Images of WWI

I’m working on my third novel, Time & Regret, the story of Martin Devlin and his granddaughter, Grace, who tries to solve a mystery he left for her embedded in his diaries. A mystery that springs from WWI. In preparation, I went through several books set in those times as well as non-fiction accounts and prepared a lengthy list of images to prompt creativity. Not long ago, I reviewed the list and was struck, once again, by the brutal, senselessness of it all.

Books on WWIListen to a few of them:

How could he tell the soldier’s parents that there was nothing left of their son but a booted foot? (The Serpents Tooth)

Watch for craters. Some of them are pretty deep. God knows what’s floating in them. Not much gas left, but it’s heavy, sticks to the low bits. (We Shall Not Sleep)

The endless boredom, the sudden blood-red agony, the nights in no man’s land with men caught on the wires and torn apart by bullets, left hanging there, bleeding to death. (We Shall Not Sleep)

It’s the smaller shells, the whiz-bangs, that are most damaging, the ones that sound like a mosquito whining in the distance. (Three Day Road)

Just to survive took all a man could dredge up from his soul; hope and sanity were lights on a hill the other side of an abyss. (At Some Disputed Barricade)

A direct hits obliterates all physical evidence that a man had existed; a lesser one would rip pieces from him. (Birdsong)

He grew used to the sight and smell of torn, human flesh. (Birdsong)

Only moments count in this war. Each minute is a whole new lifetime out there. (The First Casualty)

The real purpose was to kill so many of the enemy that they could no longer function. (Vimy)

As always when I reflect on WWI, I wonder at those who survived and managed, somehow, to go on with life.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Writer’s Shelfie

Writer's ShelfieDerek Birks author of Feud, A Traitor’s Fate and Kingdom of Rebels tagged me to create a ‘writer’s shelfie’ with books that are important to my writing. I chose ten which seemed like a reasonable number, although I could have selected a lot more.

Letters of Agar Adamson – nothing beats real letters and diaries for helping a writer to appreciate WWI with small details on conditions and everyday soldiering. Agar’s are superb and I’ve written about them in the past.

Vimy by Pierre Berton – the battle for Vimy Ridge features in both of my published novels and will get a mention in my next novel as well. Berton’s non-fiction account has been my companion for at least five years. It is well thumbed and underlined.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris – this non-fiction memoir has nothing to do with war, however, it has everything to do with the human spirit and what are writers without exploring the human spirit?

Three Day Road and Deafening are novels written about the Canadian experience of WWI. Boyden and Itani are excellent writers – so I have looked to them for both war and technique.

I consult The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Write Away by Elizabeth George regularly. Lukeman brings an agent’s perspective while George talks more about writing as craft and process. Several other writing books are on my shelves.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje is an example of writing at its finest. Inspiration lies in every paragraph.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is one of THE books on WWI.

The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson is a story told in poetry. At times I find a phrase that speaks to me and prompts my own writing. I have another book of poetry and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations that I also use in this way.