Another Look at the Past

Storytellers and memoir writers have to keep in mind that telling what happened in the past can affect how a person looks at the present.

One effective way of detailing the past is through the form of letter writing.

Address the letter to the main character or to yourself. Begin:

Dear Mattie,

And then write notes that encourage the character to overcome past occurrences, emotional distress or offenses committed against self or others.

For example:

“When you were a little girl, you were stuck between a brother who was worshiped by your mother and a sister who could do no wrong. This put you in a precarious position that was none of your doing. No matter how hard you tried, you could never be as perfect as your brother nor as needy as your sister. You tried to garner your mother’s attention by being shy and retiring.”

And so on.

Do not hold back. Speak about the things that the character/you did that got you in trouble or lead you down the wrong path. About those things that you could not control but that shaped who you later became. About those things that you did well for which you earned promotions, degrees, letters of accomplishment.

Do not try to cover the entire life in one letter, but rather construct a series of letters as information pops into your head.

After you have written a letter, think about how you can turn the details into a story. Construct likely dialogue and interpersonal interactions that might have happened. Do not worry about being exact as that will hold you back.

Your task is to write at least one letter either to yourself or to a main character. Make it at least 4 paragraphs long. Touch on emotional issues that motivated you/your character to react. When you are finished, do not put the letter in your story. Turn it into a series of scenes, including dialogue, that are interesting to read.

Have fun with this one!

Good luck.

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