Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Creative Process for a HistFic Author

I've always been fascinated by how two authors can look at the same event in history and come up with opposite interpretations of what happened.

A great example of this is the contest I hosted where I picked an event from Marie Laveau's life (the MC of my new WIP) and asked people to come up with the most imaginative interpretations as possible. The answers were surprisingly unique!

This was the event: Marie Laveau's husband bought a slave named Juliette who was notorious for running away, so he sold her, but Marie bought her again years later and then sold her again. The question was why she kept running away and why Marie bought and sold her twice:

  • Kris Waldherr's response: Juliette was very beautiful and Marie was harboring her to protect her from her owners. A love triangle developed with them and Marie's husband, so she sold her. She realized the girl was done wrong so she bought her again, but sold her again because she still couldn't handle the situation.
  • Chessny Smith's response: Juliette was born with the gift of birthing perfect children, but was unable to keep them for herself. Everyone wanted to buy her for this gift, including Marie's husband. After the son she gave them died tragically, they bought her again in hopes of getting another child, but the magic only worked once per person.
  • Mike Keyton's response: Juliette had a spiritual gift that Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen, wanted to exploit. She wasn't running away from individual owners, but was running away from Marie the entire time.
  • Kim Renfeld's response: Juliette just wanted to be free, pure and simple. Marie bought her out of pity, but Juliette's dissatisfaction with her life made her impossible to live with.
  • My response: Juliette was trying to be with her lover, who was a very bad man. Marie took her under her wing in hopes of being a good influence on her, but Juliette only kept running away. She bought her the second time because Juliette promised not to run away again, but she does anyway so Marie resells her.
See how different these ideas are? This is a small event in Marie's life, but each of these answers tells mountains about Marie's character. The four of use could write individual stories about the same person.

I had a hard time choosing which answer deserved the prize of The Emotion Thesaurus, so I put the entries in to pick the winner. The winner is... Chessny Smith!

There are published books about Marie Laveau that also have opposite interpretations. For example, Marie's first husband, Jacques Paris, disappeared a year or so after their marriage. There are no death certificates for him and there are rumors that he left her. Some time after his disappearance Marie started to refer to herself as the Widow Paris. What happened?

  • Robert Tallant's The Voodoo Queen: Jacques leaves her because he disapproves of Voodoo, he takes a job on a ship, and a storm kills him.
  • Francine Prose's Marie Laveau: Jacques is possessed by a Voodoo spirit on their wedding night and the spirit takes him as her own.
  • Jewell Parker Rhodes' Voodoo Dreams: The conjurer Dr. John, Marie's lover and arch enemy, turns Jaques into a zombie.
  • My version: Marie and Jacques have a difficult marriage but are willing to stick it through. One day he doesn't come home. Everyone believes he left her, but Marie believes he must have been killed. If she had been practicing Voodoo she could have protected him and helped their marriage, so this inspires her to become a priestess.

I don't know about you, but I think doing this - piecing together facts, reading between the lines - is loads of fun.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this because I write with a minimum of real event and my next one will certainly spin a recorded event.


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