**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**
It was Sunday night and I was desperate for an idea. I’ve gotten a little used to the fact that if I see an image or scene repeat more than a few times in my head, it’s a good enough place to start.
This particular scene involved a soldier abandoning his night watch to visit a mysterious woman who lives in the woods. She would give him a concoction to help him forget the pain and misery of soldiering. That was the extent of it.
I’m trying to get better at bringing scenes to life and really making the setting a living, breathing part of the work, so I knew I needed to develop a clearer picture. I imagined the war as being particularly painful and gritty and my memory took me back to a conflict I had read about a year or so ago: The Battle of Monte Cassino. Talk about a meat grinder. Four bloody battles lasting over four bloody months. Whole regiments were essentially annihilated trying to capture the strategic ground.
The Allies were essentially successful, but during the first battle, the Americans bombed the ever-loving shit out of the monastery based on British reports that the Nazis were using it for operations. It turned out that the only people inside at that time were 230 civilian refugees (Insert: Franny). The Nazis ended up moving in after the destruction.
War is hell.
After further research, I learned more about the monastery which sat atop the hill, going way back to Roman times where the popular story is that it once held a temple dedicated to Apollo before being destroyed and rebuilt as a monastery by Saint Benedict of Nursia (Insert: Benny). Since then, it had been invaded two other times before World War 2: once by German Lombards and the second time by Saracens.
Oh, and in 1349, it suffered heavy damage from an earthquake.
Poor Monte Cassino can’t catch a break.
Surely that means its cursed and hence a story is born!
Such deep history made the writing much easier than my initial vague idea. I hope I was able to get across the richness of the setting. My first reader is not much of a history buff, so I was extremely happy to hear that she enjoyed the story and learned enough about the setting through the writing itself–with the added bonus of not being bored to tears by pallid description.
I chalk this one up as a win! On to the next…
Here’s the general scratch file:
- Apollo’s Revenge scratch file
And the daily journal entries:
- Monday, October 23rd
- Tuesday, October 24th
- Wednesday, October 25th
- Thursday, October 26th
- Friday, October 27th
- Saturday, October 28th
- Sunday, October 29th