This past weekend I went to a scrapbooking retreat. I joined about twenty women at a hotel and worked on my photos. I sorted them, arranged them, chose cardstock in colors that coordinated with them, and attached them to the pages in my album. And then I wrote little blurbs of journaling under them so that I would remember where I was when the photos were taken. The photos I worked on this weekend were from my recent trip to France, and it was fun re-living the excitement I experienced on that trip.
Many of the pictures were taken in places rich with history, such as the palaces and gardens at Versailles and Fountainbleau, the Opera Garnier (the opera house featured in The Phantom of the Opera), the Louvre and Monet's home at Giverny. As I attached the photos to the pages, a funny thing happened. I started to imagine the people who have come and gone to these settings. What were their stories? What brought them to these elegant surroundings?
I've read a lot of author interviews telling that their stories began with an everyday occurrence or setting followed by the question "What if..." and started to apply it to some of the photos in my hands. I had a few pictures of the musicians in the subway, playing for the money people put in their open cases. I had pictures of artists drawing portraits of tourists passing by. And I had photos of quaint little cafes and shops. What were the stories behind these people and places? What brought these people to those places?
I looked again at my photos of the lavish ballrooms at Versailles, Fontainbleau, the Louvre, and the Opera House. At one time, they were filled with nobility and the fabulously wealthy. I wondered about the beautifully dressed and coiffed women - were their lives as pampered as I've read? Or were their lives filled with sorrow and conflict?
The next time you look at a photo, take a closer look at the people and items in the background. That sad-looking man on the park bench. What is his story? That harried mom – where is she going and why? That crumbled paper on the sidewalk - is it a Dear John letter, a love letter, or a forgotten lottery ticket?
There are stories everywhere. As authors, we just need to find one, and tell it.