This is my tenth post in this special series by Beth Barany and I on Travel and Writing. In this post, we talk about the value of those nighttime experiences for your stories. Also, get information on our retreats, Beth’s in Paris, and my VIW (Very Important Writer) retreats here in the Catskills.
There is something very atavistic about stories told in the dark, whether or not they are told around the fire.
Those stories often touch something deep within us, arouse emotions, and keep us turning pages.
So, when you travel, remember to explore the night life of wherever you are.
When Bob and I traveled to Italy last year, we discovered that nighttime and after dark was when everyone came out to socialize, to eat, to tell stories, listen to music, and otherwise be entertained, whether you were in the smaller towns like Pistoia or the bigger cities like Florence and Sienna.
At night, in the light of a full moon or sparkling stars, it is easy to believe in magic and that possibility of “Once upon a time…” Mystery lies in the shadows, and darkness conveys an intimacy that isn’t present in the full light of the sun.
At night, stories lie clasped between the hands of lovers crossing the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, or float above giggling teenage girls striding down the streets of Sienna in search of gelato and boys, or circle families gathered around an outdoor table at a restaurant.
Nighttime creates imaginative settings, ones of deep shadows broken by spots of light, candle or electric. These settings are perfect backdrops for romance, fantasy, mystery, and even, in the darkest shadows, horror, murder and suspense.
I’ll never forget the town center of Lucca, Italy.
Lined on one side with great tall trees and behind them a row of restaurants and outdoor cafes, it was a hub of nighttime activity. Small children drifted to the sparkling lights and bright music of an old-fashioned merry-go-round that stood at one end of the plaza. Old and young rode bikes through its center. It was an ideal location for watching the world pass by and for gathering up story ideas, all enhanced by the intimacy and mystery of the night.
Bob and I stayed several nights at an agriturismo (a working farm that hosts tourists) in the eastern part of Tuscany. At night, we could sit out on our balcony and watch the Fresca Rosa, Italy’s high speed train, pass by in the valley below. We could watch the moonlight reflect on the farm’s small pool and watch the stars move through the sky as we listened to the night sounds of this working olive grove.
A different kind of environment from Lucca, but a great place to hide if your hero and heroine are on the run. What if they made a quick escape down the hill through the olive trees at night?
So many possibilities.
When you travel, whether in your own country or abroad, whether in a city or in the country, don’t forget to explore the nighttime and night life. So many stories, settings and characters are to be found in the dark.
Under the Tuscan Sun was a great book and film, but I think Under the Tuscan Moon holds a lot of potential, don’t you?
And check out Beth Barany’s post here.
VIW (Very Important Writer) Retreat Days: These days are for intense, focused planning and problem-solving, and can be done via phone or Skype ($397 for a half day) or in-person ($597 for a half day). Full day retreats are also available. Email me for more information or to schedule your retreat.