And you know what that means?
Well, several icky things. But what I’m thinking about are–memories. Why? Lots of things happen to us all in August. That’s why.
(Okay, there is no rhyme or reason to August and what I’m going to say. What am I trying to show you here? Yup, we need to have a good reason for everything we write in our novels. They have to pay off–each word. You can’t have filler. Now on to what I really want to write.)
Three short memories
#1 My sister was born in England. I’m not sure how long we lived there but I remember this event in black and white and silver and red.
I was two or three. And pulling my red wagon. Alone. And some bigger kids tried to take the wagon away from me. I showed them the wagon was mine. Turned it over. My dad had painted LYNCH on the bottom of the wagon in silver paint.
“You just did that,” one kid said.
I can’t remember being afraid–just adamant–this was my toy and these bigger people couldn’t have it. Now, all these years later I wonder why my mother and father let me wander outside with the wagon by myself. Thank goodness I didn’t have a newly born baby with me.
#2 We lived in a small cabin on a lake for a few years. It was someone’s summer house–a log cabin–not something people lived in all year round. There were three acres of land–and a couple acres of lake–that went with the place. Plus an old garage and a littler house that had a small front room–and had had maybe a kitchen and a bathroom but I don’t know because the ceiling had collapsed in all that part and I was afraid to explore too far in there because, for sure, without a doubt, there would have been snakes in the rubble.
(This log cabin shows up in a lot of the books I write. And that little cabin-ette? I tried to live there once but was afraid because when night came I couldn’t see what was in that broken-down house with me. I slept in the car.)
#3 I was with my best friend at a church activity when a bunch of guys approached us.
“Your lips,” the one guy said to me, “look so red. Do you have on lipstick?”
“No.” I felt uncomfortable with him standing so close, all those other guys around, listening.
“They are so red. I can’t believe it.” He looked at my best friend. “Your lips make you look like you’re dead.”
Will I forget that–that strange compliment for me, wrapped up with a hateful comment to my friend?
All these memories bring images, burst of feelings. There were a few that I passed on sharing that brought humiliation or sadness or grief.
Whenever I write, I dig into the past and find something I can glean from my old life to change for a brand-new life in one of my books. Each of these incidents above go on–have more to them–become more rounded in my mind. And they lead to other memories. Other feelings. Other ideas.
So here’s a writing exercise for you: Just start writing your bits of life down. Go back to your furthest memory. To that very first one. Even if it’s vague. Poke at it. What comes alive? What do you remember?
Let’s go further with the exercise. What if you do this every morning, before you begin writing? What if you get into your memory and pull it apart? What if you plan thirty minutes each day to sit down with the past? Keep a notebook or a private blog about these memories. There are books tied up in those. (And later, something interesting for your family to read.)
Now start a list. Write everything you can about the memory that you would share with me. In fact, if you want, DO share, here on the blog.
The truth is, with all three of those memories above, I kept out a lot of the details. I’ve held them close. They gave me an odd feeling in my chest, writing those memories. That feeling surfaces often when I go to sad places, or uncomfortable ones. It’s an emotion I use in my writing–and I will use these very emotions this morning when I start working on my novel (after going to the store and picking up a thing or two).
So get to writing your list! Try to have fun!
NOTE: Look for all kinds of memories–not just happy, not only sad. From experience I know I usually only go with the bad–but there was good in my life and I can find it when I concentrate!!!