had been optimistically ratified by all thirteen colonies and put into effect a year before, on March 1, 1781, almost nine months prior to the victory at Yorktown. It was now the law of the land.
Sort of. Because each state or commonwealth already had its own constitution and local laws, its court systems, lawyers, customs, assumptions, expectations, and ways of doing business. Plus, they all had their own ideas about what belonged to which state and what degree of force was reasonable to maintain their prerogatives.
In that context, life has to go on. And the young men, now all being associated with Lewis’s father, an operator in a respected profession, will be expected to continue their educations, such as they are, and enter some respectable profession themselves. That means school, presumably the school Lewis had previously been attending. Which is in Baltimore, approximately 150 miles to the north on terrible muddy or dusty roads they have no recourse but to walk, since they must save what money they have for eating and stuff like that.
So that’s where we are at the beginning.
Now, even though I’m the ‘god’ of this story and theoretically can make anything happen that I want, I’m not ‘god’ enough to change the history, the geography, the nature of life for common folk, or almost anything outside of what the characters do. So it’s a real question: “What could happen?” Also, “What should happen?” How can our young men grow up as our country is being born, in such a way that 1) young adult readers will stay interested, and 2) actionable truth will be presented?
Writing a novel is answering a series of questions, perhaps dozens for each chapter and scene and many others for the whole thing. That’s my first question. What could happen? In order to answer that question, I’m going to have to take a good look at the times and places and people and events involved in whatever I will choose to make happen.
That’s research. And that will be the topic of my next post in “Come Write a Book with Me.”
Categories: About writing