Voices in the Walls 33

5 of 6 of an outline of the remainder of Voices in the Walls.

I’ve even considered dumping the Alice altogether and having Saul be the one captured, but I can’t believe the story told that way. Maybe if Saul were five years old, but adult-saves-child is too easy a moral path for Matt.

I want Matt to change his feelings for a race, not an individual. Matt is young, good looking, and with a full complement of hormones. That means horny; it isn’t emphasized, but the reader knows. The girl is young, good looking, and forbidden fruit for two reasons. Young men of that era were supposed to save it for marriage, however often they didn’t. And slave owners – even ones like Matt and his father who strive for the moral high ground – would have been pulled two ways. Their “racial superiority” would tend to make them keep their distance, while knowledge that they could do as they pleased would tempt them to take those women who were unable to resist.

You could write a thousand stories out of that swamp of emotions: comedies, tragedies, or stories of moral affirmation and moral downfall. But those aren’t the story I’m trying to tell.

Matt is going to go into this rescue with massively mixed feelings. I want those feelings to be slave-owner vs. friend of a good, old black man. I’m afraid his inevitable sexual attraction to Alice will skew everything.

Nevertheless, logic notwithstanding, my gut tells me Alice needs to be in the story. The only way out of my conundrum may be to buckle my seat belt and write my way through the dilemma. If it fails, it won’t be the first couple of hundred pages I’ve thrown away.

So, let’s move on with the story. Alice gets rescued, and complications ensue.

For reasons I have yet to plot out, when Matt and Ben spirit Alice away, they are joined by a small group of other slaves who either have been planning an escape, or just take advantage of the situation. It may be that Alice invites them along, risking her life and freedom for strangers she had just come to know. That would be just like her.

Matt, Ben, Alice, and the others find themselves on the run. Matt has been found out. He can no longer pass as a southern gentleman. He has become a slave-stealer and his hosts know it. A hue and cry is raised. The road north is blocked.

They must now turn east and south, following a path that will eventually lead them to the tidewater region.

Here is a sidenote, concerning research: The journey from Gettysburg to the plantation where Alice is rescued has to take long enough for all the planned moral and personal dilemmas to play out. The distance from that plantation to the coast has to be be long enough for the remaining plot events to occur, but not be so far that the journey seems impossible for escaping slaves to accomplish. Beyond the linear distance, there is also the issue of time. Matt’s story begins with Lincoln’s election, and the number of weeks in Gettysburg, plus the trip south, plus the escape to the coast will probably push the end of the escape beyond the opening battles of the Civil War. All this has to be worked out in detail.

Accurate historical fiction is a lot harder than science fiction and fantasy.

From the beginning, I have planned for Matt to return to his own home, Waterside, passing through as a fugitive in the night. I want him to be fully committed to his new people by the time he gets there, and to fully realize what his change of heart has cost him; and to accept the change and the cost.

But before he gets there, he and his new people have to undergo a great deal of hiding, running, sneaking, a batch of close calls, a lot of fear, and a lot of interactions within the group, most of them harsh. Matt is no longer the man looking down from above. The slaves don’t know him and don’t trust him, and he is out of his element. He is not a city boy, but he isn’t Davy Crockett either. The knowledge the slaves bring with them is at least as useful as anything he knows.


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