The last time I dropped by a library used book sale, I bought one book. That is an amazing fact in itself, but that’s not the point of today’s post. I want to tell you about the book I did find: A Dictionary of Omens and Superstitions by Philippa Waring (Souvenir Press, Canada, 1978 and 1997). The book is further described as “The Best-selling Guide to the World of Premonitions.”
The book is a dictionary of omens and superstitions about a variety of things, the things listed in alphabetical order throughout the book. There is no table of contents, and no index, and no footnotes, and no bibliography. In her introduction, however, the author cites a few classic sources for further study.
Today I’ll crack open the book and see if I can find an interesting “fact” that might trigger a story idea. Here we go:
Cigars (Did I really open the book to that page first? Yes, I did.), p. 59: “The girls of that famous American ‘witch town’ of Salem in Massachusetts have a superstition that if you accidentally step on a cigar end then you will marry the first man you meet thereafter!” Hmmm. No story there.
Murder, p. 160: “…in Germany it is said that the spirits of those who have been murdered must wander about the earth for as long as the natural lives of the victims would have been had they not been murdered.” Okay, that one has possibilities.
XYZ, p. 264): “It is said to be unlucky for any author to have the letters X, Y and Z in the last sentence of any book, for this is an omen that he will never write another.” Guess we authors better watch out for that one. Check your last book as well as your current project.
With entries from axe to corpse to journey to rainbow, and lots of words in between, this type of book is ideal for those who don’t know where to look for story ideas. Think how many more treasures like these live on the shelves of your local library.
K. A. Laity says
Did I really open the book to that page first? Yes, I did. Hee hee hee! Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?
N A Sharpe says
What a cool find! I love libraries and hang out there every chance I get. They have the most incredible sales 😀
Nancy, from Realms of Thought…
Jane Kennedy Sutton says
Sounds like my kind of book! Just looked at my novel and I have a “y” in the last sentence. Rats!
Marvin D Wilson says
Good ideas, Patricia. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
The Old Silly
The Practical Preserver says
Interesting ideas, Patricia. Superstitions can create story lines if the protagonist ignores one or obeys one. Either way, you have the germ of a story.
Galen Kindley--Author says
I love books with little factoids. Almost always, (No, scratch the Almost. Never do I…) I didn’t know the fact explained. Like you, I too wonder how these tidbits can be incorporated into what I’m writing, or serve as the springboard for an entire project. It is kinda fun. AND, to find such a book on sale…very well done indeed.
Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog
Karen Walker says
How fun. And how creative you are, Patricia. Love this idea.
Elizabeth Spann Craig says
I’m a library nut…spend a lot of time there (and I love the book sales, too!) Sounds like you found a real treasure at yours..
Mystery Writing is Murder