Photographs. They can be Where’s Waldos for writers. Where’s the story? We know it’s there and it’s our job to find it. Or better yet, without our knowledge or permission, a story pops out of the photo and into our heads. And then we’re compelled to write that story. That’s what makes us writers.
This past weekend was eight years since my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah. I posted this photo on Facebook.
What ever happened to the kids in that photos my daughter wasn’t friends with after seventh grade? The kids with the hats and the smiles, who kicked off their shoes before the first song and danced for four hours? How many of them even really knew why there were there except that it was a party? I look at someone I don’t even recognize and decide what her story was on that night. She looks happy but wasn’t. I look at someone else and decide it was the best night of their life. I see people who didn’t know they’d die and others who didn’t know how fully they’d live. For others, I make it up. I think they’re the lucky ones.
What make-believe stories about people you don’t know do you see in the photo?
You know I’ve had to set aside my WIP to edit Left To Chance, but the WIP is the only novel of mine to be inspired, in part, by a photo. It was the first time I looked at a photo and had to tell the story. Had to make up the story. Here’s the photo, taken in South Haven, Michigan in the summer of 1955.
This week (tomorrow, actually, if the weather holds) I’m going to CARPE DIEM (oh, did you read The Good Neighbor, remember Darby? I am loving the way life is taking a bite out of fiction here). I’m blowing this pop-stand for a day to pound some pavements in the town in which WIP is set. The story is set from about a week before Memorial Day to just after Labor Day, so it’s perfect timing. It’s also perfect timing for me to have a day away from everything with a friend, something I haven’t done since this time last year.
Since I started this novel-writing gig I have wanted to be promoting one book (The Good Neighbor), editing one book (Left to Chance), and writing another (The Last Bathing Beauty).
It’s totally fun, in an exhausting kind of way, when you add in a part-time day job, freelance editing, and life.
The committee in my head is working overtime.
In the land of edits, I am using highlighters in addition to index cards for this round of edits on LEFT TO CHANCE. My deadline is July 25th and the changing and adding and tweaking (not twerking) has begun. I’ve decided to take the advice and wisdom of others and sift through it to find the particles of gold left behind, and to mix that with what I’ve come up with as my own shiny solutions to a few issues. This is the result of two things — growing confidence in my ability to get shit done in a novel, and my love of a challenge against myself.
One thing I’m sticking with is the epigraph: “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” –The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
I found this quote (not while reading Hemingway, I admit) and it fit Left To Chance perfectly. Done. The epigraph in The Good Neighbor is “You can never go home again, but the truth is, you can never leave home, so it’s all right.“–Maya Angelou. The Glass Wives has a question as its epigraph, one posed for the reader to ponder before she reads the book. When the glass shatters, who will be there to pick up the pieces?
When I visited Hyde Park, the FDR Presidential Library and Roosevelt homestead, in April, I found the perfect quote for my WIP.
So tell me. How do you choose an epigraph for your novel?
P.S. If you’ve read The Good Neighbor, would you consider leaving a review? Amazon is a great place to start, and you can leave the same review (cut and paste, baby) on B&N, Goodreads, or any of your favorite bookish sites. Reviews help authors like me get noticed by new readers and by the sites that sell our books.