Raccoon RockI don’t have to look far for inspiration for my Appalachian novels. Most of the members of my family are storytellers and they have plenty of stories to tell. Last weekend we loaded up in the car and drove around French Creek just so I could refresh my senses with the place I try to bring to life in my novels.
When I took this picture of Raccoon Rock, Dad reminded me of the family story that goes along with it. When one of his aunts was a young woman her brother made her an offer–if she spent the night in a small cave halfway up the rock, he’d buy her enough silk to make a dress. She did–and took her baby with her. But the brother only bought her cotton, not silk.
That’s a pretty good story right there. But imagine what more there might be:

  • Danger–mountain lions were rumored to roam those woods back then (still are!). It took a brave woman–or one desperate for a new dress–to take up this challenge.
  • The Baby–why take the baby? Did her husband refuse to keep it? Could she find no one else? Or did she selfishly want the company?
  • The Silk–why did the brother fail to supply silk? Did he not have the money? Could he not find silk? Did she turn practical and ask for cotton instead?
  • Setting–was it dark that night? Or maybe there was a full moon. Did a painter scream in the night? Was she afraid? Or did she sleep soundly without a snoring husband by her side? Was it warm? Or did she catch a chill? Might she have built a small fire?

The possibilities are endless! And what fun to take this kernel of a story and nurse it into a full fledged tale or maybe weave it into a novel. While I’d love to know more about the facts of this story, I’ll confess it’s pure pleasure to build upon. And there, I think, is the root of writing for me. I write because I want to know how the story goes–even if I have to make it up as I go along.