As a writer, one of the toughest decisions I have to make is when to remove something from my story. No matter how much I may like it, no matter how much time and effort I put into it, if it doesn’t work it has to go.
For “The Flood of Atlantis,” the most recent Tomorrow News Network story, I wrote a poem for a young woman named Harmonia. Harmonia is an Atlantian prostitute, a career she chose because it provided her better opportunities in an age when women enjoyed little freedom. But for obvious reasons, working as a prostitute in any era comes with some painful sacrifices.
Whether Harmonia is criticizing Atlantian society with this poem or subtly condemning herself would have been open to the reader’s interpretation. Either way, the poem said something about Harmonia’s character. It fit her well; it just didn’t fit the scene for which it was written.
Tell me when
Are we to go,
The false country
Let’s go somewhere
Where men don’t lie,
Where women don’t cheat,
Where the word love
Means not deceit.
Could such a land
In truth exist?
Or does my song
Fans of “A Stranger Comes to Town,” the most recent addition to the Tomorrow News Network series, may be interested to know the protagonist, Charlotte, is based on a real person. We know very little about Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst except that she disguised herself as a man in order to have the career she wanted, driving stagecoaches and working with horses. She lived in California and was apparently a respected member of society. She even voted decades before woman won the right to vote. No one knew the truth about her until the day she died and a doctor examined her body.
The Charlotte of “A Stranger Comes to Town” is a little different (click here to read her story). She wants to be a journalist, and she lives in a later era when the Women’s Suffrage Movement is starting to take hold. The idea of a woman holding a man’s job is still ridiculous in her time, but perhaps it’s not as ridiculous as it was for the real Charley. And like Charley, Charlotte is stubbornly determined to have the career she wants, even if she has to disguise herself as a man to get it.
To find out more about Charley, check out Charley’s Choice by Fern J. Hill (click here). It’s a work of historical fiction based on what little information we have on Charley’s life. I used the book as a starting point for developing the characters who appear in “Stranger,” especially Charlotte.