Friday, May 6, 2011

Mesmerize Your Reader with Historical References

Most of us can remember what we were doing during critical moments of time in history. Our readers will reflect on those moments as we inculcate those themes into our writing. Don't be afraid that you will lose the reader to nostalgia - you will not, provided your writing is compelling. There is a natural propensity for readers to become caught up in memory. If handled well, they will get caught up in your story.

Let's take 9-11-2001 for example. For those of us who lost someone during that most terrible catastrophe, this missive may not incite good memories. I think of Salman Hamdani each time I revisit the thought. Salman was a police cadet who lost his life trying to rescue victims at point zero.

Here's where I'm going with this line of thinking. One can set a story before, during or after 911. A good writer can transfer the emotions from this setting to some other place, thus capturing the reader in a way the reader feels what you (the writer) feel.

Here's an example.

It was a week after the twin towers fell that he joined the U.S. Marine corps. Seven years later he was a celebrated Green Beret. Now, some ten years after the fact, he was deployed just beneath the mountain, in a place he could not talk about.

He led the squad of seven very special soldiers along the east ridge. They walked, keeping their shadows against the hillside. The trail was quiet. They had not communicated verbally during the last six miles. Six miles...a piece of cake for a green beret. Neither man had yet broken a sweat and probably would not for the next four miles of the journey, a journey that would make history. He stopped,gave a hand signal and darted into the hillside.

Within 3.2 seconds none of the seven men could be seen, not by the human eye, not by thermal technology and certainly not by the camera beneath an approaching enemy helicopter overhead.

He tossed a small rock from his hiding place and repeated the exercise each ten seconds over a full minute. Six rocks later, the men presumed their positions.

They were four miles from putting an exclamation point on the history of terror as we know it.