Sunday, March 02, 2014

Discover Your Story

As a storyteller and a fan of all things archaeology I'm fascinated when treasures from the past are unearthed. Lately there have been some stunning discoveries in the news, too:

Hidden fortress found beneath Alcatraz

Nine Manuscripts Discovered in Qumran Artifacts

Northern California couple discover cans filled with 19th century gold coins

These news items are particular stupendous: A Civil War fortress we didn't know still existed, nine more manuscript scrolls from the Dead Sea caves that have never been seen, and ten million dollars' worth of 19th-century gold coins hidden in a bunch of buried tin cans. In addition to the wealth of knowledge these discoveries will provide, they also offer some exceptional possibilities as story inspiration.

Take the Alcatraz find, for example. If they excavate, what else might they uncover down there? Could someone have been using it in the more recent past, perhaps? And why would you build a prison on top of a Civil War fortress, for that matter (were they trying to keep something else from escaping?)

Those nine newly-discovered scrolls likewise have great story potential. What if instead of scripture they contain some wonderful -- or terrible -- secrets? What if we were never meant to find them? I've used an ancient scroll as a story-telling device, and I can tell you from experience that playing with ancient media is as fun as it is inspiring.

Obviously ten million in gold coins is a truly life-transformative find for that happy couple. But what if your protagonist was the one to find them, or (if you're writing a historical) bury them? Even back in the 19th century, that was a heck of a lot of money to hide. What if those coins were connected to a particular historic event, the details of which will now be altered by their reappearance?

Every storyteller will answer those questions differently, which is the other cool thing about using discovery news for inspiration -- your imagination will provide the unique spin you need to change it from fact to fiction. So make it a habit to check out your favorite news feed or paper, and search for discoveries -- you might just uncover something pretty wonderful for your next story.


  1. Great post. I had a similar experience when I came across an article from the Peterborough Advertiser from 1873, detailing the discovery of four stone coffins in the grounds of Ramsey Abbey. It got me thinking who the people might have been and what could have happened to them- the descriptions in the article were so vivid:

    "One of the coffins measured 6'6" in length in the inside, and enclosed the colossal remains of a person that height, showing that there were something like giants in those days. Another of the coffins measured 5'6", and contained the skeleton of a person whose cranial logical confirmation would scarcely, in the opinion of the phrenologist, denote quandom possession of the brain of much intellectual power."

    What aspiring writer wouldn't be inspired to create something from reading that!

  2. My own blog post inspired by this article can be found at Hoping it might be of interest.


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