Welcome to the world behind my desk.
Last weekend, I had a general idea of what I was going to write for the post titled “The Soldier’s Wife”, however, I had no idea where the story would take me. It really began as a narrative about William and Cis’ life in Roma or rather what I imagined it to be. Of course, by the end of the week, they took me on an entirely different course.
In the courses I have completed about writing family history, I have been schooled in various tools to use in bringing a scene to life. These include the use of dialogue, conflict, social history, theme, symbols, and the list goes on. I thought I would spend some time explaining how I have incorporated these storytelling tools into my story.
Social history is one of the most important tools that one uses in order to create a world that no longer exists. In the story of William and Cis, my current posts take place in 1902 and the world in which they lived was so much different to the one that we know. So, last weekend I spent hours online looking for information on Roma at that time. Photographs are a really great source of information and you will note I described the station in my story from the photograph I included. That photo was actually taken in 1915, however, I do know that the Roma Railway Station did exist back in 1902 and so I assumed they were the one and the same. Country stations throughout Queensland generally looked much the same.
I was fortunate to stumble across a website http://queenslandplaces.com.au/roma which happened to provide me with a wealth of information about Roma in the year 1903. That site was where I discovered that twelve hotels existed at that time along with a library situated in the School of Arts and a Reading Room that was cited as being ‘the best in the colony’. The details on that site, helped me construct the scene that became my post. Also, I found a video of an old turn of the century steam train during a re-enactment at Roma Railway station, which provided me with the description of the train in my story.
One of the more complicated aspects of writing is introducing theme into the story. It has taken a while for me to figure this one out and well it has evolved as the story has unfolded. It has become very clear to me now that life is a series of departures and arrivals of which we have no say. Fate has written our life story up in a big book in the sky and well we are just passengers in that journey. This is what Cis realized at the end of the scene. She has married a soldier and the life of a soldier can never be certain.
As I have mentioned before, there is no way of knowing what our ancestors said more than 100 years ago. By adding dialogue, we bring them to life and often it can be sounding board for the point we writers wish to impress. It is never meant to be an exact re-enactment of actual events, unless we have written records giving detailed accounts of those events. My interest in writing my Great Grandparents’ story is in the reasons behind their decisions and consequences of them. It is really not about a chronological account of their lives at all.
Conflict is something that seeps its way into everyone’s lives and in “The Soldier’s Wife” I have attempted to introduce it more than once in the post. Firstly, Cis is reflecting on the whirlwind few weeks that have been a constant stream of departures and arrivals, leading up to her wedding. Where is her life going? She had been so certain when she agreed to marry her soldier beau, but now reality has set in and she is left wondering what her future will bring.
The use of symbols is another subtle tool to introduce the theme. In the post where Cis and William arrive in Roma, I use the whistle as a symbol to mark departures and arrivals. In the scene of their wedding, I used the “concerned angels” and “Christ sacrificing his life on the Cross” to suggest that Cis’ decision to marry William would indeed have consequences. Her decision meant a departure from the life that she knew. And for those family members who know how the story ends, I needn’t explain the consequences. Not yet anyway.
The other aspect in putting the story together has been more research. By checking electoral roles from 1903, I ascertained that they indeed were living in Albert Street, Roma. I also found an envelope addressed to Mr W.M.J. Lyons in Roma postmarked 1902. I am fortunate to be the custodian of their personal effects which include letters, envelopes, cards, bank books and cheque books. By filing through the boxes of paperwork, I can track their life.
My writing this week has also been a case of arrivals and departures. Upon some research and thought, I departed from a bland narrative and arrived at a scene which I hope demonstrates the meaning that I intended. Hopefully, you have now gained some insight into my world each week before I eventually press ‘publish’ and put my stories to air.