Down the Rabbit Hole

I love researching my books, especially my historical works. You never know what you’re going to find.

Take, for example, this gem from the Kansas City Journal, August 17, 1898:  “A broad smile spread itself over Concordia the other day when a bridal couple came down the courthouse steps and proceeded up the main street hand in hand. The bride was dressed in blue and wore white kid slippers tied with red bows. The groom also wore white kid slippers tied with red bows, and it was the footgear of the couple that attracted so much amused attention.”

Or the murder suspects who were finally apprehended a year later – and one of them was named John F. Kennedy. Not a name I was expecting to see!

I’m actually researching a disappearance. The poor guy was gone for fifteen days before anyone was called in to investigate. I have my own theories why. But the research is so much fun, because there are all these little rabbit holes I want to go down. The tidbit I just quoted, for example:  who were they? What made them decide to get matching kid slippers? What kind of man did she marry who would agree to that degree of whimsy? And why did they marry in a courthouse?

You do have to be careful – these literally can be rabbit holes without end. You can chase down story after story, and never get back to the original research. And that’s not the point. The point of noticing the extras, the “tidbits,” is to give your work a little something extra. My historical YA has a few of these, things I’ve read in the paper and put in the story for no other reason than to ground it in 1924, to give it some veracity and flavor. I have a scene which incorporates actual dialogue from a KKK speech given in my hometown, and reported on by the paper (my MC is dangling from the balcony listening to it under the assumption of keep your friends close and your enemies closer). But it has to do with the plotline, and therefore, in it went.

There’s no end to the story ideas you can glean from old newspapers. Like I said, I’m researching a disappearance, and I’m keeping an eye out for something, anything, that might tie into that – reports of gangs, other murders, etc. I’m shocked by the number of gruesome murders that took place in 1898! But there are other stories, like that one, that make you laugh out loud in the middle of the library and get funny looks. That’s okay. I’ll have fun remembering those white kid slippers. J Will they make it into this book? No. But they might make it into another one . . .

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