An Alsatian Tale: Letting the character tell her own story.

35 Jean Dietrich House

(Kaysersberg, Alsace, France)

How characters tell their own stories…

One of my favorite places to be in the writing process is when characters are introducing themselves to me. I’m walking through Kaysersberg (my favorite Alsatian village) and stop on the bridge. Looking at my favorite house, a young woman appears in my mind. My imagination engages and a story begins to form. I smile and begin to walk back through the village, following my new imaginary friend, looking carefully at the cobblestone streets and the timbered houses, wondering where will she take me? It’s exciting, always.

I’ve been to this village quite a number of times and have lots and lots of photographs. Three of our four adult children have accompanied my husband and I on some of these trips. The photos I have were taken by each of us. The village seen through different eyes. Always a good thing.

Next, I will chose some of my favorite shots and print them. Then, I’ll pin them to one of my cork boards and set it up on my desk while I write. I often listen to music when I write. It helps transport me and hold me inside my story. I’m listening to some of my favorite Celtic music right now. Alasdair Frasiers’s Dawn Dance. I know this isn’t French, but my new friend may have a bit of Celt flowing through her blood. I’ll know soon enough.

This is a process. For me, at the beginning especially, I wander up and down different paths trying to find just where to start. It’s not always the beginning of the story. Often, the beginning comes when I’m deep in the middle of a tale and my characters let me know more about themselves. I love making new friends. I love telling their stories.

After writing for a bit, just becoming familiar with painting a picture of the village with my pen, I’ll do a bit of research, about the history of the place, the people who have lived here, legends that might already exist. She’ll let me know if one of these suits her fancy or if she has her own tale to tale.

So here we go. As I look out my window the fog sits heavy on the hillsides, the brilliant fall colored leaves peeking through. It’s a great day to write.


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