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December 15, 2013

Weaving in Historical or Factual Data

Last week I wrote about the writing sin of “info dumping.” An editor told me that writers commit it when they force historical or factual data into a scene in a way that doesn’t advance the plot. The same editor complimented some other scenes in the manuscript she critiqued for me. According to her, I wove in necessary information effectively in the following scene from my middle grade historical fiction based on the childhood of Audrey Hepburn.

As the soldier lit a cigarette, he asked in German, “Do I make you afraid?”
“Nein.” The boy shook his head, but like his two friends, he stared at his shoes.
“Good,” the soldier told them. “True Dutch have nothing to fear from Germany.” Then he asked, “Jude?” (Jew)
The boys’ heads jerked up. “Nein, n … nein.” They all answered, their words sputtering out in unison.
The soldier smirked. “See any around?”
The tallest boy glanced back, and then to Audrey’s horror, he pointed in her direction. Her heart lurched. Why would he think I’m Jewish? She breathed deeply. Stay calm and say,“Nein Jude.”Just don’t speak English.

The German soldier lifted his feet off the ground, and let the cycle roll a few yards until he came alongside Audrey. For what seemed like forever, he looked her over while she tried to steady her trembling.

Finally he coasted on by, but Audrey heard him snarl from behind, “Varkens!” (Swine) The hatred in his words made her turn sharply. That’s when she saw him spit at Sharon Demsky behind her. Sharon is a Jew, she realized. Of course, she’d known that, but it hadn’t mattered. Then he revved the motor and raced off.

Sharon’s cheeks flushed, and her eyes looked scared and confused. When Audrey glanced back at the boys, she thought they acted as shocked as she felt. “Come on,” the one who had pointed ordered, and the three hurried off.

Audrey waited for Sharon to look up, and then she smiled. She didn’t know her well, but Sharon had always been nice and never ridiculed her when she tried to speak Dutch. When Sharon didn’t move, Audrey walked back. “We’d better go or we’ll be late.” Sharon smiled slightly, then they walked all the way to school in silence.

The editor wrote on my manuscript—Good scene. Within the framework of the growing threat in Audrey’s life, you revealed character and moved the plot forward.

For more writing tips, please check out our workbook, Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks.

 

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