Independence Day

I grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

The first house where we lived happened to be on the same road that Paul Revere followed on his famous ride.

My parents used to wake us up on April 19 to watch the re-enactment of the ride. It was late, but I'm not sure if it was midnight. Horseman would stop at the Hartwell Farm, almost directly across the street from our house.

Shouting. Clop-clop. Very cool.

Revolutionary war history was all around us—in Lincoln, Concord and Lexington. And I always thought July 4 was a blast. Who wouldn’t? Parades and fireworks, right? Ah, Boston.

So … Independence Day. Yes, the colonies declared their independence on July 4, 1776 but the struggle was far from over.

For you fiction writers, I have some questions for you.

About independence. And your characters’ struggles.

How independent is your main character?

Who does he depend on? And for what?

Does she want to rebel? If so, against what? Or whom?

Is he someone else’s millstone?

Is she toxic to a certain relationship? Or fear the toxin from a certain other?

Would he be okay living on Mars, alone, for a month?

Would she like to live alone on an island? Or does she cherish a ride in a jam-packed subway in Manhattan?

Does he feel secure in every relationship? Which ones make him queasy? For which moments does he wear a mask? Steel himself? Become someone else?

Does she hide the need for others around to make her feel complete? Why?

Does he wear a shackle? What kind? How well is made? Will it keep him from doing what he needs to do in the course of the story? What will it take to shake off those shackles?

What about family? Blood family and other kinds, too? Has her family encouraged her independence? Or does mom still helicopter around?

Independence is a funny concept. Even as a country today—are we independent? Completely? What does it mean? How much freedom does this country have to do anything it might want?

How much freedom do your characters feel each and every day? How much freedom do they want?

When called upon to act, and let’s hope your story requires them to do something, how much freedom will they have to get the job done?

Think about your favorite characters—what role does independence play? What will it take to make them feel like lighting up the sky with fireworks?

Paul Revere was the third of twelve children.

Why him?

You get the idea.

Some musings.

Happy Fourth.

Mark Stevens
Mark Stevens is the 2016 RMFW Writer of the Year. He writes the Allison Coil Mystery Series, including Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011), Trapline (2014), and Lake of Fire (2015). Buried by the Roan, Trapline, and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award; Trapline won. Trapline also won the 2015 award in genre fiction from the Colorado Authors League. Kirkus Reviews called Lake of Fire "irresistible." More about Mark on his website.

4 thoughts on “Independence Day

  1. All good questions! I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately on really getting into your character’s skin, and this just adds more for me to look at as I get into final edits. Thanks for the timely hints!

  2. Timely questions, and so appropriate to ask our characters those hard questions. Hope your holiday is/was fun and safe!

  3. Cool story, Mark! Wow, that brought back memories — I grew up in rural Connecticut, around plenty of Revolutionary war history and reenactments. I spent much time cleaning flintlocks and hearing about British versus American tactics, logistics, etc. No wonder I was such a weird kid. 😉

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