On our visit to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, we were exploring the Kasbah des Oudaias with its twisting lanes and narrow streets when we came across this musician. He was singing while playing his three-stringed lute – I think it’s called a guinbri or santir and is common and popular throughout western Africa.
- Who is this man?
- Why is he singing in public?
- What is his background story?
When I am faced with writing a short story based on an image or photograph or something I’ve seen, I start with the person’s name. I don’t know the name of the man in the photo, so I will have to make one up. I try to be authentic to the setting. I ask a few questions, like those above. Other questions like “what is he doing – and why?” often start a stream of ideas.
I let the story take over, directing my thoughts and just getting down the words as they come.
If the character takes over the narrative and demands to have her story told, that’s exciting. Just go with the flow. Get the words down quickly; editing and rewriting come later.