Our Duty as Writers

Monday, May 22, 2017
We have a duty as writers. If we're writing nonfiction, we have to write it true. If we're writing historical fiction, we have to make it ring true--the way people dressed, the way they spoke, the trains of thought popular in that era, and so on. If we're writing fiction? Well, if it doesn't ring true or if it leaves the readers unconnected to the characters... well, heaven help us.

My WIP focuses on Tulsa, Oklahoma...

Case in point: I loved Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. Loved it. Or more accurately, loved 95% of it. Rode that roller coaster of a novel all the way to the end. And then it was like the ride came to a screeching halt--before the ride had ended--and then somebody threw a bucket of cold water on me.

I believed in all the twists and turns until the very end. There was no way a husband would do that in real life.

At least that's my opinion.

Three years ago, I got hooked on season one of the show American Crime. Each year, most of the same actors are part of the ensemble cast, but they play different characters and it's a completely different storyline.

This season, the episodes focuses around migrant workers. Human trafficking. Teenage prostitution. It's one of the most moving and sorrowful things I've ever seen... every week.

Richard Cabral is positively chilling. He played a fairly "normal" guy last season, and portrayed a criminal in the first year. This year, he plays a "procurer" of migrant workers. Curious about him as an actor because of his electrifying presence on the screen, I discovered Cabral spent 27 months in prison. The tattoos that cover his neck look like the real thing. Great writing + life experiences to draw upon = acting that rings true, I imagine.

As a writer, I watch this character with especially-alert eyes. His facial expressions usually show nothing. He looks calm and is speaking in a soft voice... and then an instant later, he's beating and kicking a farm worker until the worker's almost dead. And yet from his body language, the audience knows he's powerless and had no choice but to dole out this violence.

Benito Martinez, who plays the father of a migrant worker, expresses a bottomless sorrow with just a glance or a slight movement of his mouth. I watch him too. How would I paint such subtle changes using ink and paper? I wonder...

Currently, I'm pouring my heart and soul into a historical fiction piece. Slang. Typical dinners. Clothing. What the neighborhoods looked like. The gum that was popular back then. I want to get it as accurate as possible, along with portraying the historical event my story focuses on, because when (not if) it gets published, I hope that:
  • readers connect with my characters
  • readers feel like they're transported to the year 1921
  • readers are in an uproar over what happened
  • the book sells like crazy (of course I had to put that one in)
How about you? Have you dabbled in writing historical pieces? What's your advice to a writer who's trying to get everything to ring true? Did you like the ending of Gone Girl? And if you're an American Crime fan, what is your favorite season/character?

Sioux Roslawski is a wife, a mother of two, a grammy to one talented granddaughter, a middle school teacher, a National Writing Project teacher consultant, a Listen to Your Mother performer, a freelance writer and a dog rescuer for Love a Golden Rescue. If you'd like to read more about/from her, go to Sioux's Page, her blog. 


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux, I was shocked by the ending of Gone Girl too, but I figured they deserve each other! I guess it didn't bother me too much because the whole book seemed far fetched. I loved it though and was just along for the ride.

I haven't watched American Crime but it sounds fascinating.

I admire anyone who writes historical fiction...it's not easy! Good choice with the 20s--it's one of my favorite time periods to watch in movies and read about. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--You are right about that. Both of them are horrid human beings.

Check out the 3rd season. Felicity Huffman's playing a character different from any character she's portrayed. Regina King is brilliant. I could go on and on, but I'll stop yammering. ;)

Well, I hope that at some point, it's a story and a period lots of people want to read about...

Renee Roberson said...

Ha ha! I agree with you on the "Gone Girl" ending. I couldn't put the book down and then she left us with that ending? My husband agreed after he saw the movie. I have a middle-grade novel draft I wrote where the main character time travels back to the 80s of my childhood. I threw some fun tidibts in there about the clothes, music, and a payphone, which my daughter loved when she read it. If I ever revisit that manuscript it would be fun to throw more details in there. Right now I'm too intimidated to try and write something about a time period I never lived in! I also haven't checked out "American Crime," but I may have to during the summer.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top