Posts Tagged ‘memory writing’

Writing Memories for You and Your Characters

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

While I was away on vacation in the Southern California desert, I purchased postcards and pulled out my handy purse-sized travel address book.  Flipping through the dog-eared pages, my quest for certain addresses vanished when I saw names of my friends and family who had passed on. 

My friend Marisa, who glowed in her favorite color pink (even the stripe of pink in her hair).  We shared our fondness for everything Mother Mary together.  She let me in on her favorite saint – – Saint Rita. 

When my one and only California aunt would call, she’d begin with a rant and I’d say,  “Aunt Dorothy – – ”  Then she’d respond with her hearty, gravelly cigarette one and only laugh and ask, “How’d you know it was me?” 

My mother kept notes by the phone to make sure she’d remember to tell me everything that was on her mind.   We could talk forever and never run out of anything to say.  She’d send me pin-wheel cookies with crisp, buttery goodness, making me crave just one more. 

Once I ate an entire coffee can full of these while talking with Aunt Dorothy.  When my hand reached the bottom of the can, searching for one more, I gasped. 

“Oh no!” I screamed into the phone.

“What happened?” asked Aunt Dorothy.

“You won’t believe what I’ve done.”

I couldn’t hide the crunch on the phone so Aunt Dorothy knew what I was eating.

“You ate that whole can, didn’t you?” she asked.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Because they go down so easily.  And it’s what I would have done!”

We both exploded into laughter. 

Images flashed through my mind of writer’s group with Marisa, Disneyland with Aunt Dorothy and washing dishes with Mom in my childhood home.    

The address book’s binding  was ripping apart in the middle; only threads were keeping it together.  Why did I insist on keeping it when clearly I needed a new one?  But I knew the answer to this question. 

Each time I opened it, memory movies played in my mind, complete with scents, tastes, dialogue, and feelings.  I’m not ready to give it up yet.  Will I ever? 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Which object do you have which gives you images from your past?  Write about the object and its significance to you.   Write the scene it helps you to recall. 

2.  Choose a character from a project you are currently working on.  What object holds memories for this character?  Why?  How?  Write a back story for the object.  Create a scene which goes along with it. 

3.  You characters need memories.  If you are stuck in a story or plot, it may be because you don’t know your character well enough.  Write your character in scenes you may never need to include in your book, but YOU need to know.  Scenes such as:  What was his favorite childhood cookie moment?  Did she have a quirky aunt or embarrassing relative?  Did he have a best friend who collected something weird? 

4.  Keep a memory diary.  When they occur to you, jot words or images down.  Then when you need an idea to write about, use them as your writing prompt for the day.

What’s Your Earliest Memory?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

“Memory is the diary we carry around with us.” –Oscar Wilde

What’s your earliest memory?

Mine is when I was two years old.  I had bone surgery to correct a concave chest, so it wouldn’t grow too close to my heart.  Afterwards, I wore a cast from my neck to my hips.  I don’t recall anything of this hospital experience other than one moment in time when I tried to get a drink at a hospital water fountain.  (or in what we Southern Wisconsinites call a bubbler)

On my tippy-toes I perched, my mother pressing the handle of the fountain for me. My mouth open, the water streamed in front of me, just out of reach.  My tears flowed as fast as the water.  Mom picked me up, but the bulky cast was in the way.  No matter what angle we tried, it seemed I couldn’t get my mouth any closer.

I’m sure Mom found a cup so I could quench my thirst, but both she and I knew that it wasn’t the point of a bubbler.  Half the fun of bubblers are the uniqueness of the experience. 

And so we approach our writing in unusual ways to provide a unique experience for the reader – – and the writer.  If at first it doesn’t work one way, we try another.  Another voice, another place to begin, another conflict or character quirk. We may get frustrated along our journey, but at some point, we’ll either find the ah-ha moment and rejoice, or move on to another project.  Sometimes it just takes time to wait and find the place within yourself to discover that ah-ha moment.

May you always find the ah-ha moment in your work and if you don’t, at least learn something in each and every journey.  I think the reason I remember the bubbler incident is I learned a lesson that day.   Sometimes you don’t get what you want right away.  After the cast came off, there was the joy of many bubblers for me. 

May you have a joyful bubbler kind of writing day. 

Using Your Past to Inspire Your Writing

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I’d like to delve into my own past and use items from them to become stories, poems and maybe a memoir. What can I use to jog my memory?

Open up scrapbooks and photo albums. Use these items and photos to recall your past.

Legacy, by Linda Spence, has many questions which will help you recall events.

Besides chronological remembrances, which might get you to think too much like an autobiography rather than a memoir, remember those instances that inspired emotion.

1. When were some times you cried? Experienced loss and death?

2. What were some of the happiest periods of your life? What motivated those feelings?

3. Did you have any “ah-ha” moments of epiphany? How did they change direction in thoughts, words or action?

4. What were some of the most influential people in your life? Don’t talk general terms. Remember the most specific, tiny details you can. Only through the small, specific, sensual particulars can we approach the universal.