Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whirlwind -- that's me

Hopping down to New York via Delta in the AM and heading home in the late evening. No time to do anything but work. Ah, the glamorous life of a jet-setter -- is that phrase too 60's?

Tonight I'm working on the "Return" section of "Place of Safety." Where Brendan goes back to Derry, as he must. I've been thinking on the lovely build Tolstoy achieved in his weaving of history and humanity in "War and Peace" and am trying to use that as my guide...though he had several characters to follow and told everything in the third person. Something I'm finding is, using first person both frees me in so many ways...and entangles me in limitations that I haven't yet figured out how to overcome or slip around. Like in "The Battle of the Bogside" chapter...which will really be three chapters once I'm done with it -- Brendan's impressions can't be too astute or too all-encompassing; he's only 13 years old. But I still need to put across the sense of what was happening.

A bit of history is probably in order. For decades every August, Protestants in the Orange Order held a march to commemorate the bravery of a group of Apprentice Boys, who in 1689 closed the gates to the walled city of Derry and kept it in Protestant hands against Catholic troops trying to regain the city. It helped cement Protestant control of Ireland for the next 200+ years and is celebrated with the pounding of massive drums as the parade winds its way around the Catholic areas. As an insult, members of the modern Orange Order would sometimes toss pennies at the Bogside, indicating contempt for their "lessers."

On August 12th, 1969 things finally exploded during the march. This was just eight months after Catholics walking for civil rights had been attacked and brutally beaten at Burntollet Bridge (with the complicity of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, just like the cops in Alabama helped attack black civil rights marchers heading for Selma), leading to riots and the beginning of barricades to keep the RUC out of the Bogside. During the parade, insults were exchanged and rocks were thrown and the RUC began attacking the Catholics doing the throwing (not the Protestants)...and the situation melted down to 3 days of full scale riots, in which the RUC lost complete control of the area, the "Free Derry" sign was painted and British troops had to be brought in to separate the two sides. It was also during this time that the IRA was seen to have done nothing to help the Catholics defend their area and began being referred to as the "I Ran Away."

Of course, Brendan would be in the middle of this. But how to depict it is the problem. He can't know everything that's happening...but it's important to show the meaning behind it all. And how it affects his brothers and sisters and radicalizes his mother and sets him down the path he's destined to follow. My usual method is just to write and write and write until something begins to unfold before me...but that could take forever. Still...I guess it's the best way to go, right now.

Maybe I should start writing in 3rd person. You can be so much more omniscient as the author. And so much less personal.

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