Even though it’s only the end of August, with the number of proverbial irons I have in the fire, it’s time to gear up for the National Novel Writing Month in November. See, every year for the last five or six or seven years, I’ve said I was going to do NaNoWriMo. But every year I’ve got too much else going.
What makes this year the exception?
This is the year I’m going to do it anyway!
It just requires a little pre-planning.
The basic premise of the story came to me during a conversation my husband I were having about LGBT rights. Well… actually, it started over a year ago (I just hadn’t realized it at the time), when I got into a ‘heated debate’ (read: I was seeing red but trying to maintain composure) with a young gay man who had just said to me: “Why should I care about gay ‘history’. Gay ‘history’ doesn’t matter—do you study straight history?” (Ok, had he missed the memo where I’m bisexual? Apparently not, he followed it up with how he wished he was bi, so he could just date girls and be ‘normal’.) Like I said, I was seeing red and trying very hard to maintain my composure. I’m not especially sure I succeeded. (And as for the question of ‘straight history’—well duh, what do you think they teach in most schools in this country?!)
Ok, so fast forward twelve or so months to a couple of weeks ago with my hubby sitting watching a program on Logo (a network that caters largely to the LGBT demographic in this country) about gay history. We got to talking about our former house-mate and how ‘young people just don’t get it’. (Gods, do I make us sound like a couple of old codgers or what? We’re only 41… oh, wait, I’m a Capricorn and Caps are ruled by Saturn, so I guess I was always an old codger…but I digress…)
I started thinking about what it really meant to be gay in the forties, fifties and sixties, eras with which I’m at least passingly familiar, and I decided to write a story about just that. I hit on the fifties before doing any research at all, but it turns out to be the perfect era for the story I want to tell. (I’ll admit it, the first thing that went through my head was Leave it to Beaver re-runs. I know life wasn’t at all that idealistic, but it’s a good launching pad, because it’s the image a lot of Americans have about the 1950’s.) After doing a little more research, I set the firm date of 1954. The novel should span about a year of the characters' lives.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brief Timeline of the Era
World War II went from 1939-1945; after the War, many men (and no few women) came home and started families, leading to what they call the Baby Boom in this country. Suburban areas grew up in places that had before been mostly farmland.
Although African Americans had participated in WWII, in all branches of the United States military, it wasn’t until after the War ended that President Truman issued an executive order integrating the U.S. military.
The Korean “War” broke out in 1950 and lasted for three years.
In 1951, color TV was invented; I Love Lucy hit the air and was sponsored by Philip Morris. (I don’t remember what year it was from, but I saw an old black and white television commercial for cigarettes featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble! They were puffing on cigarettes talking about how good their particular brand tasted.)
In more serious news…
In 1950, Sen. Joseph McCarthy began a “Communist Witch Hunt” in the United States. Along with ferreting out possible Communists, McCarthy’s contemporaries went tooth and nail after “sexual inverts” and “perverts” as well. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issues an executive mandate prohibiting gay men and lesbians from holding federal jobs. As a result, dozens of people lost their jobs, their livelihoods and their standing in the community. Many took their own lives.
At this point in history, homosexuality was still considered by the psychiatric community to be a mental illness, therefore it was curable. The “cure” included electroshock therapy.
In 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Across the country, white parents kept their children home from schools where black students were going to start attending.
In 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that it was also unconstitutional to permit racial segregation on public transportation.
It wasn’t until 1961 that Illinois became the first state in the union to decriminalize homosexual acts.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My plan is to blog everything I write for NaNoWriMo as I write... yikes! is right! Yes, that means anyone who reads this gets to see a very rough draft, since the whole point of NaNo is to churn out words, not to edit and polish those words until they shine with perfection.
It also means that between now and November, I need to wrap up on a couple of other projects and get my characters sorted, because just like real people don't start out as fully formed human beings at age 20 or 30 or 40, fictional characters don't either. I'll be starting a page (see left panel) for my NaNo project, which currently has the working title of simply 1954. Not real inspired, huh? Hopefully I'll come up with something better as I'm writing.