Author Excursion by Jill: Catacombs of Paris

A little jaunt to Paris.

I could write a novel on my two week trip to France. We did everything from hiking a Cliffside fort in the Alps to exploring the underground network of Parisian tunnels. It was neat to experience it for myself, but there was a depth and wonder added to it as I watched my children experience everything. Each adventure was worthy of thousands of words, but in this blog I’ll highlight the catacombs.

As I considered the different perspectives of my children, I started thinking about my writing and how my characters would describe different situations. I picked three that I think are the most entertaining.

The first catacomb perspective: Elle

An experimental character. She’s a graceful, feminine, teenage detective.

My stomach flipped even before I got to the opening of the catacombs. Why people stood in line for two-and-a-half hours to see a tunnel full of human remains was beyond me. Although, the history was mildly interesting. In the late 1700s, a combination of overflowing cemeteries coupled with underground cave-ins led to a solution: chuck the bones in the abandoned mines.

Not my preferred solution.

No particular scent wafted down the tunnels. Not moldy, or dusty. The air was cool, but not cold. Moist, but not humid. Quite comfortable, actually. A barred, dark alcove was on my right. My flashlight’s beam revealed a shallow room carved out of the tunnel.

After ten minutes of moderate walking, I finally came to the opening of the Catacombs, which was marked by the inscription:

“ARRETE! C’EST ICI L’EMPIRE DE LA MORT”

Translated: Stop! This is the empire of the dead!

Lovely.

The second catacomb perspective: Kindle.

A sixteen-year-old girl with wind-abilities from my upcoming novel Catching Wind.

The guy said the wait to the catacombs would be about two and a half hours. He gestured to the line winding around a gate that kept people from the semi-underground metro station. I didn’t have that kind of time. A sharp gust in the right direction would give me the distraction I needed.

I couldn’t tell if he was flirting or helping another girl when she dropped her ticket on the ground. He bent to pick it up, and I sent my current to his rear, effectively knocking him over. Then I slammed a powerful gust, distracting those in line just long enough for me to jump the first rope and slip over the chain.

I kept looking over my shoulder as I descended the white, spiraling stairs. My element grew less present with each step downwards. Gravel crunched under my feet as I raced through the passages. My heart beat quickened as claustrophobia set in. I couldn’t even reach my arms out to their full length, the tunnel was so narrow. It was bad enough before the bones actually started.

My stomach churned with a mixture of disgust and interest as I slowed my pace, unable to pull my gaze from the human remains. One skull caught my eye particularly. It had a chunk hacked out of it. Something told me that was the skull I was looking for…

The third catacomb perspective: Zam.

A 10-year-old genie from my book The Lunch Thief

I scrunched my nose and glared back at the skull. I wasn’t going to lose this staring contest! Not to a thousand-year-old skeleton I wasn’t. When he wouldn’t give in, I leaned closer and closer. He smelled like dirt. I frowned. Did he taste like dirt? I stuck my tongue out. Yup. Definitely dirt. Or a rock. I gagged and stumbled as I continued down the hall of bones. The skeletons in this realm were definitely more boring than the ones back home. The ones back home would kill us if we put them in catacombs.

In Conclusion:

I can’t speak for every writer out there, but I know I’m not alone when I say that I hear my characters’ voices in my head. No, I don’t think I need a shrink. It’s about seeing adventures the way each individual character would see them. And it’s really fun. It also enriched my experience in France.