Creating a Family Saga - FS11 - The benefit of multiple perspectives to tell the story
The Kings stories continue
Adding depth to “The Homeplace Saga” set of stories
Since my ‘retirement’ in 2009 from my full-time work as a university professor, I have devoted a great deal of available time to creating what has become a rather extensive body of family saga, historical fiction writings all under the umbrella of “The Homeplace Saga.” What had begun in 2009-2010 as the simple task of finally finishing, editing, and publishing my first completed novel (begun in 1987), “Back to the Homeplace,” has now evolved into a multiplatform set of over two hundred individual pieces of literature in a variety of formats. All of these works are chronicled in my ongoing blog (referenced below).
One novel became four. The desire to tell the ‘back-story’ became a collection of short stories. Some of these were first published in a regional anthology as well as on the blog. This included telling the story of the creation of a whole community, its destruction during the Civil War, and the rebuilding of the community during that later 19th century, including maps and charts. These stories of course involved the creation of backward-engineered family tree history for the families along with many inter-related family members, neighbors and unrelated individuals. Sharing such an involved set of inter-related stories was not a task accomplished by a straight-line chronology, of course.
To tell the story well, and it is still partially untold, of course, was a much more complex task. Sharing a bit of the approach taken, and still underway, is the purpose of this current article, shared as FS11. Over these seven plus years, sharing my approach has become almost as important as actually telling the story of these families, it seems. I hope you find this of interest. I always enjoy reading feedback and reader reactions, either here, on the blog, or in personal email messages.
The original novel in the Saga
Adding perspectives takes different forms
To date, I’ve used four methods to add perspective, and depth of detail, to the overall story of “The Homeplace Saga.” I say ‘to date’ because it seems I continue to come up with ideas that may add additional methods as this process goes along. I first used the Levi Weston character to add an outside perspective. Second, I introduced a new family into the community in 1876, the Kings of Oak Springs. Third, I wrote a series of articles, McDonald Tales that separately looked at the viewpoint of the history being told from the viewpoint of central family characters that stretch through the entire period of 1833 to 1999. Finally, I wrote several series of ‘other stories’ about individuals in the time and place simply to add that depth and some interest to otherwise minor characters. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
In an entirely separate set of historical fiction stories, I created the three Weston brothers as immigrants to the United States in the mid-1600s in the series of stories under the general title of “Weston Wagons West.” These three brothers ‘just happened’ to appear in history at the same time and place as my own ancestors. Each story used a Weston descendant to share the story of their neighbors, friends and/or associates, my own ancestors. Since 1995, my wife and I have each been actively engaged in our own family history research that has provided a rich history of our ancestors, including visiting many of the locations in person on vacation trips and conference trips. One of these stories had a line in Illinois in the early 1800s. As I was also writing the founding stories for “The Homeplace Saga,” it came to me: What fun to do a crossover of the two story lines. Levi Weston was created as the son of Jacob who moved over into St. Louis, Missouri to raise his family. Jacob ran a freight line to central Missouri, and Levi eventually linked up with some characters from the Oak Springs area, in the years preceding the Civil War.
Since Oak Springs was totally evacuated during the Civil War, many of the residents ‘just happened’ to move to the Jefferson City area where Jacob and Levi’s families interacted with some of them. This provided both an opportunity to keep track of key persons during the war, away from ‘the homeplace’ and to setup their return to rebuild their community. Did I mention that Jacob and Levi were of the Jewish faith, on the Missouri frontier? Based on research of the time and place, it was fun to add that dimension to the story as well. He was the only person of the Jewish faith in a small, rural Ozark Mountain community in southern Missouri.
Read the stories from a new perspective
“The Kings of Oak Springs” turned into 80 episodes here on Hubpages as well as four ebooks for my readers. With two sons and two daughters, many readers mentioned how much they were reminded of the Little House on the Prairie TV show and books. That was not by accident, of course. I’m a huge fan, as well, and enjoyed framing my stories in a similar fashion, telling about the growing town of Oak Springs, through the eyes of the Kings.
The 26 episodes of the McDonald Tales series of stories took a different viewpoint. I used the point of view of only Daniel McDonald (of an original settler family as a child), his wife, Jane Truesdale (another original settler family), and their son, William (grandfather of Mildred (McDonald) Bevins, the matriarch of the first “Back to the Homeplace” novel) to examine the growth of the valley community in a parallel timeframe to the original set of short stories. I wanted to show that they had a strong intent to consolidate the land holdings of the family and how they went about doing that in the context of the earlier told stories.
In addition, I wrote a series of (currently) 15 episodes of “Meet the Folks” in which each short story featured an individual or family in the community that had perhaps only been mentioned in a couple of sentences or paragraphs in the main story lines. These each told a separate story that amplified their place in the community at a particular point in time. These have been useful in filling in some gaps in the story that I felt needed shared. There were also a handful of simply random stories, some written early on and some later. Finally, this ‘how-to’ series was used to share about our craft as it relates to “The Homeplace Saga” using various parts of the stories to illustrate the points being made, much as I have done here. Hopefully, each one also helped promote and encouraged the reading of one or more of the works that might not have been read otherwise. I have no way of ever knowing, of course, how many and which people read which of the written works I create. It is often frustrating, but, of course, I’ve learned that I am really writing for myself. If others read, and enjoy what they read, that I wrote, it is a bonus. Thank you, very much.
This is "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories
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- Dr. Bill Smith's Books and Publications Spotlight
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