Posts Tagged ‘Objects Help Memories’

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.

Hot Button Memories

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

While choosing fresh vegetables at a farmer’s market, I wandered upon an unusual jewelry display.  A woman had fashioned bracelets and rings out of old buttons that acted as a door to decades in the past. 

“Wow!  I can see this on a 1940s coat,” I said, examining a large green button. 

The woman at the booth pointed to a pink button on a bracelet that jangled at her wrist.  “I remember the exact housedress my mother wore,” she said. 

Just the other day when I rummaged around in my closet I came upon a box of buttons my mother had given us. When my son was little he loved playing with those buttons.  Now it was my turn to treasure them.  “If I gave you some buttons will you make me. . .”

“Sure!  People do it all the time,” she answered. 

I couldn’t wait to get home.  Digging out the button box, I felt like a kid, spreading the buttons on the table, sorting them into colors.  Sadly, I didn’t have any concrete memories of the outfits they had been attached to.

Until one flipped over.  There!  Black and white material, still on the button!   An image of my mother wearing the white and black dress she had made, her trim figure standing with her enviable posture next to me in church, with a little black veil on her head.  Or if we had forgotten our veils, we’d attach a piece of Kleenex with a bobby pin.

Of course, that day at the farmers market I walked out of there with a $15 bracelet, and a longing to come back with my very own buttons. 

Writing prompts:

  1. Find an object of your past that brings a flash of an old memory for you.  Write about that memory.  Can you recreate a scene? 
  2. Choose a button or a piece of clothing.  Let it take you back to a memory.  Write about it as if it were today.  Then change it slightly and make it fiction.  What could have happened?  You can star in this yourself, or create a completely new character. 
  3. Interview a member of your family about a special piece of clothing.  What was their favorite thing they EVER wore?  Why?
  4. Write about your favorite piece of clothing.  What makes it special?  Using details, describe what it looks like and how it makes you feel when you wear it.