Historical Fiction and Writing – The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment, The Mercy

In some historical fiction, the reader can identify specific individuals, events and dates as the backdrop of a story. Others tell stories about a people and time in general, rather than a specific event or person. Considered the queen of Amish romantic historical fiction, Beverly Lewis scored again with The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment and The Mercy. One could not help but compare / contrast our lives with that of the Amish. To review this trilogy, I have chosen to do just that compare / contrast “The Plain Life and the Fancy Life.” As writing students progress essays expand beyond five paragraphs.

The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment, The Mercy

By Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis introduces us to the Amish of the Pennsylvania Dutch region, the People, through this trilogy and over 80 books. While the story of Rose Ann Kauffman begins in 1985, we can easily find ourselves in similar situations. God’s people of all times have found themselves faced with the challenge of living in the world, but not of the world. Amish talk of this struggle as the contrast of “the Plain Life with the Fancy Life.” Looking at three areas we will examine this challenge: separation from the world, courtship in this world and discipline in the church.

Rose Ann Kauffman or Rose lived with her parents in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Her grandparents lived in one of the “Dawdi (grandparent) Houses” on the property. Over ten years earlier, her mother had suffered an injury when her buggy tipped over and she fell in a ravine. Though constantly in pain, she refused to let her husband take her to a specialist. Later, as part of the story, she did decide to go and regained some health and no longer had pain. They had chosen, as a People, to live very simply. Church leader, the bishop of the district, allowed the Kauffman family to have indoor bathrooms because of Emma’s injury. Generally, modern conveniences such as motor vehicles, electricity, running water, telephones and televisions in a home have no place in the “Plain Life.” Further, the People dressed and kept their hair in a way in keeping with their lifestyle. While they did not own motor vehicles, at times they hired drivers of motor vehicles to get to places such as a hospital and rehab center. My question: “Are these things evil in themselves or is it what they may do to a person? If these activities represent sin, in and of themselves, why the exceptions? One answer to this question: The modern “conveniences” represent an attempt to draw people, especially the young, away from their way of life and ultimately destroy their entire community.

For an example closer to the “English” lives, as Amish call us, I graduated from high school in 1967. During high school and college I went to churches who taught against going to movies. One of the reasons given involved not wanting to support the movie industry. I now know that they can track sales and know which kind of movies sell. At some point I would not even watch a movie on television, though I would watch television shows. That made no sense, but I wanted to obey the “rules.” Over the years, things have changed and now preachers use movies as illustrations in sermons. Content should guide us in what we watch. We must consider if the content steers us away from the Lord; if so we should discontinue it. As seen in the story of Rose, the People and “English” evangelicals meet the challenge of “separation from the world” with gradual change. I John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Amish practice of courtship stems from their idea of separation from the world. In this trilogy, young people of courting age attended Sunday evening “Singings.” Family members would get the young ladies to the “Singing” and afterwards the young people would pair up and young men would offer to take a young lady home. Young men of courting age must acquire a special “courting buggy” which was open to avoid improper behavior. During cold, Pennsylvania winters, the young men would have heated bricks and blankets to help keep their gals warm as they drove around the countryside “courting” or getting to know each other. One aspect of the whole process that seemed especially interesting involved the secrecy. While parents knew that their young lady spent time with someone after the “Singing” and presumably someone from one of the respected families of their community, the custom required secrecy. While the young couple may agree to marry, they do not announce it until a couple of weeks before “Wedding Season” at the beginning of November each year. Our protagonist, Rose, would have benefited from the guidance of her parents.

Apparently, Amish young people discuss whether to kiss on the lips before their wedding or to save it for that special day. “English” or evangelical young people have similar conversations. Parents of both groups want their children to marry believing people. Probably, most Amish demand more exclusiveness in this area. In one of the books, Rose’s grandparents questioned the wisdom of young people being out late at night. In a way, this surprised me because I expected that generation to be more entrenched in the custom. Rose’s older sister had married an “English” man and left the community for five years. Her departure from the People began to bother her only when her husband thought nothing of exposing their young daughter to worldly influences. Hen (short for Hannah) took Mattie Sue to spend some time with her parents and began to dress and act Amish. Brandon did not like this change. It pleased me that the Bishop and Hen’s father allowed her to stay there for a short time, but they encouraged her to do what she needed to restore her marriage. Certainly, we would see a bigger difference contrasting how non-believing people in our society would address these issues.

