Forgettable Memory

Not all memories are good ones. All of us can recall at least one incident that embarrassed us, humiliated us or angered us. Or maybe it was something we did that we wish we never had.

Think of the story this could become! Fill in with sensory details and it becomes rich and full of life.

Your task is first to make a list of five events that you wish had never happened. Then choose the one which would be the easiest for you to write about.

When you write, embellish with dialogue and details. There must be tension, so bring in a person that enriches the telling.

Have fun with this one.

Writing From Experience

Another technique to use when you can’t think of a story to tell, is to write from a specific incident in your life.

For example, write about the time you were betrayed by another. This could have taken place when you were a child, or when you were in high school, or even as an older adult. You want to choose something that had an impact on who you are today.

If you are not writing about yourself, but rather a character in your story, choose an occurrence in her life that would have a comparable impact.

Your task is to first create a list of events that you might be able to write about. For example:

  1. Your first experience in deep water.
  2. The first time someone asked you out and the date that followed.
  3. Your first pet. This can be your initial reaction to it, your feelings over time, how devastating it was when it died.
  4. The time when you met someone who later became important in your life.

Once you have created your list, or working from the one above, write the story. Try to include as many details as you can, making sure that you tickle the senses. If you are writing about yourself, but you really wanted to use the details in a fictional story, then rewrite those parts that change the point of view.

Have fun with this one.

A Time When You Had no Voice

Many of our memories come from times that hurt us or made us cry. Not having a voice is one. Don’t think about when laryngitis stole your voice, but when someone chided you or told you to be quiet.

The first time might have been when you were quite young. For example, a teacher called on you to answer a question and then didn’t like your response. How did that make you feel?

Maybe it occurred at home. You used words that angered your parent and were disciplined in response. What was your reaction? Did you quit talking? Or continue to speak your mind even though it caused more criticism to come your way?

Your task is to describe that time in your life when you were silenced, for whatever reason. Place yourself in the setting, then describe it in such a way that your readers will know where you are and what you are doing.

You can write from your memories or create a scenario when something similar happened to your protagonist. The important thing is to evoke those emotions that arose. The reader needs to feel the pain, the hurt, the frustration, the anger.

Reread. If those feelings do not come forth, then add details to enhance the experience.

Have fun with this one.

One Day to Live Again

If given an opportunity, which day in your life would you choose to relive?

Is there a time that you said or did something that you regret? If so, what would you do differently? How would this change the outcome?

We all do things that later cause us grief. It might have been a snide comment in response to being treated poorly by a friend or family member. It might have been an act as simple as not dividing the cake into equal portions and giving someone you were angry with the smallest piece. Granted, this is not a huge event, but it speaks to an underlying tension.

Your task is to write from the heart. Recall a situation that, if given a chance, you would do differently. Begin with the scene. Put us in the moment, whether it is a situation at work or an encounter in a coffee shop.

Choose your character. It can be first person or third. If third, keep the character’s actions as close to what really happened as possible.

Put things in motion. Try to recall the things that were said, the emotions, and the reactions.

Think about how you felt after it was over. For how long were you in remorse? Write about that feeling, wishing that it had never happened.

This will not be a fun activity, but one from which you can learn. Your characters say and do things that they should regret.

Good luck with this one!

Heartbreak

All does not go well in every relationship. People date, determine that they like each other, maybe even think it’s love, and then the other person pulls away.

We have all experienced heartbreak at some point in our lives, and so should our characters.

Consider one of your favorite characters, regardless of age. Now put that individual in a romantic relationship.

If the character is young, it could be the devastating loss of a parent due to indifferent. If a teen, the loss of that first love.

How would you write that scene?

Your task is to choose a character that is either one you are currently working with or create a new one. Consider the possible romantic relationships that could ensue.

Narrow the possibilities down to one and write. You must take into account all the emotional turmoil that tears the person apart for it to be considered true heartbreak.

Once you have written the scene, reread and see if the emotions come through. If not, then edit making sure that the scene has emotional viability.

Have fun with this one!

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.