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Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts — Inspiration from Family Stories

girlsw-614914_1280I come from a family of storytellers. One way we get to know people is to swap stories. I am fortunate to have been told stories about my great-great grandparents. Such as I have a great-great grandfather who died in the notorious Civil War prisoner of war camp at Andersonville.

So if you are blessed with older family members with long memories and great stories, interview them. Besides preserving family history, you may find literary inspiration.

What inspiration from family stories have you gained?

 

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts– What’s Your Favorite Time in History?

shipw-1505929_1280I have several favorite time periods, eras I would enjoy researching if I ever turned my attention to historical fiction.

  • Dark Ages and Medieval Europe
  • The Golden Age of Exploration — I did my research paper for my history major on Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal.
  • Victorian era — Especially Europe, but any location during this time period in which Sherlock Holmes could plausibly appear.
  • Golden Age of Hollywood — Since I love movies from the 1930’s, ’40’s and ’50’s, I’ve already read a lot about the people working in the Hollywood studio system. A mystery set then would be fun to write.

So what’s your favorite?

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — The Daughter of Time

daughter of timeAs a fan of mysteries, I had come across The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey on lists of the best mysteries ever written. When I finally settled down to read it, I found it to be one of the most engrossing stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to discover. It expertly combines two of my passions: history and mystery.

nypl-digitalcollections-99a6ed7e-0d3c-0e0d-e040-e00a18061e25-001-rWritten in England in the 1950’s, the novel features Inspector Alan Grant, laid up in the hospital with a broken leg and bored out of his mind. His actress girlfriend knows his fascination with faces and brings him copies of photos and portraits to study. When he find the portrait of Richard III, he can’t reconcile the face with the man’s reputation as the murderer of his tween age nephews. The girlfriend contacts Brent Carradine, young man doing historical research, and he and Grant begin to believe that the story handed down for 500 years about Richard III being a merrily murdering monster is false.

Although the characters and setting are fictitious, the mystery is not. Edward V and his younger brother Richard did disappear sometime after June 1483. Their uncle Richard, who became king when the boys were declared illegitimate, is the most likely culprit. But Henry Tudor, who killed Richard III in battle and took the throne, also had a motive.

Even more involving than this mystery is the one of how people interpret history. In the novel, Grant and Carradine stick to contemporary sources and must examine the motives of the authors. Was he a sympathizer of the York family, the branch of the royal house Richard III belonged to? Or did the author favor the Lancaster side, of which Henry Tudor was a member?

The two characters also discuss how people lie about events to further their own agenda. I found all this analysis of history so inspiring that I want to use the novel in my own murder mystery. My main character use the techniques of research outlined in the book to investigate a 70-year-old mystery in his rural West Virginia county.

If you want to learn more about Richard III and his nephews, click here for the Wikipedia article. Many books have been written about the mystery, and it’s difficult to find ones that are biased. As I stated in one of my earliest blog posts, the authors tend to be either ardent Richard III supporters or detractors. Very much like the people who wrote about Richard in 1483.

What other novels have you read that blend unsolved real-life mysteries with fiction?

 

Mondays Sparks — Writing Prompts

girlw-1346482_1280I am dedicating my blog this May to historical fiction. With that in mind, today’s prompt is about delving into personal history, in the hopes your nonfiction experience might provide fictional inspiration. What is your earliest memory? I find early memories misleading because I imagine events my parents and grandparents told me about and think they are memories.

One memory I am sure of: I was not quiet four year old when my mom had my sister. I remember my parents coming home from the hospital and laying my new sister on the double bed in the front bedroom of our house. I jumped up on the bed and sat beside her to get a look at her. That’s as far as the memory goes, but I know it’s a true memory.

Share your earliest memory in the comments.

Writing Tip — Writing in Time

dandelionw-2693104_1280This year, May beats March as my least favorite month. Maybe the long, cold spring has irritated me. Or the school year has worn out its welcome, but I am more than ready to skip May and plunge into June.

But for those of you who still like May, here are some suggestion for using it as writing inspiration.

Mother’s Day: As I stated last year, this holiday is tailor-made for exploring relationships  between female relatives or women who are like mothers and daughters to each other.

Memorial Day: This is another holiday which lead to an examination of family relationships. Your focus can be on those relatives who have served our country or any family members who have passed away. Last Memorial Day weekend, my kids and I traveled with my parents to West Virginia to lay flowers on the graves of my grandparents, great-granparents, and great-great grandparents. West Virginia is the “Old Country” for my family and I was so pleased to be able to share this family history with my kids.

I can see short story set at a cemetery where relatives who are estranged are laying flowers on the tombstones. In the process, they talk and become reconciled, burying their antagonism.

Graduation from high school or college: As a member of the high school band, I attended more graduation ceremonies than is healthy for one individual to endure. But being an observer, rather than a participant, in the ceremony gave me a great position to people watch. I can develop a story along those ones, where the main character, sitting with the band, makes some discoveries about fellow classmates and their families.

Of course, graduation ceremonies are the perfect way to kick off or end a story about the students who are receiving their diplomas. Since the ceremony is usually serious, writing about one where everything goes wrong would be fun. A thunderstorm threatened my high school graduation, and as the speakers kept talking, the entire student body and crowd in the football stadium watched as the black clouds piled up to the west.

Last Day of School: This day has enormous writing inspiration for comedy with everyone from teachers to kids just marking time until dismissal. My kids’s school has a Field Day during the last week, so combining an event like that with the last day provides loads of opportunities for comic complications.

Outdoor Hobbies

Gardening: With the weather getting warmer, people can resume their outdoor hobbies, and I thought I would mention two my family enjoys. My husband gardens, planting both ornamental plants and vegetables and fruits. Gardening can be the setting for the renewal of relationships or some quality within the main character. The hard work can be a metaphor for other types of labor in a character’s life. Or I can look on the lighter side. Maybe a husband, recently retired, wants to learn about gardening from his wife, who finds he’s more of a hindrance than a help.

Fishing: My kids have recently taken up fishing for a 4-H project. I have no interested in fishing, but when I accompany my husband and kids on a fishing outing, I have an opportunity to make observations, such as, no matter how hard an angler works, there is no guarantee he will catch anything. Also, fishing is a sport of perseverance and patience. Also, if your mom has never unhooked a fish, don’t leave her alone with the kids as they are fishing. (I’m not sure I can use this as a metaphor in a story, but it’s a valuable fishing lesson.)

How does May provide you with writing inspiration?

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