"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Friday, August 5, 2011

Antique Characters & The History Corner With Eric Huebner

Antique Characters
I was in Indianapolis this past weekend. On Monday after lunch, my daughter said to my hubby and I, “I’m going to take you to this cool antique place on the east side of town.”
It was hot ~ 103 that day to be exact. I really wasn’t up for antiquing. My daughter guided us from the circle downtown, down several blocks, under I-70, to a remote area with only one big warehouse around.
“That’s it!” she announced.
“What?  This is it?  Are you sure about this?”
“Yes. You’re going to love it.”
We drove through the gate and parked the car. As I got out of the car, I looked up at this huge building. It stood 3 stories. I felt like I was going to a secret hideout or something. The doors to the warehouse were open wide. You could hear the giant fans blowing inside. We weren’t even to the steps when my daughter turns to me and says, “Can’t you just smell the old?”
On her words, a chill ran down my spine. Goosebumps zipped up and down my arms and legs ~ even in the 100 degree heat.
I could smell the old.  It smelled old and musty, but at this point I was game. I love antiques.
Inside, they had stuff from every decade going back centuries. I loved seeing the 60’s dining room table that I could picture in an episode of The Partridge Family or an Austin Powers movie. The backs of the walnut chairs were like that of a figure eight, with royal blue fabric in the circles and on the seat. I wished I would have taken pictures.
In each area, I felt a different spirit…ghosts of the past. Suddenly, characters were coming alive in my head.
I began to picture the people who may have owned some of these strange and unusual objects. I picked up a very old jewelry box and imagined it belonging to a pioneer woman. The box kept all of her personal treasures, letters, and love tokens…What’s this? A hidden compartment? I could write a story from there…
I found some old tin types. I held one picture of a man to my heart. We live in a world of so many pictures and images of loved ones. I wondered what if this was the only picture of my loved one to carry? I imagined the woman who held it to her heart in the 1800’s…Who was she? His daughter? A love? His wife? Yep. I could write a story from there...
My husband held up a pair of large tongs that the ice man used to bring ice to your house. I imagined his cart pulling up to a house. His biceps bulging as he carried the heavy block of ice. He got to the door. What did he find inside? Uh huh. I could write a story from there…
This went on for an hour or so. We didn’t make it all the way through the antique warehouse. It really was quite hot. I was exhausted after the first floor.
I plan to go again on my next trip down to Indy. This place took me totally by surprise. Among the antiques, I found some characters there - one’s that I didn’t know I knew.
How about you? Where do you find inspiration for characters? Ever be surprised at where they appear from?
I would love to hear from you.

Between you, me and the gatepost,


And now...


The Devil's Den ~ Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

On June 28, 1861, the NY Tribune published the following headline:

Forward to Richmond! Forward to Richmond!
The Rebel Congress must not be allowed
to meet there on the 20th of July!

The newspaper and the North clamored for action to avenge Fort Sumter.  President Lincoln's generals told him that the army was not ready.  The men could not rapidly execute the complicated maneuvers bringing a unit from marching column into line of battle and back.  The President, however, was insistent, saying to General McDowell, "You are green it is true. But they are green also. You are all green alike."
McDowell's 35,000 man army was the largest force ever fielded by the United States.  The minuteman tradition of the volunteer soldier still ran strong.  Regardless of the hasty preparations, the National army could surely thrash the impudent Rebels.  The resulting July 21, 1861 battle of Bull Run was a hard fought affair that turned into a rout as the undisciplined Union army came apart after nearly achieving success.
The Confederates were able to bring reinforcements to the battle by rail at the critical moment.  Due to the use of railroads, telegraph systems, machine guns, reconnaissance balloons, submarines, steam-powered metal warships, and mass production, many historians call the American Civil War the first modern war.  After the defeat at First Bull Run, the North prepared greater combinations for a sterner contest.  Oddly, this early defeat may have prepared the way for eventual victory, but not before another four years of warfare and hundreds of thousands of casualties.  The Southern people conducted a heroic defense of their homeland and historic institutions.  The martyred abolitionist appears to have been correct when he said, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood.”

Until next month - Three cheers and a tiger!





Shopgirl said...

You are such a writer. I too enjoy antique searches but I have not imagined the stories behind them. I get so absorbed in shopping I think little else. :)

Though I do think of stories whenever I am in nature. So perhaps I just have a different genre.

Rachel Brooks said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds story ideas everywhere she goes. I can look at a person, place, or even an object (like the ice tongs you mentioned) and go "Ah ha! Story idea!"

