Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with new ideas for writing. One of the “exercises” I have found interesting and often fruitful is to write the “story” behind a visual or musical inspiration. What work of art strikes your fancy because of the scene that is presented by the artist? What does the music tell you? I have been enthralled by several musical works, usually classical, almost always instrumental since songwriter’s are telling a story anyway.
Go to a museum or look through a book of photographs of paintings. Put yourself into the scene. Where is it? What’s going on? When is it happening? Are there people in the frame? What are they doing? Why?
Listen to a piece of music, even one with a title that “gives away” some of the story—like Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazadeor Rossini’s William Tell Overture(no, it’s not the story of The Lone Ranger!)—and write your own take on the tale. Even better, make up your own story to a piece before you do any research. Ever wonder about the story behind The Allman Brothers’ terrific “Little Martha”?
One of my favorite paintings for its inherent story is actually one the artist painted to depict a scene from a work of literature. Francois Cibot’s Fallen Angels(Joslyn Art Museum) is the artist’s depiction of the defeated angels after their battle with God has cast them out as described in Milton’s Paradise Lost. The expressions on the faces of the two central figures is a study in diabolical planning. The setting is desolation. But what are they plotting? What have they said to one another? Who are they? Why did they rebel? What do they think of the outcome? Study the painting, too, and feel the artist’s emotion—note the spotlighted elements and the details in the background. In addition, think about the artist! What was going on in France in 1883 that prompted this work other than his reading? Or was there other event specific to the artist’s life?
Actually, you can do the same thing just sitting on a bench at the mall. Who is that woman coming out of the shoe store? Who is the man who greets her? Note their body language. Eavesdrop (creatively) on their conversation. Why was she shopping for shoes? Are they getting married, going to a party, headed for a cruise? Did he surprise her or has he been patiently/impatiently waiting?
Ideas for writing are all around. If you believe “there’s nothing new under the sun,” look in the dark….