Monday, May 26, 2008

Ten Vietnamese and Sunrise Over Fallujah

I am learning more from reading books by other authors right now.. I checked out a book written in the 60's by Susan Sheehan called Ten Vietnamese. She interviewed a variety of ordinary citizens for her book. I was impressed with how she let each person tell his or her story without author intrusion or judgment on her part. I felt as if I were sitting there listening to each person tell their story.

I tried to imagine what questions she had told her interpreter to ask the person being interviewed. The identity of the individuals and their locations were not revealed for all their safety. I think she must have asked about what changes had taken place in their lifetime? What had they experienced in the war so far? What decisions had they made? Which side did they support and why?

The second book I read was Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, a fictional account of Robin "Birdy" Perry. "Birdy" tells his story of the Civilian Affairs unit in Iraq. Mr. Myers used first person POV to tell the story from "Birdy's" eyes. The story was so well told I felt as if I were a member of the unit. I suspect Mr. Myers did a lot of research and interviews before he wrote his story. This book was on the display table near the library entrance. The cover and title caught my eye. I selected the book on that basis and wasn't disappointed.

What I learned from reading these two books was the author needs to step back and let the characters tell their stories whether the books are fiction or non-fiction. I think interviewing my characters as well as real people would give me insight enabling me to let them speak for themselves.


  1. Sue, wonderful idea about author intrusion. I've heard it said that a good way to deepen our characterization is to interview our characters, but I've never tried it. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Interviewing characters allows their own voice and personality leap from the pages.

    Reading voraciously helps all of us write better.

    Looking forward to your post next month!


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