One day when my son was still in primary school, I had occasion to yell at him. “Why? Why on earth did you do that?”
He dropped his lip and looked so forlorn. “Dad’s always telling us what he did as a boy. I want to have memories too.”
Needless to say, my son went on to make many memories and grew into a fine young man in spite of them.
We all have memories and for creative writers these come to the fore in our work whether we recognise them or not. We even latch on to other people’s memories in some form or another. My grandfather told wonderful stories of his school days. I must rely on my own memory of what he said, but the nuances are missing. If only I’d written them all down.
I draw on my memories and write for young adults who are creating their own.
I couldn’t write a poem about a special friend while she lived, but had no trouble writing one as a eulogy from my vivid memory of her. The Scarf.
My husband and I bred beef cattle for many years. Memories of farm life naturally gave me my short story, Billy the Bonsai Bull.
I grew up in the wheat belt and remember the long line of trucks waiting to unload their grain at the silos opposite our house at harvest time. I also remember when a friend’s father was crushed under his tractor. Both of these memories found their way into my fictional story, Yellow Storm. When my friend and I were playing in a paddock where her father was a share farmer, we saw a black and yellow striped snake coiled between the rocks we were sitting on. I often call on the memory of that fear-filled moment to create tension in a story.
Holidaying at my grandparents’ house, set on a high cliff along the coast, I filled my head with unforgettable images of the sea, the sky, small islands and vast horizon. Something had to come of those memories; mostly stories written and lost in childhood, but there is one, Of Actors and Action, I’ve submitted to my publisher and am crossing fingers and toes in anticipation.
Whenever I travel, I bring home loads of memories. Nowadays they are captured on camera for easy recall; great for settings and events. This was invaluable for my YA novel, The Unhewn Stone. I also brought home email addresses and contacted my new friends in Switzerland whenever my memory betrayed me and I needed confirmation or extra information.
It’s easy to remember embarrassing moments. That awful feeling involves more than blushing. For me it’s an internal shudder of shame. I freeze, my eyes dart from side to side. I try to turn off but the brain won’t let me. So, I shrug or giggle to hide my discomfort, but that doesn’t quite compensate. You know the feeling – comes handy when you want to use it to inhibit a character.
The same use of memory works with confusion, love, claustrophobia, and all the emotions we carry around, especially pride. I had plenty of personal memories to draw on when I needed to show pride in my Swiss hero Stefan, in The Unhewn Stone. I know what it’s like to be ignored when I’ve really achieved something special and deserve to be validated. It feels like this:
At the foot of the stairs, Stefan wanted to laugh out loud, to sing like a blue jay, to fly. He whistled, jumped and clicked his heels in the air to claim victory. He waited for compliments. None came. Everyone in the hall ignored him. They doused his exhilaration like fire-sticks plunged into water. It hurt that this family disregarded his achievement as though it didn't matter and he didn't exist.
They were far too proud, especially Lord Gessler. With that elegant strut and the
tall yellow feather sprouting from his helmet, he resembled a rooster.
Oh yes, as you can see, I’ve also experienced ‘sour grapes’.
Can you imagine my delight when I read an article about scientists discovering an ancestral memory gene in our DNA? hehehe. I jumped on that one; added my passion for F1 motor racing and the sci-fi short story Happiness Guaranteed came to life.
I also gather other peoples memories for Calamity’s Corner a monthly ezine designed for readers, writers, movie buffs and travellers at leisure.
My books are available from the MuseItUp Bookstore, Amazon, Smashwords and the other online bookstores.Do you have strong memories you draw on repeatedly?