One of the first thoughts to enter my mind when my interest is piqued by historical tidbits is whether or not the tidbit would enhance the setting of a historical novel. I’ve created entire plot lines from a single interesting find. Whisper On The Wind, for example, came about after I read a single line referring to a secret newspaper printed and distributed by Belgians when they were under German occupation in the First World War. After that I dove into research and the book was born.
Over the weekend I was reading about Unesco’s 40th list of World Wonders, celebrating ten lesser known wonders of nature and culture. Two of them stood out to me as something that would add a bit of authenticity and flavor to a European set novel.
One is an 18th century tradition from Spain, where Catalan festivals often include castell building—otherwise known as human towers. A mix of engineering talents, strength, balance, common sense—not to mention bravery—are necessary for everyone involved. It’s turned into a competition in our day, with teams wearing white pants and similarly colored shirts, but evidently the best castells are those allowing orderly assembly and disassembly after the person at the top salutes the crowd below with four fingers thought to symbolize the Catalan flag. (This person at the top is known as the enxaneta or “rider” – usually someone small, like a child. The article quotes someone who participated in a human tower as saying the descent is just as hard as the ascent. Hmmm…. having gotten on the roof of my home to assist my husband while he painted a particularly rough spot to reach, I think descents are harder than ascents. This year my high school son assisted while I was away—something I’m very grateful I was told about only after it happened. But I digress . . .)
Another site from this year’s list that looked fascinating is a train line running through the Swiss Alps. The Rhaetian Railway’s Albula launched in 1904 and the Bernina in 1910, and both lines have been running ever since. 196 viaducts and 55 tunnels through some of the most scenic terrain on earth! Someday, I’m going to do this—at least vicariously, through the eyes of a few characters yet to be developed.
These are only two, with countless more in mind and even more yet to be discovered! This is part of the reason writing is without a doubt one of the best “jobs” anyone can have.
So I’m starting this week the way I should, by counting my blessings.