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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Unexpected - IWSG August 2019





It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. The awesome co-hosts for August are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner. To find a list of other contributors and to link to their posts, click here. 

August's question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise. For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming? 

Other than a very high-level idea of where things will end, when I start a project I’m usually not sure of the details until they spew out of my fingertips. Surprises occur all the time. That said, I suppose the biggest one was getting twenty-thousand words into a tale and realizing the story I thought I was writing wasn’t the story at all. Cue the sound of brakes screeching.

Truth be told, there are things in life that rather haunt me--pieces of local history, intriguing places I’m compelled to visit again and again. One such place is a memorial in our town cemetery placed in memory of the Brig St. John, an Irish immigrant ship out of Galway. In the summer of 1849, it headed to Boston filled with folks escaping the potato famine, or The Great Hunger (or the Great Famine) as it is called in Ireland. After an uneventful six-week trip, they arrived off the coast of Cape Cod where they anchored and celebrated the end of their journey. The next morning, on what should have been the last day of the voyage, they set sail again and ran into a storm. With about 13 nautical miles left to their destination, the ship was dragged by the wind and smashed against Grampus Ledge off the South Shore of Massachusetts, a set of rocks my husband and I sail by regularly. Of the ninety-nine people estimated to be on the ship, twelve made it to shore alive. Forty-five bodies were buried in a mass grave in our town cemetery. It is assumed the remaining victims were consigned to the sea. The monument I visit was erected many years after the fact as a marker for the forty-five lost souls who washed up on our shores.

So back to my stalled novel. When I stomped on the brakes, it was because I pictured the memorial to these victims. The tragedy has always stuck hard in my heart, all those desperate folks making it so close to a new life, but then, simply not. Suddenly, it became imperative to include some of this history in my book. I started all over and the next thing I knew, a mystical apparition of a boy from a fictional representation of that ship began appearing and disappearing from my main character's apple tree. I began to research the ship and all sorts of Irish folktales and traditions, many of which made their way into my book. I had no sense I’d write something with supernatural elements, seeped in Celtic lore, but it was almost as if the mysterious boy directed me. In the end, at a high level, the theme of the story is still the same. So is the main character. But every subsequent detail comes from my moment of clarity, when I realized I had to honor The Brig St. John and when the spirit of a young boy, the catalyst for all the subsequent action in the book decided he was going to drive my tale. 

How has your writing surprised you?

23 comments:

lostinimaginaryworlds.blogspot.com said...

What a wonderful experience you had with this mystery boy and great that enabled you to write something with great meaning. The sort of surprise we all long for 🌼

Em-Musing said...

Wow! I love this story! How wonderful for you to have had this experience. And I too get caught in research.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now that is called a mysterious turn. Such a sad story - eager to read what you do with it.

Joanne said...

your post is so interesting as to how this bit of history haunted you. Indeed, like Alex, I'm very intrigued to read your book.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I can see why that event would haunt you. For some reason, it needs to be in your story, and you welcomed it, gave it room.

Jan Morrison said...

Those surprises are what keep me coming back for more when writing. Demanding spirits, trips or adventures that characters insist on taking - as my best pal says 'surprise is another word for god'. Cannot wait to read this book!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - what an incredible experience and how wonderful you've been able to bring it to light in this day and age - but remembering the youngster and his sad end. Certainly a surprise that one ... I just love writing my posts - cheers Hilary

Jacqui Murray said...

I love that--the story coming out so differently than you planned. I hear you!

Sarah Foster said...

I love how the history was able to guide your story and the character.

Connie said...

It's interesting how one event can change our whole perspective and lead us in new directions.

Heather Erickson said...

Your book sounds wonderful! and your sensitivity to the subject will certainly make it resonate with readers.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I love how your story has changed and you're bringing in the story behind the memorial. I can see it totally changing the direction of a story.

Nick Wilford said...

What a tragic tale - I can see how it would haunt you, especially it being local to you, and it's wonderful to do something to honour their memory. I do think a story takes on a life of its own and that's clearly the case here.

F. Stone said...

Thank you for sharing your story / experience. Now that you've opened that door, who knows what awaits your attention. Blessings

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What an interesting path for your story to take. The wrecked ship is a sad story but I can imagine ghosts of those lost.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Liza,

What a wonderful TWIST for you novel. Sounds like a fascinating read..... i love historical based stories...

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a great story! I love how that bit of local history tugged at your heart, and I love even more that you made room for it in your book. It sounds like a great premise for a book. Can't wait to read it!

By the way, I left a comment on your July post, but it never showed up. Matter of fact, I even went back and posted a second time, but still no dice. I hope this one makes the cut. :)

Oh yeah. I finally steamed those lobster tails today, so lobster rolls are in our very near future. :)

Lynda R Young said...

I love how your story developed

Helen said...

How you wrote that story is so cool and so 'appropriate' it seems.

Empty Nest Insider said...

This is such a fascinating story, and it will be interesting to hear it through the voice of the young passenger. Sounds like an action-packed read that will induce many tears. Best of luck, Liza!

Julie

Shannon Lawrence said...

It's cool that you got to use a real historical element that was so familiar to you in your story. A rewrite like that is a lot of work, but it sounds like it was worth it.

Tamara Narayan said...

It sounds like the boy and the Celtic lore have added some rich layers to your story. Good for you for listening to your gut.

Powdered Toast Man said...

Weird, I want potatoes now.