Monday, June 3, 2013
It's All About Story
I've just returned home from an amazing trip. To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a river boat cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. The journey was wonderful. Life on board a cruise boat is like spending two weeks in a fairy tale -- no chores to do, lots and lots of good food, entertainment provided, a staff eager to fulfil your wishes -- the ride down the rivers would be holiday enough. But, we got the bonus of tours at every stop, sometimes two a day. We visited Roman
bridges, walked the walls of a medieval city, wondered at Gothic Cathedrals and marvelled at Baroque Palaces.
We trod the cobbled streets of history with educated and enthusiastic guides. We stared at masterpieces of art while an expert guided us through an incredible museum.
We saw the world's most expensive salt cellar, (above). There are little wheels underneath so that if someone said "pass the salt" you could roll the whole thing down the table.
We saw fortresses and castles and palaces and vineyards and museums and breweries and wineries and statuary and gardens and cuckoo clocks and music boxes. Our heads are stuffed with names and dates and places. Apart from cold, wet weather, the trip was wonderful.
Yet, now that I'm home in Canada, and someone asks me about what we did and what we saw, a lot of it runs together in my mind. Dates are all jumbled up. One walled city bumps into another and I've no idea what kind of beer they sell in Bamburg.
What I do remember, clear and complete, is the stories. When the guide could bring the long dead owner of a castle to life with a story of his unhappy love-life, I remembered. When the subject of a portrait was described as a jealous wife who broke all the conventions by insisting on sleeping in the same bed as her husband, I remember.
A princess who cared more for the sick and elderly and poor than she did about her high status, I can remember.
As writers we are first story-tellers. My trip was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and a reminder of the power of story. If ever I'm stuck in my writing, I'll try to remember, who are the characters? What did they do? Why do they matter? What makes them special? What makes them human? What makes them interesting? A character who has a story to tell will keep the reader, or the traveller, turning the pages.
Alice Valdal is glad to be home again and will spend the next several months sorting through a thousand pictures and trying to put all her impressions and memories in one album. Visit her at www.alicevaldal.com