In late November of 1183 AD, the Crusader castle of Kerak was beseiged by a Muslim army led by Sultan Saláh al-Dín, or صلاح الدين — better known in English as Saladin. It was a retaliatory assault, in response to Christian knights attacking merchants.
During the seige, Saláh al-Dín made a very curious decision: he forbade his forces from bombarding part of the castle where he knew his enemies would be gathered. Why? Because he also knew they were gathering for a wedding.
Imagine the possibilities of an anecdote like this for advancing a narrative and/or character development. In the actual event, the Sultan’s leniency was the result of negotiations between the Muslims and Crusaders but. as inspiration for fiction, the possible explanations for such a decision are as open as the writer’s creativity.
Even if you are not inclined to write historical fiction about the Crusades, or you don’t want to include a wedding in your novel, just imagine the literary punch of a powerful character (hero, villain, or otherwise) who withholds violence, refusing to press a clear tactical advantage, for reasons of sentiment or principle.
Or, is there a deeper psychological reason, crouching like a spider in some dark corner of the psyche of your novel’s Saláh al-Dín analog, an emotional scar staying his or her hand?
In the larger narrative, does this incident function as a moment of weakness, a noble yet ill-considered gesture or a pained reaction to a nearly forgotten trauma, which ultimately unravels an otherwise mighty character’s plans … or sanity?
As a writer, one can never allow anecdotes like this to go un-noticed, un-tagged, and un-filed. Note them, analyze them, and find ways to use them to deepen the emotional impact of your fiction.