Memories are an amazing resource for writers, if a little underused.
Writers don’t always feel confident enough with their memories, since not all of them are pleasant, yet such recollections can have a noticeable effect on the narrative in a number of ways.
Writers love to write about what they know, simply because the knowledge allows them to share that experience with the reader. A writer’s experiences not only underpin background information with a sense of realism, but it can also enhance the themes within the story.
Why use our memories?
Memories are a deep well of ideas and information. They provide information we would normally have no knowledge about, and of course, they are very individual. But memories can be called upon because of their varied nature - they can be good, bad, painful, fun, joyous, informative...and everything else in between. Most of all, they can provide any narrative with plenty of support that may not be possibly found in a library or via the internet.
Think of the main themes that run through most novels – pain, betrayal, deceit, loss, hatred, love...we all have a pool of emotions to help embellish a particular scene because most of us will have experienced pain in its various forms, betrayal of some kind, deceit in one form or another, hatred of something or someone or love of something or someone. We can relate to the emotions associated with these themes because we may have experienced them, therefore it’s much easier to help the reader relate to the story and the characters in much the same way.
Using memories also works well with the background to a story, too. If a writer has worked in a particular field or has experience of a certain profession, this can help provide solid detail, be it a medic, a journalist, a firefighter, a secretary or even a full time parent. Many writers are well travelled and can use their knowledge of places in their writing, which doesn’t have to be on a huge scale. It can be the smallest things that we remember that make a specific scene stand out, such as the distinct scent of the ocean, the sounds of a thunderstorm, the eeriness of a forest, or other stimuli such as colours or sounds.
The devil is in the detail, as they say. The little details count in fiction. It’s a great way of enhancing description of narrative or even dialogue.
Why Do Memories Work?
As writers, if we can think back to how we felt at a particular time, the emotions associated with it, and if we can translate those to the narrative, it helps bring the story closer to your reader, it makes it real for them. If they feel the pain, the betrayal, or the deceit, or if they feel the emotion of loss, or hatred or love, then we have done our job – we have drawn them in and played their emotions. We have manipulated them, and writing is all about manipulation.
Using the vast bank of memories we possess can be a great tool. There will always be a scene that requires us to elicit empathy and feeling or that tangible strand that connects you to your reader. And that’s what we ultimately want – to be able to move the reader, and we do that by using emotion.
Emotion is the quickest, most direct route to a reader’s heart. Emotion is a universal sentiment – we all experience it. Emotions play an important part in the human psyche, so those strong, powerful sensations will always find common ground.
If you can use your memories, do so. Memories make for a much better story where emotions are concerned.
Relate to the reader – create immediacy and a connection to the reader through emotion, because they will have experienced the same things your main character are going through. Various emotions enhance the narrative in a powerful way, on many different levels. If you are an incredibly jealous person and one of your characters has this problem, then give them that added dimension and show the reader what that feels like.
Realism helps to inject a sense of authenticity into the narrative.
Enhance the narrative with the kind of information that readers wouldn’t necessarily know, using your own recollections of places and people and events. Details always matter, in small doses, the kind of details that you can call upon.
Background information is a useful backdrop and memories help provide a solid background.
Make the most of the varied associations from your memories. Trust them – they can help to provide your descriptions with an emotional punch.
Next week: Creating lasting images.