The Story’s The Thing

Elan Barnehama

When I began writing Finding Bluefield, I started with Nicky.  For me, fiction begins with characters so when I write I have to start with a character.  And since I don’t use outlines because I don’t want to get in the way of the story, I rely on my characters to help lead the plot forward.

Next, Barbara showed up and I wanted to know how she and Nicky would make their way through the turbulent 1960’s.  I wanted to chronicle the lives of these two women who, by seeking love and family, found themselves navigating unknown territory during a time when relationships like theirs were mostly hidden and often dangerous.

Nicky and Barbara’s multi-generational tale crossed paths with political and social events of their day, such as JFK’s election, Woodstock, the MLK March on Washington, the moon landing, voter registration, the Sanctuary movement, and others.  But, as their lives unfolded against this backdrop, I wanted to avoid writing a message novel, the kind where the writer relentlessly hits the reader over the head with their message and renders life as simplistic, and situations as black or white. The thing is, very little of life is black or white.  It’s mostly grey. If we’re lucky, some other colors too.

Instead, as I imagined Barbara and Nicky’s journey, I knew I wanted to tell a tale that was at its core personal, not political.  That was about characters, not causes.  That told a story, not sent a message.

Finding Bluefield is foremost the story of Nicky and Barbara creating a life for themselves and Paul.  It is the story of their need to be able to imagine a life that they did not know existed, to imagine a life that they could not see, and for which they had no model.  Because if we can not imagine, then we can not change.

You can contact Elan at

9 Responses to “The Story’s The Thing”

  1. 1 SA September 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Was it difficult to balance having the backdrop of so many social and political milestones with focusing more on the personal relationships and avoiding creating a “message” novel? I’m intrigued by the story, and am looking forward to reading it.


  2. 3 Erin Saluta September 25, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    I think the incorporation of historical events will do exactly as you desire. It makes their life that much more tangible and the idea of dreaming or imagining a life then creating it wonderful.


  3. 5 Morgayne September 25, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Thanks for sharing your creating process. It’s always nice to get a glimpse inside an author’s head. Congrats on your book!


  4. 6 DebbieTheProf October 7, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Having lived in Bluefield for the last 20+ years, it was difficult at first for me to look beyond the actual physical history of the area to the more general story of the area. Other than that, I found the book to be quite interesting. Look forward to future stories.

    I am curious though…why Bluefield VA instead of Bluefield WV which is the larger portion of the city?

    Thanks for sharing these characters with us.


  5. 7 Elan Barnehama October 8, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Hi DebbieTheProf,
    Thanks for your comments.
    The thing about Bluefield is that I came up with the name on my own while writing early drafts and later discovered that it was really in VA as well as WV. By that time I had grown attached to the name and the title and after many attempts to come up with a new name, decided to stick with it.
    I appreciate you seeing past the actual Bluefield.


  6. 8 Deshawn Nico October 17, 2012 at 5:50 AM

    Very lovely blog. Some posts I’ve read on other sites are complete rubbish and give very little food for thought. You might be interested in David Young who is also a fascinating author. He did an interview on youtube: ysAQyrP3myU


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