Tripping The Narrative Fancy
Writing while on the road is an interesting prospect, regardless of how you slice pie.
As everyone knows Sister Jo and I have hit the road for the ultimate US touring experience. I’m suppose to be writing about it as we go along. Right now, we’re stationary while bunking with a cousin and her husband for several days.
Traveling is good. The finer points of the stationary life comes home with stronger vigor after rolling for two weeks without much respite. So far we’ve managed to put on approximately 3200 miles in just over two weeks, and accounting for seven days of actual down time.
In that time, writing has consisted of sporadic blog and website postings and text messages to a few friends who’re following and keeping track of our trip for the rest of the gang.
Now, I’ve come to the point of putting together articles to go out to editors. It all sounds so easy to people for me to say, “I have a few articles to write so that this little trip can start paying for itself.”
I read a blog the other day about writing narrative pieces. I thought about it for a while, trying to decide if that was the kind of writing I normally did. I know that sounds odd, that I needed to think about whether I do narrative or not. The fact is that I don’t think about that area of writing. I’m an organic writer.
Organic writers, I’ve found, don’t necessarily concern themselves with labeling types of structures used on a regular basis. I do narrative as a matter of course. The type of narrative depends on the subject matter involved.
For instance, I can write history pieces for both adult and children with lots of descriptive narrative. I’m sure to find a home for some of those. And we’ve certainly been to a large number of historic places, complete with statues.
I could write about the emotional times, when all around us is surrounded by rain and getting out to explore any sight or site would be miserable and demoralizing. That narrative of emotional cleansing could go along with missives about the drought-caused devastation we’ve encountered throughout the southwest. Some of those areas nearly broke our hearts.
There are always pieces for the kids on peculiar trivia about places we’ve visited. Those are easy and fun pieces to do. Adults enjoy those, too. Unfortunately, little narrative is required for those pieces.
You see what I mean. Narrative takes place most successfully for me in memoir, stories (fiction/creative non-fiction), and essay. In order for me to do any real work in that structured area, genre is mandatory.
Let me give you a small sample of what I mean. This is the bare bones of something I’d write about one historic site we encountered.
In the small community of Goliad, TX, the visitor will find a monument location that dates back to the Texas/Mexican Revolutionary War. (That was in 1836 for those without ready history books to hand.) Inside the Presidio La Bahia area stands a granite monument representing a man named Fannin and his soldiers.
Col. James W. Fannin was fighting for Texas’s independence. The Alamo had fallen. He and his men held the Presidio La Bahia, which Fannin renamed Fort Defiance, in the latter part of March, 1836.
As a result of a miscalculation on his part after being ordered by Sam Houston to retreat, Fannin and his nearly 400 men were trapped in the open by a superior Mexican force. Fannin surrendered to the Mexican troops on March 20th, rather than die uselessly and were held in the Presidio by the Mexican troops. Their complement was enlarged by the capture of other Texas units in the area. Since they’d surrendered peacefully, Col. Fannin expected all of them to be considered prisoners of war.
Instead, they were marched out on Palm Sunday, one week later, and executed as pirates on orders of Gen. Santa Ana. All of Col. Fannin’s men and many of those who’d been housed with them (342 in total) were taken outside the Presidio where they were summarily killed and then burned.
Their charred remains were then buried a few hundred yards away and left to be forgotten. Fortunately, their final battle cry of “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” rang through the air, lifting the hearts and spirits of those still held inside the Presidio’s cells. Those men and their Battle cry were not forgotten.
Later, a huge granite monument was erected over their gravesite and engraved with the names of every man who died that day. It stands as a reminder to the courage and carnage of war and the price of independence.
General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexican hero of Cinco de Mayo, declared that Cinco de Mayo had nothing to do with Mexican independence, but rather the sacrifice of 342 lives for the sake of independence at a place called Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, TX. Much later, the state of Texas also recognized the celebration to represent the fallen of the revolution for independence.
This type of subject can make for fascinating narrative, but when it’s only a small blurb within the body of a larger piece, it suffers from lack of dedication and attention. Part of that lack is also due to lack of time for writing while on the road and having infrequent computer access, electricity, and online abilities.
Excuses notwithstanding, putting together viable publishable essays, stories, and articles draws out the competitor in the writer who wants to succeed while rolling along.
I hope all of those who choose such exercises in the writing experience the best of luck with narrative.
Writing on the fly is never easy. Writing on the fly while rolling along and trying to take in the new while writing about the old is doubly challenging.
Good luck to those who accept the challenge. I hope to see you in those small places along the way. Take care, all and write well and often.
Until then, a bientot,