Thursday 18 August 2022

Drafts 11, 12 and 13

Free photos of Letters

Draft 11 detail and description

This is about the taming of detail and description. Have I used just enough detail to give the right impression? Is there enough detail? And regardless of how much information is needed am I giving the reader enough time to digest it?

In the 21st century we need less description than people in Dickens’ time would have. We know more of the world and even if we’ve never been there the name “New York” conjures up all sorts of images. People who live in town know about the countryside and don’t need several pages of description about frost in Wiltshire as we have in Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit  

It’s good to rely not too much on just the visuals but also to engage the other senses. One crucial scene is when Helga and Helmut come out of the cellars. Helmut is perplexed by the blue sky, the fresh air, and the sound of bird song; he has only ever known life in the cellars.

I’m still pulling myself up on logistics.  How could Owain even get his car to the Müllers’ farm if a sink hole was between him and main road? So, I’ve now had him borrow a car.

I had a similar problem with Jamie supposing the Mrs Thomas had been brought to Tesco’s by Glynn.  Glynn would have been working on the farm and he also would not be able to get his car out. So, Mrs Thomas has come on the bus – the one that runs only every two hours and goes all round the houses.  That helps to emphasize how deep the rift between the Müllers and the Thomases has become. She would rather endure the bus that travel with Jamie.  

There was also some confusion between meningitis and measles.  So, I correct this to James and Helmut (Miriam’s brother) having meningitis and Helmut (Helga’s son) having measles.     

I’ve been using Ma and Mam for Mum in the Welsh scenes. These are now all Mam, including Mam Thomas.


Draft 12 point of view

This is to check whether I have the point of view right. Do I keep with one point of view? Am I at the same distance from the characters each time and if I do move, do I zoom in and out too quickly?

I have two points of view characters here; Jamie in 2001 but with an epilogue in 2003 and Helga with stories from 1923-1980. Jamie is very much living in the moment whereas Helga is reflecting on a life lived and rationalises though as she tells her story she takes us back to these moments in the past.

I tighten this all up in places.

I also wondered a little about the recovery of one person who had been in hospital. She went from unconscious in hospital, to having visitors in hospital, to convalescing at home in what seemed a rather quick succession.  However, the dates work and to some extent the reader will be able to make up their own mind; I’ve decided for the moment only to have months and years on chapter headings.


Draft 13 Show don’t tell

That ever thorny problem.  It’s relatively straight forward in the Jamie scenes. She’s very much in the moment, and I think I’ve mainly achieved that balance of dialogue, actions inner monologue, description and very little exposition that makes this work.

With Helga scene it’s a little trickier.  She is after all “telling” Jamie about her past. In order to keep the reader engaged she must use some fictional techniques that take them to the then and there. But she intervenes and rationalises some of this. This is all a part of her voice.

On the whole, I’d got it mainly right for both characters but I was able to tighten here and there.

I did also realise that we needed a little more of one of the medium strength characters – Helga’s daughter, Tilde. So, I’ve given her a couple of scenes.

And I also discovered that the household brandy was in the cupboard and in the pantry.  It’s now firmly in the pantry!   

Monday 8 August 2022

Draft 10 – Dialogue

People, Women, Nation, Silhouette, Girls

I always check that dialogue is adding something to the story, showing personality or creating atmosphere. It’s good if it’s doing at least two of those things if not all three. It shouldn’t sound too natural – natural dialogue can be very pedestrian - yet each piece should sound as if it really is spoken by the character who is supposed to be saying it.  It should be possible to pretty well identity who is speaking even if there is no tag word there.

So, I also check whether I’ve overused tag words. Sometimes they’re not needed at all – if only two people are speaking for instance and if it doesn’t go on for more than about a page.  Sometimes they can be replaced with some body language or a small action. And “said” is the best though whispered, shouted, asked, and replied might also be all right.

Dialogue presents some special challenges in this text.  I want my Welsh character to speak with a Welsh accent. So, I’m reading bits out loud every time I check.  I think I’ve got it.

I have a few phrases in Welsh but I think their meaning is clear because of the content and how people react to them

Helga wills till have a bit of German accent.  She uses a few German words, in particular Liebling which finds an echo in some character using the Welsh equivalent, cariad. There are some food items and relations as well. She still get confused with the half hour; “half two” in German means half way towards two i.e. half past one.

Whole chapters are constructed in her voice yet dialogue with them must be in standard English because the characters were speaking in standard German.

A dilemma throughout this cycle has been can I use modern English to represent 1940s’ German. Or must I make it sound like 1940s’ English? I have gone for the former. The way they spoke would have been as natural to them as modern English is to us. I’ve even used the term “bro” for bother. It seemed to fit the relationship exactly.       

Wednesday 3 August 2022

The Fuhrer’s Orphans : a moving and powerful novel based on true events by David Laws


Peter and Claudia get twenty-seven Jewish children to safety.

Peter is a pacifist but not afraid of danger. He agrees to work as a spy. Claudia is a teacher and has a secret from her past. Both have been involved with the Kindertransport. Part of Peter’s mission is to sabotage the new engine for the Breitspurbahn – the new die gauge railway that Hitler is planning.

I worry about some things, though. A hard plastic chair in the 1940s?   The incorrect spelling of “Führer”. The unlikely success of the way the children are hidden. They are confined in cavities in the new railway carriages. What about toilet facilities? Would it be that easy to hide them?

Nevertheless we are left with some interesting complexities. We leave the story as the children are being ferried across the lake into Switzerland.  Claudia decides to return to Germany which she believes is fundamentally a good country and will soon be rid of the Nazi regime.

A thought-provoking read and one that shows a German point of view.