Finally, I address the issue of discipline in the church. In this trilogy, the first title, The Thorn probably refers to the foster son of Bishop Aaron. From the beginning he rebelled showing no interest in submitting to his foster parents or to the People. Nick and Christian, Aaron and Barbara’s biological son, never got along. At one point, Christian took Nick out and began to cut off his pony tail, a scuffle ensued and Christian died at the bottom of a ravine. Nick took him back to the house and then ran away. Not getting all of the information, everyone blamed Nick. Several Bishops in the area, placed Bishop Aaron on suspension; they relieved him of all his ministerial duties and he could only function as a member of the People. The Judgment develops the story of this act of church discipline. Finally, in The Mercy, a number of twists represent God’s mercy to His people.

In the epilogue and word from the author, Beverly Lewis mentions the heritage of the Amish as related to the Anabaptists of old and Mennonites of our day. In my experience one Baptist distinctive is the autonomy of the local church. While a local body could request help from nearby churches, no hierarchy exists like illustrated in this story. Members of the district in question did not agree with the decision of the other bishops. In the end, the bishops lifted the suspension as the truth came out.

This compelling story reveals how much alike and how different God’s people are. Of course if we would compare God’s people with the world, the differences would abound. Just looking at the areas of separation from the world, courting in the world and discipline in the church give us a good idea of these differences and similarities. May God grant us wisdom to be in the world, but not of the world!

Fiction Writing Technique – An Explanation of Point of View

Point of view one is of the fiction writer’s most powerful techniques. Writing from your character’s POV means that you get inside the main character’s head, heart and gut –literally see the world through the character’s perspective. So, for example, when you are in the “bad guy’s” POV, be true to that POV. An excellent example of this is Crime and Punishment where Raskolnikov thrusts an ax into his landlady’s head. Thus begins one of the greatest novel ever written. Did Dostoevsky have to put an ax into anyone’s head to write this? Clearly not. And neither do you. But Dostoevsky needed to experience Raskolnikov’s physical journey as a murderer as well as his emotional journey from darkness to redemption.

William Faulkner wrote: “… the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself… alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the sweat and the agony.”

Faulkner has given us a tough assignment, yet it is an assignment at which we much excel as fiction writers. The best way to succeed at this is to leave behind what you believe to be “true” and open yourself to the vast possibility of life experiences outside your own. For it is not true that we can only write what we experience. As writers, we access the imagination, that cosmic place where everything is possible and the great expanse of human emotions resides.

One of the best ways to experience the power of point of view is to write an emotionally strong scene between two people who, when they tell their story, have very different versions of the experience. For example, write a fight between two people, perhaps a mother and a daughter or a father and a son. A fight has built in tension, which makes the scene easier to write. You also have opportunity to use dialogue – when people fight, they usually have a lot say! Begin by asking yourself what is the issue between the mother and daughter (or father and son, or any two people). First write the scene from the daughter’s point of view. This means you get inside only the daughter’s head. The reader can hear what the mother says and see how she acts, but cannot know her thoughts. This exercise brings you totally inside the daughter. The only inner thoughts you use belong to the daughter.

Then put the daughter’s story aside and write the scene from the mother’s point of view. You need not have the exact same dialogue and almost certainly the story will be very different from the mother’s point of view. This time around, you show the reader only the mother’s inner thoughts. The daughter speaks and acts but we do not know her motivations other than by what she says and does.

This is a great eye opener of an exercise geared to deepening your understanding of the writer’s technique of point of view. It also encourages dialogue. Even if you’ve never written dialogue, give it a try. I’ve worked with a lot of people who think they can’t write dialogue — only because they’ve never tried. The truth is everyone can write dialogue! So can you!

Point of View – Choosing the Best Point of View for Fantasy Fiction Writing

Point of View in Fantasy Fiction

If you want readers to keep reading your book, point of view must be carefully considered. It is especially important in fantasy fiction writing. Why? The point of view from which you choose to tell your story sets the overall tone for the book. It gives the reader a vantage point from which to view the entire story as it unfolds.

Choose the wrong point of view and the reader may feel like they are missing out on something, or that they are not connecting with the book’s characters. Flop around between different points of views and the reader will become confused.

At this point, you’ve lost them in the first few pages.

There are simply too many fantasy fiction books out there. Self-published books now account for 75% of the overall market. According to Bowker.com-the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions-self-published titles have grown 287% since 2006, resulting in a whopping 250,00 new print and e-titles in 2012. What was once a cottage industry is now the norm.

What does this mean to you? Well, it means you better make sure you have all your ducks in a row, and that your writing is the absolute best it can be to compete. There are a lot of things to consider, and I’ll be discussing this in future articles. For now, let’s begin by discussing the three most popular points of view: first person, third person omniscient, and third person limited.

