November 30, 2012

Mining your Life for Inspiration

By Susan Cobb Beck

Why do you write? Do you feel a necessity, a compulsion? Maybe, but essentially, you write because it is who you are.
What better place for inspiration than your life.
Each character I create springs from a real life person I know, have known, or by chance encountered somewhere or sometime during my life. Oftentimes, I base characters on departed ancestors; I breathe life into them. Characters think, feel, and breathe through you, the Writer. The only way to do that is to become them.

Sometimes, a song will inspire a story.
Here is a sample:

Orphan Girl

Miss Gilly looked up from her pea shelling; her old wrinkled face a roadmap of her life. She gave me a searching look.
I had asked if she knew anything about sharecropping. Our class had to write an essay covering a topic in Alabama History. I remembered Grandmother saying her father was a sharecropper. It stirred my curiosity about sharecroppers as a society, what they were like etc. My grandmother had passed away, but Miss Gilly was her lifelong friend.
“Who’d you say you was?”
“I’m Susie Jackson, Miss Gilly. I’m Betsy’s granddaughter.”
“Betsy was a good woman."
“Yes, Ma’am, she was.”
"She was a good friend to me when I moved here, back in the late 40s. She taught me how to be a good farmwife. So, you wanna know about sharecropping... You look awful young to be in-trested in stuff setch as that,” she observed.
“I remember Grandmother saying that her father was a sharecropper. I thought you might know something about it too.”
“Well, Honey, I can tell you a lot about sharecropping; it’s a hard life. What is that thing?” she asked.
“It’s a recorder, Miss Gilly. You don’t mind if I record what you’re saying, do you?”
“Ain’t never had my voice recorded before, I reckon it’ll be alright. Is it ready for me to start talking?” she asked sprightly.
“Yes, Ma’am, it’s ready.” Miss Gilly bent forward, as if she thought she needed to be closer to the recorder.
“You can sit comfortably, Miss Gilly. The machine will hear you fine.”
“I’ll start off giving you a few facts about this place first, if that’s alright.”
“Yes, Ma’am, you can say whatever comes to mind.”
“Well, these days, I do tend to speak my mind. Done got to old to worry bout what folks thinks of me,” she chuckled.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way, Miss Gilly. Grandmother was like that too.” End of sample

The song, Annabelle, by Gillian Welsh inspired this story. As I began writing, it took on a life of its own. The “Voice” given Miss Gilly, her manner of speech etc. was actually that of my Aunt Bertha. 
I do not know if Orphan Girl will end as a short story or a novel; it depends on my muse. Miss Gilly continues to tell me her story. 

My name is Susan Cobb Beck and I am a Southern Writer. I live along the coast with my husband, three children, three dogs, and half a dozen cats. My blog, The Life and Times of Justplainolme
Link to song Annabelle on Youtube

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