Curiosity, Research, and Imagination

There is a pattern that took shape as I wrote “My Darling Dorothy.” Curiosity about the details mentioned in a letter led to research to learn more about those details. The research led to imagining how those details played out from both Jack’s and Dorothy’s perspectives. The actual words then flowed onto the page (more or less), depending upon how vivid a picture had been painted in my imagination. A perfect example of this process is illustrated in the following sequence of events.

As I mentioned in my post about VE day, the letters my father wrote to my mother began to change after May 7th, 1945. They were all about how soon he might be able to make it home. Here is what he wrote,

“Sweating this point system out is as bad as sweating out an artillery barrage, almost. Ha.I have 84 points. That isn’t enough to get me home very fast. Of course I’ll make it in time I guess, but god only knows how long a time that will be.  Honey, we should have a couple of kids. Then I’d have it made, even one would help.”

Points? Having kids? What in the world is he talking about? This kindled my curiosity and required some research which, as always, started with picking my husband’s brain. He is an historian. He told me there was a point system that was used to decide who got to come home first. Through further research I learned that the system was called the Advance Service Rating Score. After studying the system, I quickly understood the importance of having a child!  Here is a quote from Wikipedia that explains the point system:

“An enlisted man needed a score of 85pts to be considered for the demobilization. The            scores were determined as follows for each:[1]

  1.  Month in service = 1 pt
  2. Month in service overseas = 1 pt
  3. Combat award (including medal and battle stars) = 5 pts
  4. Dependent child under 18 = 12 pts

Time of service was calculated from September 16, 1940. [2] The four criteria were the only ones from which points were calculated. No points were issued for age, marriage or dependents over the age of 18. Battles and awards were also only accepted from a predetermined list.”

This information prompted me to begin to calculate my father’s score. Once I calculated his score, I began imagining Dorothy’s thoughts and concerns about the system and how soon her husband would be able to come home. I also began to wonder how my father handled the stress of not knowing how soon he would make it back to Nebraska. Chapters 54 and 55 of “My Darling Dorothy” are the culmination of this process.

“Curiosity, research and imagination”; the perfect triumvirate for writing historical fiction.


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