By Sharon Stevens
We had such fun at critique group last week. Everyone brought a strong story and shared. As usual we each had a take on what our characters were trying to say with what voice. I had found an article in the Amarillo Globe News by Chip Chandler about WTAMU’s “Anatomy of Gray”, the play at the Sybil B. Harrington Theatre. Caleb Brink who played the healer, Galen Gray, had kept a diary in Gray’s voice to try to better understand his character.
I had everyone at critique to write a diary entry of their characters. We didn’t go into depth, but just used one liner’s to describe an entry as if they had written into their own journal with their characters voice. Boy did we get some zingers! Fun had by all, lifting the spirits from the serious side of deep characters from all across the spectrum.
I have my grandfather’s diary from World War I in France at the signing of the Armistice, and on February 23, 1919 he wrote that he was …
“Disturbed, Disappointed, Discouraged, Disheartened, & Disgusted. I don’t know how many more “dis” I could use but I feel like using all of them.”
Now what could have made such a young man be so discouraged? He was homesick and so many ships had already headed west. He had LaGrippe (Spanish Flu) and I’m sure he didn’t feel well. His commanding officer had bawled the company out and that may have got him down. Who knows what was bothering him on this particular day.
I think as writers that every once in awhile we need to write an entry into the diaries of our characters. We need to give them a “voice” so we can share in their thoughts and feelings. So many times we, especially me, just skim the surface, keeping everything hunky-dory with sunshine and rainbows. Our stories can become more real if we give them a moment to pause or tinge them with a little sorrow, or at least simply a heart.
Writing a diary is also a timeline of the day’s events and everything about the weather. To think about it, after I took my first creative writing class and was working on my novel I took a daily planner and jotted down the sights and smells and sensations that surrounded me each day. I can still go back and read those entries and it whisks me right back to that time period.
This Sunday represents the anniversary of the letter Colonel William B. Travis wrote to cry for help for his fellow Texans. This letter will be coming home to the Alamo for the first time since it left the mission in 1836. In all essence this correspondence is a diary entry. I wonder how many times Travis wrote the message in his head. Did he share it with Bowie, or Crockett, or any of the other men there with him? Did he really think anyone would come or was he resigned to his fate and those around him, and just wrote the words to keep up appearances, convinced that help was coming?
During World War II Dorothy Gill wrote in her book, “Memories of World War II” that her husband and his fellow National Guard Texas “T-Patchers” carried a copy of Travis’ letter in the Standard of the American Flag as they stormed the beach at Salerno Italy. I wonder how many diary entries were written before and after the battle where they shared stories of home and loved ones, or even just the weather. Who knows what they wrote in their heart and soul.
Tonight the weathermen predict snow, sleet and treacherous roads. We plan on having another critique group meeting tomorrow evening if the weather holds.
I wonder what we will write in the diaries of our characters as if they were facing the same events. I don’t think sunshine and rainbows quite fills the bill.
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feb. 24th, 1836
To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World—
Fellow Citizens and Compatriots
I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our Flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch.
The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country…
VICTORY OR DEATH
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comd’t
P.S. The Lord is on our side—when the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80-90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of beeves.