Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The value of authenticating details

This morning, I received the final galleys for my “Rosette” story, Seventh Heaven. I’m still waiting to hear when The Wild Rose Press will release it.
As it is set in my hometown of Lambertville, New Jersey, and New Hope, Pennsylvania, proofing it brought back many memories.
Several story details originated with my family. My oldest brother Joe (aka Boo) is a Vietnam vet who told us the story about the young Vietnamese boy throwing a grenade into the back of a truck, so that, in fact, was the catalyst for this story. My sister Claudia used to wear a flag T-shirt. When I was a teenager, one of my favorite things to do was walk across the bridge linking the twin towns to New Hope with my good friends Nora, Winnie and Mary Louise, and browse through the many shops, especially the record store near the bridge. Like Lambertville, New Hope is famous for its cultural diversity, including the Bucks County Playhouse, where my sisters Claudia and Annette to this day usher at plays. Fran’s Pub was a favorite hangout of my husband Gary’s in the seventies and hence earns a special place in the story.
While growing up, I vividly recall hearing musicians perform at The Music Circus. My mother once brought me to see Robert Goulet, but I was a young teen at the time and sadly, unappreciative of her gesture, as I would much rather have seen The Young Rascals, or even Chicago – I remember hearing their brass section clearly through the woods. The Music Circus drew many famous musicians and performers. As in my story, Judy Collins was there in 1967. And no story about the Sixties would be complete without musical references – Dylan, Hendrix, Donovan and especially the Beatles were such a deep-rooted part of my youth, they provide the soundtrack to my adolescence.
I had done loads of research on the Sixties era for one of my novels, so this story was one of those that came together in my head fully formed. Among other things, a Time-Life book titled The Turbulent Years: The 60s provided specific details I could not have accurately remembered, having been born just before that decade began. I remembered the buttons, but would have probably spelled the Hippy Power button as hippie, the more popular spelling.
So, as you have gathered, authenticating details can bring a story alive, as Dave Koch writes in his article, Authenticating Details. Write with as much specificity as possible. Avoid generic terms – instead of “hat,” write “bowler” or “Stetson.” Add background music. Describe the scents in the scene. Bring your readers into the experience of the story, and hopefully, leave them wanting more.

Here again is the story blurb:
Lilah owns the New Hope Record and Crafts Shop with her friend, Val. Independent and free-spirited, they sell their handmade jewelry and pottery to tourists in their Delaware River town. Lilah’s only hangup is James, who bartends down the street. She’s crazy about him, but lately he’s been cold and distant. Turns out he has reason to be down--he’s had his ticket punched for Vietnam. Lilah makes him a lucky leather-string choker using a silver ankh--the Egyptian symbol of eternity. James is skeptical about its lucky charms, but warms to her again. For seven months, James is in Vietnam. He comes home changed, in more ways than one. Can Lilah show him that her love is all the luck he needs?


Blaize said...

Great post, Cate. I didn't know how personal your connection to the story is--and you're so right about the authenticating details. It makes all the difference!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks, Susan! Your editorial excellence took this story to the next level, and I will always be grateful.