Drawing on memories in my fiction
When I walk into our basement at a certain time of the morning on a sunny day, I am swept back in time to when my two youngest sons were growing up. It’s the light streaming through those carrot-colored curtains. The whole room is washed in vivid orange. I can almost hear my sons’ voices as they play with their train set or rehearse for a show on the downstairs stage their dad built them. The cacophony of drums, guitar and keyboard comes rushing back to me. Sometimes, I stand there in the doorway, struck by the evocative power of that light streaming through the window.
Then there was the afternoon recently when I heard “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash as I was driving. I was immediately transported back to my younger self, driving a Volkswagen Beetle in Clarksville, Tennessee on my way to a college class. I remembered how that song lifted my spirits.
Sometimes when I say the word "wow," I can actually hear my dad’s voice again, realizing it was something he used to say. Or I fix banana pudding for dessert and one spoonful of that pudding – which is exactly the same as my mother used to make – sweeps me back to the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. I can remember just being able to see over the kitchen counter – that feeling of being a small child, of looking up into my mother’s face.
There are also memories of anger, sadness, frustration or feeling overwhelmed, that sometimes flood my mind as well, triggered by a word, a glance or a smell.
But even those memories, maybe even especially those memories, are a gift for writers. Like everyone, I have a stash of recollections at my disposal that I can draw on to help fill out the characters in my novels. Hopefully, to make them more believable, more sympathetic or unsympathetic, as the case may be.
Wow. I suddenly have a craving for banana pudding.