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Writing Using Pictures as Inspiration

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Have you looked at a painting or picture and wonder what the story is that the artist or photographers is trying to tell?

Pictures can be a useful source to inspire writing. Recently, my grandmother gave me a picture of my grandfather and her on their wedding day. They would have been married in June of 1948, sometime after my grandfather, a World War II veteran, returned to the States from a long deployment in Germany.

This is the first picture I have ever seen of my grandfather who died a decade or so before I was born. In the picture he is standing beside my grandmother who is sitting. With his black hair, handsome facial features and gentle eyes, I can understand why my grandmother married him. The background to the picture is the living room of my great grandparent’s farmhouse.

Looking at these two young people, I wonder about their stories. My grandmother will occasionally tell me about her life as a young wife. However, when my grandfather died, his stories died with him. My grandfather very seldom talked about his experiences in Germany after he returned home, but there are other stories there that he could have shared with his family, including how he met my grandmother and his stories of adjusting to civilian life after his experiences in Germany.

Could an author look at that picture and write a story about two young lovers and their lives and struggles as they married and raised a family in the years immediately following World War II? What else does that picture say that would help the author write a story? It is obvious in the picture, even in black and white, they were very happy on that day. Both them are grinning from ear to ear and as you stare at the picture you can sense that they have a wonderful secret that they are sharing only with each other. What could that secret be and how will it affect those two people as they start their lives together? Could there be trouble down the road and what would happen if the marriage is successful or if it fails? What happens if a major illness strikes? How does that change the other come of their story together.

There are just as many likelihoods in that story as there are authors who could be inspired to write a novel based on that picture and the events leading up and the events following the moment captured in the photograph.

A New Chapter

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Last week, I completed the last class of my Master’s degree program. Barring any unforeseen disasters in grading, I’m finally finished.

So the question everyone’s going to ask: What are you going to do next?

I have to struggle not to respond “I’m going to Disney World” (okay, maybe that dates me a bit).

Appropriately enough, I’m starting a new chapter in my life by starting a new novel. From time to time I’ll likely refer to it, but won’t bother too much with putting the daily grind on the blog. As most of us writers know, the day to day work of writing a novel is boring to describe, though the internal process is so much more.

It’s funny…we sit at the keyboard, hit key after key, and watch what comes out on the screen. If we like it, we keep it and move to the next paragraph. If we don’t, we delete it–today’s somewhat less satisfying digital version of crumpling a sheet of paper and tossing it in the trash.

Watching what’s going on, to the outside observer, is boring. But what’s going on inside, however, is both interesting and fascinating. And difficult to describe.

Words flowing in and out, like merging droplets of water, forming paragraphs and stories. The whole writing process is fluid, and as writers, we struggle to freeze words in just the right form–on paper.

This is the struggle I’m choosing as my next challenge. It’s going to be a fun journey. Hope you’ll follow me along for the ride.

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