WeWriWa—Back to skating

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s sister Irina and cousin Platosha told her how lucky she was to get a cute older boy helping her. Sonyechka said she wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like, and Irina said she won’t think like that much longer. The conversation then turned to Irina’s crush on Vadim, one of family friend Yuriy’s brothers.

Sonyechka has just asked if they can get back to skating, and promised she’d be more careful.

Irina puts her hat back on and hobbles out of the ladies’ room. “It’s no fun walking on knives on solid ground. Now I know how the Little Mermaid felt.”

When they get back on the rink, Adrian and Polya are still with the younger half of their group, now joined by Beatrisa. Irina feels a bit sorry for them, only there with one another instead of friends. Teenagers are supposed to have lots of friends, unless they’re outsiders in a hick town like Melville.

“Is Sonya okay?” Adrian asks. “I hope that blade didn’t cut into bone, muscle, or vein.”

“She’s as stubborn as everyone else in our family,” Irina reports. “Thank God that’s not her dominant hand.”

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WeWriWa—Principled pain tolerance

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina and 15-year-old cousin Platosha came to take her to the ladies’ room for first aid. Sonyechka’s first pain noises came when Platosha brushed black iodine all over her hand, prompting Platosha to comment on her high pain tolerance.

“I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of everyone. Showing weakness is bad, particularly when most people already think girls are inferior to boys. That’d give them even more reasons to treat us unfairly.”

Platosha puts numbing ointment over all the gashes, then finally wraps up Sonyechka’s hand. “You’re a very lucky girl. No cute older boy ever helped me up when I fell on a skating rink, at your age or any other time.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like.”

Irina smiles. “You won’t think like that very much longer. Before you know it, you’ll have crushes on boys, and fantasies of marrying them.”

How to plausibly weave major events into hist-fic

As I’ve written about before, many historical writers are, or have been, guilty of the everything but the kitchen sink syndrome. They work from a checklist, packing in every single historical event, trend, movie, song, social movement, fashion, news story, cultural shift, etc., from that era, as though it’s so believable for everyone in one family or group of friends to take part in them or be impacted by them.

Related to this is forcing instead of naturally weaving in major events that wouldn’t have touched your characters’ lives directly, esp. if there’s no logical reason for them to be in the places where said events began or transpired.

Take Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War (which I plan to do a full review for this year) and War and Remembrance. It’s obvious he really wanted to feature a Shoah storyline, but his leading family, the Henrys, are a very WASPy Naval family. So he puts middle child Byron in Italy in 1939, assisting an older Jewish professor with his non-fiction historical books, and has him fall in love with the professor’s niece Natalie.

Natalie’s boyfriend works for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, and Byron accompanies her when she goes to Poland to visit said boyfriend and attend a family wedding in August 1939. Pretty obvious where this is going! Throughout both books, there are so many times Natalie could’ve easily gotten out of harm’s way (and she does safely get back to America at one point), but since Mr. Wouk wanted so badly to feature a Shoah storyline, she keeps making really stupid decisions keeping her in occupied Europe.

More than a negligible amount of American and British citizens were trapped in occupied Europe and ended up in the camps. To this day, they haven’t gotten much of any compensation or even acknowledgment. I included such a storyline in Journey Through a Dark Forest, and would love to see more fictional treatments of this shameful, little-known aspect of WWII.

But the way Mr. Wouk handles it seems so forced and contrived. It would’ve felt more natural had he featured two families whose stories eventually link up, not shoehorned a Jewish love interest and her uncle into the lives of such a WASPy family who otherwise would’ve had no reason to cross paths with them.

If your story or series doesn’t already have characters in a city, country, or area you want to feature (e.g., 1960s San Francisco, 1940s Paris), take them there for a plausible reason. E.g., X moves there for school a few years earlier, instead of conveniently moving there just as things start happening.

I’ve known since 2001 I wanted a future book in my Ballad of Lyuba and Ivan saga to feature 1960s Swinging London, but couldn’t figure out how to do that naturally. Now I know the seventh book, opening in 1966, will feature Lyuba and Ivan’s granddaughter Shura studying abroad there and falling in love with someone who turns out to have a double connection to their family.

Also in that book, I want Lyuba and Ivan to be in Israel when the Six-Day War breaks out. This was influenced by my great-grandparents’ planned tour of Israel in 1967 being rerouted to Turkey due to the outbreak of war.

No matter what the event or setting, it has to feel natural instead of gimmicky. Thoughtful readers can spot an obvious, implausible setup a mile away. There are plenty of solid reasons why your characters might, e.g., be in Paris in 1940 or have their lives intersect with a European Jewish family. Don’t insult readers’ intelligence by shoehorning it in just so you can include everything but the kitchen sink.

WeWriWa—A very high pain tolerance

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s helpers introduced themselves as twins Poliksena and Adrian (though the reader knows they’re not true twins). Family friend Iliana asked if they were born in the U.S., and Poliksena said they were born in Prague, though their parents immigrated from Russia years earlier, and returned to the U.S. shortly after their birth. They didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina has come to help her, along with their 15-year-old cousin Platosha.

Irina immediately takes Sonyechka’s left hand and skates off with her, Platosha supporting her from the other side.

“Thanks for helping,” Irina calls back.

“Some people on this rink are crazy,” Platosha says. “A lot of New Yorkers in general are crazy, but people often lose their senses and common decency in a crowd. I doubt someone would’ve done that in the days of skating on ponds.”

Platosha gets her purse from the bag check, then shows them the way into the ladies’ room. Irina rinses off Sonyechka’s bloody hand, washes it out with hot water and soap, and blots it dry with a hand towel from an attendant. Platosha then coats it with black iodine, which produces Sonyechka’s first pain noises.

“I would’ve been screaming since that mudak ran your hand over,” Platosha says. “You’ve got a really high pain tolerance.”

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In December, I was chosen as one of the ten winners whose stories will be in this year’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology, Masquerade: Oddly Suited. It releases 30 April, and the genre is young adult romance, with the theme of masquerade. My story is set in 1767 Charleston, featuring a character I created at 5-6 years old and thought I’d shelved forever in 1992. This is our cover:

WeWriWa—Introductions

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when her future husband Adrian pulled her up and asked if she feels dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous. Sonyechka said only her hand hurts, and her cousin Isidora went to get her older sister Irina and some gauze.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines. Klarisa and Iliana are the little sisters of Canadian Army medic Yuriy, whom some of you might remember from previous snippets.

“I’m Poliksena, but everyone calls me Polya,” the strange girl says, “and this is my twin brother Adrian.” She pronounces it with long As. “What’s your name?”

“Sofya, Sonya for short.” Sonyechka dares not tell these sophisticated teenagers her true nickname. She is called Sonya every so often, and knows she’ll have to graduate to the more mature nickname full-time in a few years, since no one takes a teenager or adult with a babyish nickname seriously.

“Were you born in this country?” Iliana asks.

Klarisa looks at her warningly but gently. “That’s not a polite question, Yana. Some things we never ask anyone, particularly not when we’ve just met.”