Here’s something to get the creative juices flowing! It’s a prompt from the Novel Travelist, a website run by a friend of mine that helps readers turn novels into adventures and helps authors add adventure to their novels. In the post Stories Within Art, Sara writes,
I constantly wonder why some art pieces are endlessly fascinating and why others leave no impression at all?
Why do some paintings entrance me time and time again? Why are other paintings, though skillfully crafted, totally unmemorable? […]
The answer to my question—STORY!
Then, she challenges us to run with the idea and write a paragraph story for one of the paintings she provides. I chose “Florist” by Joseph Christian Leyendecker for Kuppenheimer Style Book, Spring 1920. In college I took a couple of classes (both literature and history) that focused on roughly 1880-1930, the Era of Nouveau, and the art from that time period has always caught my attention. (My favorite painter of all time, for example is John Singer Sargent.) I’ll get to my story in a minute, but before I do, let me challenge you!
Find a painting or photograph that captures your imagination and write a short story about it! It doesn’t have to be long, even a hundred words can a story make. But don’t limit yourself, either: if you’re so inspired, keep writing. I’d love to see what you’ve got in the comments. Include a link to the image you used so that we can all delve into the story with you! Now, here’s my take on “Florist” by Joseph Christian Leyendecker.
“Hold still, will you? How are you going to impress anyone with a crooked boutonniere?”
“But what if you—”
“I’m not going to stick you if you stop moving, you know,” the young woman said. She brushed a few wisps of hair from her face and shifted a little to get a better handle on the small nosegay before she accidentally pricked herself.
“What would I do without you, sis?”
She snorted a very unlady-like little snort. “You’d trip over your own coattails, I’m sure.” She got the boutonniere pinned to her satisfaction and smoothed her brother’s lapels, stepping back, finally, to take a good look at him.
“You might look respectable,” she said.
He took her hand in his, bowed low, and kissed the back of her palm with chaste, dry lips. “Thank you ever so much, my dear. It is, of course, all thanks to you.”
The woman laughed. “Oh, I know. Now stop with the groveling and get on with your evening. Your lady awaits.”
He pulled his sister into a tight hug of thanks before letting her go and taking off down the steps of the little flower shop. She watched him go, her cheeks a bit pink in the cold air, and then straightened her apron and went back to closing up the store for the evening.
POEM: To Mary
BY: Louis MacNeice
Forgive what I give you. Though nightmare and cinders,
The one can be trodden, the other ridden,
We must use what transport we can. Both crunching
Path and bucking dream can take me
Where I shall leave the path and dismount
From the mad-eyed beast and keep my appointment
In green improbable fields with you.
PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Alice Lee stood awaiting her lover one night,
Her cheeks flushed and glowing, her eyes full of light.
She had placed a sweet rose ‘mid her wild flowing hair;
No flower of the forest e’er looked half so fair
As she did that night, as she stood by the door
Of the cot where she dwelt by the side of the moor.
She heard a quick step coming over the moor,
And a merry voice which she had oft heard before;
And ere she could speak a strong arm held her fast,
And a manly voice whispered, “I’ve come, love, at last.
I’m sorry that I’ve kept you waiting like this,
But I know you’ll forgive me, then give me a kiss.”
But she shook the bright curls on her beautiful head,
And she drew herself up while quite proudly she said,
“Now, William, I’ll prove if you really are true,
For you say that you love me — I don’t think you do;
If really you love me you must give up the wine,
For the lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”
He looked quite amazed, “Why, Alice, ’tis clear
You really are getting quite jealous, my dear.”
“In that you are right,” she replied; “for, you see,
You’ll soon love the liquor far better than me.
I’m jealous, I own, of the poisonous wine,
For the lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”
He turned, then, quite angry. “Confound it!” he said,
“What nonsense you’ve got in your dear little head;
But I’ll see if I cannot remove it from hence.”
She said, “‘Tis not nonsense, ’tis plain common-sense:
And I mean what I say, and this you will find,
I don’t often change when I’ve made up my mind.”
He stood all irresolute, angry, perplexed:
She never before saw him look half so vexed;
But she said, “If he talks all his life I won’t flinch”;
And he talked, but he never could move her an inch.
He then bitterly cried, with a look and a groan,
“O Alice, your heart is as hard as a stone.”
But though her heart beat in his favour quite loud,
She still firmly kept to the vow she had vowed;
And at last, without even a tear or sigh,
She said, “I am going, so, William, goodbye.”
“Nay stay,” he then said, “I’ll choose one of the two —
I’ll give up the liquor in favour of you.”
Now, William had often great cause to rejoice
For the hour he had made sweet Alice his choice;
And he blessed through the whole of a long, useful life,
The fate that had given him his dear little wife.
And she, by her firmness, won to us that night
One who in our cause is an ornament bright.
Oh! that each fair girl in our abstinence band
Would say: “I’ll ne’er give my heart or my hand
Unto one who I ever had reason to think
Would taste one small drop of the vile, cursed drink”;
But say, when you are wooed, “I’m a foe to the wine,
And the lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”