Monday, March 25, 2013

The Joy Of Weird.

I love weird things, especially strange information and facts, which is why I have an 'interesting' collection of books.

The Curious Cures Of Old England lists in some details things that were done to human beings in the name of medicine. Aside from the use of leeches, the book lists the desperate remedies some people turned to when normal medicine (which not only cost money but was often painful) failed. Urine had several uses and was vital for any problem to do with feet...and as a mouthwash.

The books of Heroic Failures, of which three are currently in print, show how to really fail without killing yourself (for that list you'll need to read a Darwin's Award book). They feature such treasures as the world's worst guidebook which got every single Boston landmark in the wrong place and the world's worst selling book (A souvenir book about John Paul II's visit to Britain in 1982): It sold six copies out of 100,000 printed.

The New Scientist books such as Why Don't Penguin's Feet Freeze and Do Polar Bears Get Lonely are a mine of useless but fascinating information about science. I never once wondered what ate wasps, but soon discovered that many birds and dragonflies do.

Then there are the diary style books that show you what happened on certain days. My current favourite is about weather events. On March 25th 1564, a storm blew over an oak tree on Seathwaite Fell. Underneath the roots they found a grey-black substance which was messy but useful. They put it between pieces of wood and invented the pencil.

Add to this list are joke books, books about hoaxes and mistakes as well as a number of 'fact' books.


I can't build an entire book from any of these little gems, but I can build a scene to insert in a book, or use them as a starting point for a short story. For me, they help break writer's block or solve a problem with a scene, and they may be able to do the same thing for you.

They're also a useful reminder that there's nothing I can write which is stranger than real life.


Nick Wilford said...

I love any sort of useless trivia. Or not so useless as it turns out. Thanks for educating me on the origin of the pencil!

Martin Willoughby said...

Nick: These pieces of Trivia have helped me win a number of quizzes.