Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Starry Night

I've recently returned from Europe. Yes, I know, I am lucky. I have a wonderful person by my side who spoils me. That aside, we spent some time in Amsterdam, where neither of us had been before. And again, said person indulged me and we had a long narrow apartment in a tall, narrow and gabled building on the Amstel -- which in plain English is one of major canals.

The point of all this is that we spent a morning at the Van Gogh Museum. (Note to travellers:  book your tickets online, get there before 9am.)  The point of all this is that the museum was fascinating -- I loved it. I loved the paintings, the insight into Van Gogh's life, and I felt a deep sadness that this man had died without knowing how loved and revered he would become. 

When I finally reached home after our travels, I found a piece of writing I did some years ago in which a little girl examines Van Gogh's Starry Night, and in case you're not sure this is Starry Night -- it's my favourite Van Gogh painting.

Then little by little, using that para of description as a starting point, and the little girl who I turned into a young woman, a story started forming inside my head. I wish I knew how this worked! 

I drafted and redrafted, and redrafted still further, and then I sent it to a friend to critique, still with the opening para being the description of the painting. At that stage I didn't know what the relevance of the description was, all I knew was that I liked it. But it took my friend one reading to work out what the themes were - belief, resurrection, love - and why the description would work better further along in the story. (Sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees.) 

I think I've finished the story now. I am certainly very happy with it. In fact, I am rather in love with it. I think this has got to do with the fact that I've been there, inside the story. The pub where my protagonist goes to have gluhwein is one where I've been; the cobbled street she walks along is familiar to me.

So, if you're looking for inspiration for a short story, sit yourself down in front of a painting (famous or otherwise) and describe what you see, how it makes you feel. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky. 

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