Chapter 19 of The Transfigured Lady draft is up

For those of you reading along, I’ve just posted Chapter 19 of The Transfigured Lady draft.

This one was interesting to work on because it’s got a scene on a train. I suspect that when I go back and reread everything later that I’ll wind up adding  a lot more sensory details to the train scene.  As I was writing it, I sort of knew that I didn’t have enough of the rocking motion.

But what it’s really missing are the smells and the tactile sense of dust.  In 1907, train cars were still segregated and the colored car was usually right behind the baggage car which meant close to the engine.  With trains being run with coal-fired steam, the sources I read talk about the smell of smoke and the constant dust.  In the summer, the cars were always either too hot because having the windows open meant that smoke from the engine would come in.

The cars were also often in front of the white smoking car.  Sometimes, it was separated from the smoking car by only a half-wall partition.

Someone from the period might be able to infer all of this, but for a modern reader, I’m going to have to go back to insert it.  For my first pass draft though, I don’t fret too much as long as I get the shape to the scene right.  I tend to do broader strokes.  I’ll adjust the sensory details later as part of controlling pacing and my characters emotional reactions to their environment.

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4 Responses

  1. Catherine

    There’s a scene in a segregated railroad car in Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition — a lot of my students end up writing about that chapter in their essays so it seems to make an impression. The novel was written just a few years before 1907 so maybe useful?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Thanks! I’ll check it out. The Quest for the Silver Fleece by W. E. B. DuBois had a couple of very helpful scenes and then I’ve found some short stories and first person accounts, but the more source material the better.

  2. Hope

    Thank you for writing about your process! I do some writing myself, so it’s amazinly helpful to “see” how other writers do it 🙂

    I had a “Why didn’t I think of this sooner” moment reading this post. The several drafts of a work of fiction are very much like the layering done in a really good bellydance choreography. There’s the shapes, then the specific moves, then the refining details of each move. I think I understand both processes better now 🙂