Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginian City,” every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?
“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”Leo Tolstoy
I love Tolstoy’s stories, but do I agree with his observation?
I must be honest, when I first saw this prompt I had no idea what it was about. It was only after I visited Lela Markham’s post that I understood what the prompt was about. I copied the Tolstoy quote above out of Lela’s post which you can read here: https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/2020/11/30/bring-on-the-tropes/
I realised the other day that all three of my books for older children and adults are about war and conflict of some kind or another. While the Bombs Fell is about a young child growing up in the small town of Bungay, East Anglia in the UK during WWII, Through the Nethergate is about a possible third world war incited through the use of targeted technology and the murder of leadership figures to stir up the masses, and my forthcoming book, A Ghost and His Gold, is about the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa. I have recently started writing After the Bombs Fell, the sequel to While the Bombs Fell and this is about the end of WW2 and the aftermath of the war in Britain.
Hmmm! I definitely like reading, researching, and writing about war. When presented with the topic for this prompt, I gave it some thought, and realised that most war books fit into the ‘a stranger comes to town’ concept. In the case of a war, however, its not one stranger who comes knocking on the country’s door, but a whole army of them.
While the Bombs Fell features the German pilots and their bombing of London and other major cities in the UK, including Norwich, which is the closest city to Bungay. The little girl in the story [my mother] imagined Hitler as a wicked witch dressed all in black and knew that the German’s ate black bread. This made them strange and unfamiliar and increased her fear of them.
After the Bombs Fell continues to feature the German’s as invaders, but the strangers have evolved into faceless machines called Doodlebugs and V2 rockets. This book will also feature the Italian prisoners of war who occupied a camp at Flixton. Many of them worked on farms in East Anglia. The Italians were also ‘strangers’ in the eyes of the little English girl. They ate different foods, spoke differently, and had different customs. My mother remembers the Italian POW as being kindly and friendly.
Through the Nethergate has the stranger comes to town theme in the form of firstly, Hugh Bigod’s evil ghost, and then Lucifer coming into the lives of a variety of different characters in the book. This book also includes the concept of a man goes on a journey, as Margaret goes to a number of places, including hell, in this supernatural fantasy.
A Ghost and His Gold features both concepts too. Robert is the English soldier who is stationed in Mafeking in the Cape Colony when the war breaks out. He is a stranger to South Africa and an invader of the two Boer Republics. The other two ghosts, Pieter and Estelle, are both Afrikaners who were born in South Africa. As a result of the war, these two characters both end up going on journeys. The three ghosts are also strangers who enter the lives of the modern main characters, Michelle and Tom. The modern couple embark on a strange and horrifying journey to defeat the poltergeist, Estelle, and regain their normal lives.
Having analysed my stories in terms of these two concepts, I can see they both feature strongly in my books. They are not, however, the only types of stories I have read. I read a huge array of books and genres and there are a lot of stories that don’t fit into these two storylines. Romeo and Juliet, for example, doesn’t involve a stranger coming to town, all the characters know each other. I also doesn’t involve anyone going on a journey in the literal sense of the word. Unless one views first love as a journey. Memoirs and comedies also may, or may not, include these two storylines.
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