Of course, I don't shout that out loud. I want people to at least *think* I'm sane ;)

Loree Huebner said...

Shopgirl: I am usually absorbed in the shopping. I don't know what happened in there. I guess a writer's mind just plugs along.

I could see the same thing happening in nature. Awesome! Thanks for stopping by.

Rachel: When my husband picked up the ice tongs...his biceps came alive which set off a chain reaction of thoughts....lol.

Thanks for coming by and commenting!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I'm always amazed at where I get story ideas and characters to work with. Seems nothing is unusable to a writer--our imaginations are endless, I suppose. Such fun!!

Keli Gwyn said...

Loree, that antique place sounds like a treasure trove. I wish I'd known about it when I was in Indy for the ACFW conference last year. Then again, I might have been tempted to skip out on workshops and spend hours oohing and aahing over the great finds. Like you, an item in such a store can spark a story idea. Sounds as though you had enough sparks to fuel many creative fires.

K. Victoria Chase said...

Great story! I love finding characters among "history."

Loree Huebner said...

Eileen: I suppose it is true ~ a writer's imagination is endless...love that.
Thanks for your comments!

Keli: Welcome here! Oh my gosh, the place was a treasure trove! I never had the inspiration hit me like that before. I guess we're always writing, even when we're not...
Thank you so much for coming by!

Tori: It was just as you said it, "finding characters among history" ~ Thanks for popping in!

Jayne said...

Lori & Eric- I just found your weblog via Shopgirl, and I'm so excited to be here. Saw your profile and knew I'd love what I see (and I do). My husband is a walking Civil War encyclopedia, and it seems every trip we take involves something that is somehow tethered to the War.
I'm going to enjoy my time here! :)

I'm also cannot drive by an antique shop without stopping. ;)

Loree Huebner said...

Jayne: Welcome here! Love Shopgirl.

Seems most of our trips involve battlefields too. Love Gettysburg the most.

Thanks for stopping in!

Charlotte Sannazzaro said...

Sometimes I will see a stranger and start forming a character for them, but most of the time my characters just drop into my head. They're generally stuck in a certain situation and I shape their personalities and backgrounds in order to figure out why they're in that situation.

You've inspired me to craft characters from inanimate objects - I haven't done much of that before. The world around us is brimming with creative possibilities!

troutbirder said...

Hmmm. My "inspiration" for stories is almost always personal experience. That's the kernal... the rest has to be imagination.
Eric: We attended our first reenactment a few weeks ago. It was Bull Run. A great show and day. I loved it. I did a couple of posts on it on my other blog.

Eric J. Huebner said...

troutbirder -

Glad you enjoyed the reeenactment. The big ones are impressive to see. I'll check out your posts this evening after work.
Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy meeting fellow history buffs.


Loree Huebner said...

Charlotte: I love the idea of seeing a stranger and going from there...interesting. Thanks for your great comments.

troutbirder: Love the big reenactments! Personal experience is a big inspiration for me too.
Thanks for coming by!

Rachel Brooks said...

I know I already commented on this post, but I wanted to tell you that you’ve been given the Liebster Blog Award on my blog post today http://bit.ly/nnawbA Congrats! :)

Loree Huebner said...


Congrats on your award...and thanks for sharing it.

I will pass it on...on my usual Friday post!

You're so sweet!!!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

To a writer our imagination is limitless. My antique spindle bed puts many stories in my head. I love antiques, too.

Loree Huebner said...

Eileen: That bed sounds amazing.

Jess said...

"Can't you just smell the old?" I love it! I totally agree that antiques are amazing inspirations for stories. In fact, I felt like this post was its own story, and it made me itch to go antiquing. Great post :)

Loree Huebner said...

Jess: I've been antiquing many time but never had it inspire me for characters and my writing.

Thanks for chiming in!

Carol Riggs said...

How fun, your trip to the antique warehouse! Sounds like a great place to get inspiration, and I LOVE the phrase about "smelling the old"! :)

Loree Huebner said...

Carol: Thanks for stopping by.

The trip was fun.

Jessica Nelson said...

I don't shop a whole lot but I love looking at antiques! Sounds like an awesome trip.

T.O. Geezer said...

I love antiques! I guess that's because me and most of my friends fall into that category :-)

Loree Huebner said...

Jessica: It was an awesome trip!

Geez: hahaha! I like to think I have an antique heart.

Thanks for stopping in, Jess and Ron!