First Person Point of View

Writing in the first person point of view is limiting. It does not allow the reader to truly “see” the world; it only allows them to be “told” what the world looks like through the recitation of the book’s main character. Does something seem fishy? It should. Remember what all your writing instructors and teachers have told you about show-don’t-tell?

It’s still effective, but after a while it starts to sound like a weather report.

Example:

I looked down the dark dungeon hall. The elf stood beside me. I was scared, but I didn’t want to let him now.

“What do you think that is?” I asked. I heard something breathing.

The elf looked at me and frowned. “I don’t know,” he said.

Don’t let this completely dissuade you. Sometimes, using the first person point of view can work, and work very well. But if you choose only to use this point of view, you will severely limit the reader experience.

When R. A. Salvatore first sat down to tell the tale of a dark elf known as Drizzt Do’Urden, he admittedly struggled with point of view selection. In the initial stories, Drizzt was alone, so using the first person point of view seemed to make sense. But Salvatore soon realized he would not be able to tell the important back story of the dark world of the elves, especially the historical moments that occurred before Drizzt was even born.

Salvatore decided to use both first person and third person limited point of view to tell the story. In this manner, he was able to explore the old heritage of the Underdark, and still show exactly what Drizzt was thinking. He did this by writing the novel in third person limited, but prefacing each chapter with first person journal entries from Drizzt.

Third Person Limited Point of View

Third person limited point of view is when the reader knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character. The reader is limited to seeing and experiencing the world only through this character.

When I wrote Deomans of Faerel, this is the point of view I chose to use. The third person limited pointof view creates what is known as “distance” in the story. It pulls the reader away to a vantage point that allows them to ride along with the character as if they have become that character. It is arguably the best narrative form to choose when writing fantasy fiction. It also allows you create tension by using dialogue to more appropriately interact.

Example:

Gnoli peered down the dark dungeon hall. The elf moved up beside him, his bow outstretched, hands shaking.

“Ye hear that breathing?” the dwarf asked in a shaking voice. He glanced at his companion, struggling to keep fear from showing on his rugged face. “What do ye think that is?”

The elf frowned and slowly shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said.

Not a whole lot different than first person. But we start to feel what is happening rather than be told. This subtle act creates a powerful sensation for the reader. They are not only there, they are experiencing things as if they are watching a movie, instead of nightly news cast.

Switching Third Person Limited Points of View

The extra benefit to using third person limited point of view is that the writer gets to place the reader inside the heads of more than one character, if they so choose. This works very well to tell different plot lines, and can actually create empathy for villains, which is something you need. (Who wants a villain you can totally hate?)

Using third person limited also allows you to develop other characters, which is great if your fantasy book contains more than one hero. Many do. Using third person limited, the writer is able to flesh out more than one character, creating solid connections. Readers begin to care about the characters: they feel their pains, they experience their anguishes and desires, the root for them and wish them no harm.

When to Switch

If you want to use third person limited to explore storylines of other characters, just make sure you have a clear breaking point in the writing. This works best between chapters. Tell the story through the eyes of one character in the first chapter, then switch to another character in chapter two.

Carefully Switch Point of View

Just be aware of time. When you switch from one character to another, be aware of what the other characters are doing. Is Jack in a boat in the morning in the first chapter? Does he experience something that takes all day, and then it becomes night? If so, when you start the next chapter, you better make sure what happens occurs after the previous night’s events.

Third Person Omniscient

Lastly, let’s talk about third person omniscient. The third person omniscient point of view is a narrative form in which the reader knows all the thoughts, desires and wishes of every single character. In fantasy fiction, this takes away much of the surprise. Using this point of view, you can actually write an entire novel without ever using any dialogue.

Example:

Gnoli peered down the dark dungeon hall. The elf moved up beside him, his bow outstretched, hands shaking. The dwarf heard something breathing down the hall. He wondered what it was, but he tried to keep the fear from his face. The elf had no idea what was down there, and he said so. The dragon down the hall, however, waited patiently for them to approach. Once they came within range, he was going to gobble them up!

See how it’s just kind of… flat? And talk about a spoiler alert! In the previous two examples, we had no idea what the monster was, or what its intentions were. Now we know everything.

This is an extreme example, of course. But when the narrator is just telling you everything that is happening, and all the thoughts and feelings of every single character, including the monsters, the story becomes less interesting.

Beware of Head Jumping

Whichever point of view you choose to employ for your fantasy novel, just make sure you properly block your paragraphs, and what you reveal. If the first chapter is all told from the point of view of Jack, then you can’t include any thoughts from the other characters. Jack may suspect they are thinking certain things, but he can’t know this.