Writers as Thread Gatherers
When Hallie’s Heart was first published, my adult children, Jessica and Nathan, were among the first to read it. It wasn’t long before they called me.
Nathan, who has always hated his middle name, was unimpressed that I’d chosen a derivative as the fictional name for the setting of my novel–Stewartville, Michigan. He also recognized the book’s description of Main Street in the primary setting. He told me he wished I’d called the town by its real name: Carson City, Michigan, the rural community where he and his sister had grown up. But since our family had lived there for ten years, I didn’t want run the risk of having friends think my characters were based on their actual personalities.
Jessica, whose name can also be found as a minor character in the book, immediately recognized real objects from our home and her life. And both of my kids immediately recognized that our family pet, a chubby black miniature dachsund, is memorialized in the book as a dog named Oscar.
All fiction writers weave the threads of their lives into their stories, some in subtle hues and some in stark patterns. In Hallie’s Heart, I used real objects of significance to me and places that really exist to lend the book a sense of verisimilitude. The necklace that plays such a significant role in the plot was actually a necklace given to me by my Aunt Evelyn when I was twelve. My father was and still is a meticulous diary-keeper. My grandmother’s name was Hilma and her husband was Emil, and their spindled rocking chair sits in my family room. Mona’s beach house sits in an actual location at the end of a lane on the property of Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, the real-life setting of Gilead Bible Conference and critical scenes in the book. The Prayer Tower really exists and played a pivotal role in my life, as my parents’ home was just yards from Maranatha.
So why did I choose these scenes, objects, people, and details?
- First of all because I could describe each of them in minute detail.
- Secondly, because I believed I could communicate a semblance of the influence everyday objects and experience have in our lives.
- And last, because I had already researched them through my relationship with these objects, people, and places.
Weaving and Storytelling
As writers we are always absorbing, always learning, always seeing new connections of past and present and of truth to life. In a few moments I’m heading downstairs to put in a load of laundry and clean out my lint trap. But even there I can find a story, if I’m looking. And who knows where a big wad of lint might lead?