Thursday, November 26, 2009

Everything is Point of View

Left: Flo on the beach near Boston in 1908.

I posted this picture in an earlier blog, stylized a bit, but now I've re-scanned it and posted a clearer version. This is probably the clearest picture I have in the Tighsolas Photo Album of young Flora Nicholson.

The next clearest photo would be a studio shot for McGill Normal School - and that's three years on in my story of Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 period in Canada.

As I write the first chapter Just a Change of Colour right here on this blog, and as I work out the fourth installment, I have come to a realization: I have to write this from Flora's Point of View.

I have known this from the beginning of my project, but now I FEEL it. I am starting to put myself plunk in Flora's place to write this. I am starting to inhabit her, which means she will become a bit like me. And that's odd as I am more like her older sister Edith, I think.

This is a bit of a trick, as most of the Tighsolas letters are written by Margaret, Norman and Edith.

In 1908, there exists only one letter by Flora. She doesn't write home, for she is at home. From what her correspondents say, she isn't big on writing letters period, and I will ascribe this to her lack of self esteem.

She is often spoken about in the letters, of course. This was a close family.

Still, it is only when she is at teaching school that she writes home regularly, that would be in 1911. And, to be honest, I have to draw on letters written in 1914 and beyond, to steal some of her figures of speech.

So, in this next scene, I have Margaret going to Three Rivers, but I can't write about that event: I have to write about the girls at home.

I will have Marion coming from Montreal to take care of Flora and cousin Mae Watters. Mae will have 'teaching' on her mind, as this is her last year at school and her sister asked her if she wanted to go into that profession in the letter in the last installment.

So here I can get in some descriptions of McGill Normal School and what it is like to teach in a country and city school. (This was a key issue in the era, the problem of rural schools and of city schools.)

I will use Marion's diary from the previous year to reveal what she does in her spare time in Richmond. I will reveal Marion's formidable take-charge character. (She became a union leader later on.)

All from Flo's Point of View. Flo, who is failing at school. Flo who is the only one at home now, with her mother. Flo who is sheltered from problems, but who knows that the Nicholson's fortunes have fallen dramatically, if not irreversibly, in the past year...and that nothing will be easy for any of the girls from now on. That is unless one of them marries well - and how likely is that?

In the scene where Marion advises Mae about a career in teaching, Mae will innocently turn to Flo and ask: Where do you see yourself five years from now? The question Flo has been avoiding. Flo, frazzled to be met with such a blunt question, will answer, "I will take up public speaking and become a suffragette, a militant brick throwing one, I will live in London."

Marion: Well, Mother will be pleased, that's for certain. But how will you eat?

Flo: Edith will support me, as she will marry that boy, what is his name, that friend of Gordon's, who dropped in at Easter, the one who is studying dentistry at McGill

Marion: And we all know there is money in dentistry.

Flo: And you, well, by that time you will be principal of Royal Arthur. No better, principal of that brand new school in Westmount, Roslyn.

Mae: A much better class of student.

Flo: Yes. And Marion will meet a well-off widower, the father of one of her pupils, and marry him and move into a mansion on the Boulevard.

Marion: This conversation started out sensible enought, but it certainly has taken a turn for the silly. Let's see about tea.