Sunday, March 14, 2010

How Memories Can Provide Writing Material

By Suzanne Roberts

When you are searching for writing material, think about your childhood. Memories of your youth can supply a myriad of events to be used as topics. What uplifting experiences did you have when you were a child, and what are some of the sad events? List the happenings and think about which ones are the most important in your development as an adult. If you kept a journal or photos, these might help jog your memory.

If you plan to use your memories in a novel consider your goals. Do you want to describe a life that will inspire your reader or, perhaps, illustrate the effects of abuse and neglect?

I try to picture the happening completely, the sights, smells, sounds, my feelings, the unusual qualities of the event. I want to capture the moment and the essence of the people or animals. For example, after my cat, Squeaker, died, I thought about what an unusual but wonderful animal she had been. I wrote the following poem.

Is her vision a hallucination?
Daringly bold or unbalanced?
Images of the unknowable
Waging war on her enemies,
Using her sixth sense to disclose danger,
A courageous crusader.
Her view of life
Fighting fearlessly against the norm,
Resisting the rational,
A regular Joan of Arc
Yet she exists
Cleverly as a cat.

Perhaps it seems strange to compare your cat to Joan of Arc, but to me, the poem captured Squeaker, a cat who showed affection for me but was so opposed to strangers that she frantically hissed at them, viewing them as enemies. To many of my friends, she was an unbalanced scary animal.

Consider the people you loved as a child and how they might inspire the reader. Make a list of their attributes. What made them special to you? How can you convey their essence to the reader?

I have a wealth of memories from my Uncle John and Aunt Bess’s farm, which thrilled me as a child. The farm had acres of land and a pond. Some of my memories include riding a large farm horse when I was eight-years-old; taking a bath in a bucket in the back yard with water pumped from a well; and getting chased by a bull.

Think about the years of your young adulthood. When I was in my early twenties, I was a social worker in the rural Georgia mountains, a job which enabled me to meet men and women who made illegal whiskey, people who seemed to be right out of the pages of James Dickey’s Deliverance, and some very wonderful individuals.

So, when you’re looking for topics, you can find so many happenings from your childhood. Think about your younger years and write!

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