FURSCA Feature: Emma Stapley, '16

Your Major:

Biology and English

Your Adviser:

Mary Collar

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

I wrote a historical fiction novella about an author in the First World War. The story follows an unnamed Second Lieutenant who struggles to relate to his men. The narrative switches between his actual experiences and a fantasy story that he is writing for his sister to explain life in the trenches.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

I learned that I need to plan my writing carefully so that my work is built around a plot (a chain of causes and effects) and not a just a story (a series of events); at the same time, I do need to be willing to let the story take unexpected twists. I also learned how to incorporate historical data into a story without making the narrative sound like a factual essay.

Why did you pick this particular project?

I love writing and I would like to be a author professionally, so I wanted to have a chance to focus on developing my writing style, ability to create a plot, and skill at working historical data into a narrative.

I chose the setting and plot for the story because I am fascinated by the ways in which humans use fantasy to understand their world; the fact that J. R. R. Tolkien--one of my literary heroes--created the world of Middle Earth in the trenches of the First World War gave me a setting in which to examine this relationship between reality and fantasy.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

The opportunity to focus exclusively on developing my writing style will be invaluable both in my career as an author and whenever I need to express ideas and opinions in writing. The ability to write within a tight time schedule (nine weeks seems exceptionally short when you need to research, plan, and write a 98 page story) will help me to continue to write through vet school and as a working veterinarian.

What's next for your project?

I need to do another round of editing on the story (there won't be any major changes, but I need to do more to foreshadow and justify parts of the ending), then I will send it to a group of pre-readers. Once I have worked in their critiques, I will work on getting the novella published. I will do an Elkin Issac Symposium presentation.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

The project went much more smoothly than I had expected. Because I put so much work into research and plot development at the start of the summer, I was able to finish the 98 page story on schedule. While the work was often difficult, and occasionally frustrating, it was never boring for a moment! I loved focusing on my writing (which is a rare opportunity for a Pre-Vet student and equestrian) and receiving expert feedback on my work; even though completing the story required a lot of extremely hard work, I enjoyed every bit of this project.