Let’s talk about the next project! I love talking about my work in progress. Every writer does. Except for the ones that don’t. But I’m kind of like the guy who decides to train for a marathon. I will talk about it with anyone who stands still long enough to listen every day for the six months preceding the big event.
The new project–hey, who said you could go anywhere, get back here–will involved a protagonist who travels around with has travel trailer to historical sites. He looks into some little known historical fact and finds that there’s more to the story. In fact, some modern day incident (preferably a murder) will tie into the chain of events stemming from the newly discovered historical fact.
Got it? I know, not much of a synopsis. But writer-types are paranoid about giving away too much information. What I can say is that my first book in this series has my protagonist at the Gettysburg Battlefield. For those of you who’ve been there, you may have heard of a woman named Jennie Wade. Jennie, as her bad luck would have it, was the only civilian killed at the Battle of Gettysburg (which I find astonishing, I mean…three days with bullets and cannonballs flying like locusts, and only one civilian killed).
Jennie’s story is even more tragic than the quick one-liner you’ll get on most Gettysburg tours, though. It seems Jennie was engaged to a Union corporal named Jack Skelly. Jack, who’s luck was about as bad as his fiancee’s, was mortally wounded two weeks before Gettysburg. He was, however, able to get a note off to Jennie telling her of his dire predicament.
Here’s where it gets weird. The man Jack gave the note to was a Confederate soldier named Wesley Culp. Now Wesley was a native of Gettysburg and went to school with Jack Skelly. However, he moved to Virginia with his employer several years before the war broke out, so he decided to fight for the Confederate cause.
With me so far? Wait, it gets worse.
Wesley arrives at Gettysburg, where this little skirmish is going on during the first three days of July in 1863. Apparently, bad luck follows Jennie like a lost puppy. Before Wesley can can deliver the message to Jennie, he is shot and killed. I’ve read one account that says he died immediately and another that says he died ten days later. Record keeping was not the best in 1863.
If Wesley did die immediately, he died right about the same time that poor Jennie, only 19 years of age, met her fate.
All that is fascinating history, is it not? But now the fiction writer comes in and says…what if? As in…what if Jennie wasn’t killed accidentally but murdered by someone taking advantage of the raging battle? What if the killer was a woman in love with Jack Skelly who wanted Jennie out of the picture? Wait, even better! What if the killer was Wesley Culp’s sister, who returned to find Wesley shot, then found the note on Wesley informing Jennie of Jack Skelly’s death!
Oh the horror! Can you imagine? This woman just murdered another woman so that she could be together with her true love, only to find that her true love had been dead for two weeks. I see nothing more for her to do at this point than run away out west, leaving the vast family inheritance to distant cousins, to be contested in 2013 by a decedent of Wesley Culp’s sister, who will, of course, be murdered during a Gettysburg reenactment.
That’s the only possible outcome for this story that I see, don’t you?
Ahh…thank goodness for fiction and the power to invent a sister who never existed just to make interesting history even more interesting. How about you? Ever played “what if” with some historical incident? You should give it a try.