Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Using the Calendar for Inspiration

Dave from MorgueFile
With the Ides of March nine days past and spring having arrived on the twentieth, we find a wealth of grist for our writing mills. Did you know the assassination of Julius Caesar isn’t the only marker that establishes March 15 as a date in infamy? “Beware the Ides of March,” according to the Smithsonian, extends well beyond Caesar’s murder to our present day. Their list of same-date tragedies includes some surprising entries.

French raided southern England in 1360.

A Samoan cyclone in 1889 smashed three U.S. and three German warships in the harbor at Apia. Over 200 soldiers died.

In 1917 Russia’s Czar Nicholas II abdicated the throne, making way for Bolshevik rule and setting the stage for the execution of his family.

In 1939 the Nazis overran Czechoslovakia, effectively eliminating it as a country.

A disastrous blizzard in 1941 killed 60 people in North Dakota and Minnesota and another six in Canada.

In 1952 a deluge pounded the island of La RĂ©union in the Indian Ocean and set a world record of 73.62 inches of rain in 24 hours.

In 1988, a NASA report indicated the Northern Hemisphere’s ozone layer was disappearing at three times the expected rate.

The World Health Organization in 2003 issued a global health alert over the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak that struck more than 8000 people and killed 774.

These catastrophes may seem more than enough to suggest skipping March 15 altogether, but they also till fertile soil for the creation of countless stories. From historical fiction (or fact) to modern thrillers, powerful and poignant characters could come to life amidst these tragedies.

Badeenjuh from MorgueFile
So we move into spring. This season of renewal stands out as the one most often anticipated with nostalgic longing and welcomed with hopeful hearts. While its official date is March 20, it can seem to come later for some of us above the equator. Have you heard of springtime in the Rockies? Beautiful as it can be, it often brings the heaviest snows of the year.

Do you feel the beginnings of a story here? What would prevent spring’s fulfilling its promise of hope and renewal? Could our protagonist from the sunny South get lost in one of those snows? Might the season mark the death or departure of a loved one? What if a farmer on land homesteaded by his family a century ago faces foreclosure instead of planting season because of the ongoing drought?

Do you use dates, observances, or other familiar points of reference to ground your stories and draw your readers in? Can you extend these to your marketing plan and bring in a new audience?  

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.

12 comments :

  1. I have a file on my computer where I store the "History's Mysteries" I discovered that would make intriguing stories: stone circles in America, the Danai, the Viking occupation of the Orkneys. In school History they made us memorize dates, which was torture for me. If only they'd taught stories instead!

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    1. I was lucky with my history classes. They were more about stories and less about memorizing dates and facts. As a result, I fell in love with the study of history.

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    2. Stories are vital if we are to remember anything as dry as history can be when facts are all that are taught. This is a great place for teachers to employ "showing" in addition to "telling." A few years ago I edited and published a book about an ancient South American Indian tribe that was written and illustrated by elementary students in Castle Rock. The project lasted several months, and the students were totally involved. Beyond a doubt, this created memories that will last them a lifetime because the people and events became an integral part of the students' lives during the course of the assignment.

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  2. Good post, Linda. I think it's important to include historical or calendar facts in stories. That helps the reader identify with what is going on.

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    Replies
    1. I agree that historical events can ground a story and even pull the reader in because those events may strike a familiar chord. Maybe this is a good reason to pay more attention in school, especially if one has aspirations to become a writer.

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  3. Actually, Linda, it is the Ides of April I fear more than anything!

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    Replies
    1. Ides of April...IRS. Hmmm. I'm with you, Christopher. :-)

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  4. Well, yes, I do. I'm working on the Blood-Red Pencil calendar now, and trying to get April Fools into the theme. Any ideas from the team?

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  5. Found these on the Internet, but don't know that they'll be helpful. You might take a look at the week-long observances after the list of special days; we might find something to write about there.

    •April 1 April Fool's Day
    •April 1 Reading is Funny Day
    •April 2 International Children's Book Day
    •April 3 Pony Express Day
    •April 4 Tell A Lie Day
    •April 7 Metric System Day
    •April 8 Draw a Picture of a Bird Day
    •April 9 Name Yourself Day
    •April 9 National Winston Churchill Day
    •April 9 Appomattox Day
    •April 10 Siblings Day
    •April 11 Barbershop Quartet Day
    •April 12 Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day
    •April 13 Thomas Jefferson's Birthday
    •April 13 Scrabble Day
    •April 14 Look Up at the Sky Day
    •April 14 Poem in Your Pocket Day
    •April 15 Patriot's Day
    •April 16 Stress Awareness Day
    •April 16 National Librarian Day
    •April 17 Bat Appreciation Day
    •April 17 Ellis Island Family History Day
    •April 17 National Haiku Day
    •April 22 Earth Day
    •April 23 Teach Your Children to Save Day
    •April 23 Take a Chance Day
    •April 23 Talk Like Shakespeare Day
    •April 25 DNA Day
    •April 25 World Penguin Day
    •April 26 National Paper Airplane Day
    •April 26 Richter Scale Day
    •April 26 Arbor Day
    •April 27 National Tell A Story Day
    •April 27 Morse Code Day
    •April 28 Great Poetry Reading Day
    •April 29 Puppetry Day
    •April 29 Save the Frog Day
    •April 30 National Honesty Day
    •April 30 Eeyore's Birthday

    •National Library Week - April 14 - 20
    •Young People's Poetry Week - April 14 - 20
    •Week of the Young Child - April 14 - 20
    •Astronomy Week - April 15 - 21
    •National Volunteer Week - April 21 - 27

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    Replies
    1. Personally, I like National Library Week, Young People's Poetry Week, and National Volunteer Week (Could we volunteer to read to children or do a free book review or reading class or writers group at a library?). Or perhaps we could research and write about the observances on April 1 (Reading Is Funny Day), 2, 12, 17 (National Haiku Day), or 28.

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  6. The Roman calendar set the ides to be on the 15th for March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th for other months. Why anyone but J. Caesar should care, who knows?

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  7. Perhaps J. Caesar and W. Shakespeare. Otherwise, it was long ago and far away and not really relevant to our lives today.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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