Monday, June 22, 2009

Past Experiences

(What's outside my window: A gloriously sunny day.)

Writing historicals is my passion, and with it comes a love of history. Indeed it is vital to have a knowledge of history, and research time and place, custom and culture, when preparing to write a work of historical fiction. But what I find the most fascinating is not dates and details, but events that happened in the lives of the people in the past.

As I've mentioned before my local newspaper posts events that occurred 20, 50, and 100 years ago. Can you guess which time grabs my attention? Did you guess the 100 years? You are right if you did.

Today this was posted, and it is something I will keep and use at some point in the novel I am writi
ng. It is sad, but it has a certain romantic air about it that grabs the heart. In our time, life is fast paced. We are taught to 'move on with our lives' when we lose a loved one. We haven't time to truly grieve. Society says that there is more to life than love. Money. Entertainment. The daily struggle to gain more and more, and we end up missing out on the things that really matter. Love. Devotion. Marriage. Children. Faith. These are the things that truly matter. These are the things Christian writers write about.

June 22, 1909 Striken by the hot rays of the sun, Martin B. Eyler, a well-know Civil War veteran of Chambersburg, Pa., formerly of Frederick, fell across the grave of his wife in Cedar Grove Cemetery at Chambersburg yesterday and expired before aid reached him. Physicians pronounced death due to sunstroke.

(This is not really their photo. But I imagine they would have been like this...clothes, gown, hair. And notice how he has his arm across her shoulder and she is holding his hand. A couple in love no doubt.)

It must have been a very hot day. I can imagine the sky was cloudless and the sun beat down as the cicadas whirled in the trees. Perhaps it was in the afternoon when the heat would have been the strongest. Perhaps he had walked to the cemetery, or rode horseback.

It had been 44 years since the Civil War had ended. There is no mention of Martin's age but I'd say he could have been anywhere over the age of 55. Try to imagine his love was so deep for his beloved that he ventured out on a hot day to her grave where he knelt and then expired. It is very sad, but is it not moving?

How would you use this newspaper clipping in your writing?
If you were to write a scene, what elements would you include?
What name would you use for his wife?
How long had they been married?
How many children did they have?
Did she die in childbirth or was it scarlet fever?
Was it really sunstroke or was it a broken heart that took Martin?
Did he leave a fortune behind or was he so poor there was nothing left by his legacy?


Jessica said...

What an interesting post! I love your pic at the top of the blog too!
I don't know how I'd use that paper in my writing. Maybe Martin was the heroine's grandpa and his love for grandma gave her a dream of finding similar love? Great questions. That's so interesting and weird that it really happened. And like you said, sad but romantic.

Glynis said...

Oh what a sad tale. How would I use it? I would love to read a letter describing how the couple met.Maybe a flashback letter that had been found in a box somewhere.
The power of true love is incredible.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Thanks for the great writing prompt, Rita. I can't remember all the questions, but Abigail seemed like a good name for his wife, and I'd definitely go with a broken heart rather than sunstroke.

True story - my great-grandparents died within two weeks of each other. They said the one (I can't remember which one) died of a broken heart.

Susan :)

Anne Whitfield - author said...

I enjoy reading your blog, Rita.
Very itneresting.

kate tremayne said...

Another interesting post Rita. Every time I click on your blog I am amazed at your fund of great pictures. They are very inspiring.

Amy Deardon said...

How sad. But I love the different rhythms of life, and imagining what living then must have been like. Thank you for posting this