I’ve started to work on a story about the ‘Canaries‘ of World War 1. These were the female munition workers during World War 1. They were called canaries because the chemicals used in manufacturing explosives tinted their hair and skin yellow. This story is part of the series of stories I have written about the war. My goal is to have it accepted to the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology, Exception/All centered around the question of ‘What does normal look like? and ‘Is anything ever truly normal?’
Many of these women had never worked or had been in traditional female roles such as household service. Yet, they responded to a national need and were significant contributors to the war efforts. When the war ended, many were dismissed. Their jobs were given to returning soldiers as the country returned to ‘normal.’ However, they and others showed that women could serve in these non-traditional roles. Their mistreatment motivated many to join the suffragette movement and demand the vote and equality under the law. Vivien Newman examines these changes in Changing Roles: Women After the Great War. The changes in society, such as the role of women, are just part of my fascination with World War 1
So, here is my dilemma.
- I have the characters. Anne and Carol are two housemaids that were dismissed when their house closed and had to find employment. They were able to find it as munition workers.
- I have the dramatic narratives and history of women that had done this work to provide context and source material for the story.
In other words, I have all the components of a good story. What I don’t have is a story that meets the three-act structure of a five-thousand-word short story and also serves the goal of showing that society is constantly changing.
And this is my dilemma, which I suspect is familiar to many historical fiction writers. How do I tell an entertaining story that fits within the historical context and provides lessons for today?
I have until August 15th and any suggestions will be gratefully accepted.
POST SCRIPT – I finished the story in time to submit it. One of my Beta readers thought it had the makings of a longer story or short novel. We shall see.