Posted on March 29, 2016 by Linda Ulleseit
Throughout my life, I have listened avidly to stories of my family. It was no different when I married my husband and heard stories of his family. I turned my own stories into a novel, UNDER THE ALMOND TREES and I’m currently working on ALOHA SPIRIT a story of my husband’s grandmother. The picture at left is his grandmother, mother, and aunts in Honolulu just before World War II. When writing these stories, I can’t be completely accurate since I don’t know all the details of the person’s life. It can’t be a biography. Dialogue has to be invented, as well as what I call the filling in between known events. For this reason, I’ve stopped saying these novels are about my family and begun saying they are inspired by family.
Family stories may be the inspiration, but they cannot carry a novel on their own. Even so, the first source of deeper information is the family. I took the older members of my family aside and urged them to tell me the details–where they went to school, what their mother made for dinner, which was their favorite relative, and who fought with who. My sons were working on a genealogy merit badge in Boy Scouts when they interviewed their great-grandfather. He was born in Honolulu in 1918 and was a civilian ship fitter at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in 1941. His first-person view of the event was incredible, but his personal reactions were priceless. He told how he wanted to hide during the attack, but his boss made him go out with a crew to remove scaffolding from a ship. He hid behind turrets on the ship as the Japanese planes flew over. I wish I’d had my novelist’s eye that day and asked him about how he got to work, how long a day he worked, what he’d had for breakfast, and what the family said when he got home. Those are the details that make a novel.
Grandpa’s experience is a tiny part of my novel ALOHA SPIRIT. I had to research a lot about territorial Hawaii–the years between the fall of the monarchy and statehood. I didn’t care so much about the politics of the sugar plantation owners. I wanted to know about daily life. When did they get televisions, cars, radios? When were the hotels built on Waikiki? I read historical fiction set in Hawaii to get a feel for the era, and nonfiction for accuracy. There are many details I couldn’t find or that I had to change to fit my story. I can do that, since it’s a novel and not a biography.
The hardest part is showing the finished work to living members of the family. I think they understand that I intend it to be a tribute to our ancestors, but I’m sure they have a different view of the characters and events than I do. When I exaggerate a negative trait, I’m trying for greater conflict to improve the novel’s pacing, not to ruin a person’s reputation. So when you read my novels, keep in mind that they are novels. A lot of it is made up! Enjoy them as fiction. If you absolutely must know if something really happened, send me an email. My hope is that readers will be as inspired by the characters in my novels as I was by the women who inspired them.
Filed under: About Writing | Tagged: Aloha Spirit, historical fiction, Linda Ulleseit, territorial Hawaii, women's fiction, women's history | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 27, 2016 by Linda Ulleseit
This week in a writing class, we have a fun assignment. Try it yourself!
*It needs to be one paragraph, exactly seven sentences. No dialogue.
*It should be the first paragraph or the last paragraph of a Young Adult novel, meaning the main character should be a teenager.
*It can be in first person, but you can’t use ‘I’ more than three times. It can be close third person, but you can’t use the character’s name more than three times.
*The paragraph must start with a long sentence and end with a short one, OR it can start with a short one and end with a long one.
Before you decide that I’m waiting for YOU to write MY assignment, here is a first draft of mine:
I love this computer, my dearest friend, closest companion, and hardworking colleague. Flipping open the lid, the screen lights up, notification icons blink. On Facebook, I stare in horror at a photoshopped picture of me, barely dressed, in the arms of some skinny nerd. Four of my closest friends have ‘liked’ it. Change to email before anyone sees me online. An English teacher didn’t get my final paper, some refugee in a third world country needs money, and no message from Thomas after last night’s wonderful date. I hate computers.
Put your paragraphs in the notes below! Feel free to offer me encouragement…
Filed under: About Writing, Narrative, Teaching Writing | Tagged: narrative, ulleseit, writing, young adult | 14 Comments »
Posted on February 9, 2016 by Linda Ulleseit
Most adults are familiar with the basic use of commas, but some of the rules (which go on and on and on) are less well known. Take the issue of adjectives. If you use two or more adjectives to describe something, do you put commas between them? The hard and fast rule: it depends.
Mary chose to wear the red, spotted sweater.
In this example, the sentence makes sense if I reverse the adjectives and write ‘spotted, red sweater.’ Also, the sentence works if I put an and between the adjectives and write ‘red and spotted sweater.’ In this case, a comma is needed.
Mary chose to wear Susie’s red sweater.
In this example, the two adjectives (Susie’s and red) cannot be reversed and still make sense. It also makes no sense if you put and between them. No comma.
Why is it important to know this rule? Consider the following sentences.
Tiffany is a pretty tall girl.
Tiffany is a pretty, tall girl.
In the first one, Tiffany is tall. She may or may not be pretty. In the second sentence, Tiffany is pretty and tall. Make sure you write what you mean!
Filed under: Grammar | 2 Comments »