word craft


Story Behind the Story #16:
The Fighting Ground

At the time I was liv­ing in Lam­bertville, New Jer­sey, so it was easy for me to catch a bus and get into NYC for a meet­ing with my edi­tor. We were going to dis­cuss the new nov­el man­u­script I had sent her.

I did indeed meet with her and learn that she was reject­ing my book. Long ago I had learned that you did­n’t argue about such a thing, you just accept­ed it, and moved on. Indeed, while tak­ing the bus back home my pri­ma­ry thought was, “What am I going to write now?”

I stared out the window.

I was just about a mile from home when I noticed a road mark­er, one of those signs that tell the pass­er-by about some­thing that hap­pened at that spot years ago. I had nev­er real­ly paid atten­tion to it before.

The Fighting GroundThe bus was going full speed, but I caught enough of the sign to want to come back and read it more close­ly. I did so the next day.

The tale the sign told was about a small Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War skir­mish fought between a few New Jer­sey mili­tia and a small troop of Hes­s­ian sol­diers. The num­bers involved were small. “Only a few deaths,” read the sign. The last line of the sign read: “The import of this skir­mish was small.”

But I thought, “It was­n’t small for those who died, or the fam­i­lies from which they came.”

That was the begin­ning of my think­ing for The Fight­ing Ground about a boy who is caught up in just such a small skir­mish The most inter­est­ing part of the book—in my view—is that the boy, when cap­tured, hears only the Ger­man (and does­n’t under­stand) his cap­tives speak. A friend trans­lat­ed my Eng­lish into German.

Hessian soldiersMy pro­tag­o­nist guess­es what these Ger­mans are say­ing and acts accord­ing­ly, with fatal consequences.

At the back of the book I trans­lat­ed the Ger­man pas­sages into Eng­lish. For the read­er, it com­plete­ly changes the story.

It’s a curi­ous case of what is not actu­al­ly part of the sto­ry being an essen­tial part of the story.

The Fight­ing Ground won the Scott O’Dell award for best his­tor­i­cal fic­tion that year.

Star­ing out of win­dows can be productive.

2 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #16:<br><em>The Fighting Ground</em>”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts