Monday, March 4, 2013

Motivational Monday


GOOD WRITING IS REMEMBERING DETAIL.
MOST PEOPLE WANT TO FORGET.
DON'T FORGET THINGS THAT WERE PAINFUL 
OR EMBARRASSING OR SILLY.
TURN THEM INTO A STORY THAT TELLS THE TRUTH.
(Paula Danziger)

When I was little, I broke my collar bone by falling out of bed. What I remember from that time is laying across my grandmother's lap in the backseat of the station wagon as my parents drove us to the hospital. I stared up and out of the window at all the hazy halos of the streetlights in the dark sky. I was scared, but I felt safe at the same time. Ensconced yet vulnerable.

A character of mine might never break a bone or ride in a station wagon or ever see city street lights. But will she feel afraid while still feeling protected? Will her skin ever stick to a car's vinyl seat? Will she grow up wanting to wear the same scent her grandmother wore, bringing the long gone woman to life in the present? Maybe.  

Your fear of heights can become a character's terror of dogs. Your painful divorce can become a character's determination to never feel loss or to feel lonely again. Your mortifying pants-wetting moment in front of an entire school assembly can become...well, actually, that might make a good story on its own... 

What emotions can you kidnap from your own past and release into your stories, your poems, your photographs, your art? 

18 comments:

Simon Kewin said...

Great advice. Making use of those telling little details and moments can really make a piece of writing effective.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Simon - it took me awhile to realize it wasn't so much about using the action/incident in my work but using the emotion it inspired instead.

M.J. Fifield said...

I've done this a lot. Any time emotion's feeling too overwhelming or something along those lines, I just funnel it into a scene or two.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

MJ - it's especially good to do when it's more of a negative emotion, too, one of those that if you let it loose is just going to cause an unnecessary problem or hurt feelings etc.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not always fun to remember, but those moments can add a new depth to what our characters feel.

Julie Flanders said...

This is such a great point. And I'm sorry to read about your collar-bone experience! I can imagine how scary that must have been. I've only had one broken bone - broke my arm as an adult, and that was bad enough. Can't imagine how bad this would be for a little kid.

Had to laugh about the pants-wetting moment LOL. I don't have that memory, thank goodness, but I did fall flat on my face on stage during the school play. My first and last attempt at acting! :D

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Alex - definitely!

Julie - that broken bone was it for me, too (knock wood!) I think at some point you've got to give a character the emotions you felt when you fell during the play...maybe give you some closure... :)

Jillian Schmidt said...

Beautiful post and a great reminder. I unfortunately have lots of broken bones and other injuries to draw from when my characters go through physical pain, but I'm working on keying into emotional memories more, including those uncomfortable ones I'd rather forget!

Tara Tyler said...

use the pain & emotions & senses! great advice!
and cathartic too!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Jillian - thank you! I think the emotional memories we use in our writing can really give our characters depth and complexity.

Tara - sometimes I'll just blurt all the sad or negative stuff I'm going through down on the page and then maybe give it all to a character. That sounds kind of cruel now that I think about it... :)

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I think that some of the most beautiful thigns we write come from our own stories and experiences.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

OE - absolutely! Even if others don't know the true source of what's on the page. :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

I have to admit, there is something of me in almost every character I have ever written about - a feeling, a fear, a mannerism, or in one case a conversation I had with someone. I can't help it, and I can't stop it!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Annalisa - don't stop, keep going! :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

For me its mostly humour from moments in life. Great post, good writing exercise :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Charmaine - that's a great point! I sometimes gets sucked into more of the dark stuff but there's definitely some humor there, too, if I just look for it. :)

Anonymous said...

That's the stuff -- the "realer" we can make our writing, the more it will appeal to our readers. My own fears often crop up in my horror stories, and I hope that makes them memorable (at least for an hour or two).

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Milo - a lot of my dark and scary stories are based on my own fears, too.