Before starting my novel, I asked my protagonist (aka mother-in-law) several times why, at age sixteen, she abandoned the comforts of home to travel across the country with her best female friend. She didn’t have an answer. It was simply something she ‘had to do.’
Needing to explain her behavior for my readers, I researched the 1930’s and tried to piece together reasons that prompted such restlessness. Why do any of us do what we do? Why would someone my age feel the need to acquire an iPhone or an iPad or an iPod? Part of my answer is curiosity: I wonder what all the fuss is about. Another reason: I want to stay current or the world – and my grandchildren – will write me off as a dinosaur – a nice dinosaur – who cooks their favorite foods, slips them a $20.00 every now and then – but a dinosaur none-the-less.
So applying this curiosity and restlessness principle to my heroine’s behavior, I begin to understand. She lived at a time when the Dust Bowl decimated the heartland – but it was ending. The Great Depression decimated the economy – but it too was ending. Why? Because something else was beginning – the ominous rumblings of World War II. Preparations for global conflict made Lend Lease, conscription of young men, and war rationing a future reality. But before America burst onto the world stage, citizens needed time to take a breather, turning inward, focusing on a return to prosperity, hopefully getting back on this country’s collective feet. For her part, she sought renewal through adventure. Excitement didn’t reside in a small, quiet Minnesota town. It lay out there on the open road. Curiosity to see new sights, discover diversity, and experience the risks and thrills of the unknown drew her.
Now I see her puzzlement and reticence to disclose her reasons as my golden opportunity: I have the freedom to fill in the blanks using what fiction writers do when a story need spice: make it up. The plot thickens.