Memories As Inspiration

by limebirddennis

Marcel Proust famously addressed the theme of involuntary memory (precious fragments) in À la recherche du temps perdu; in ‘the episode of the madeleine’ where the taste of tea and cake brings to mind a series of pictures from his childhood.

This morning I was reading Fiction Writer’s Workshop (Josip Novakovich, 1995). One exercise suggested as a source of fiction is to “Write down your first three memories. Can you make a story out of them?”

I decided to have a go and these are the three memories that sprang to mind:

January 1965                                                           Editor’s Note – Aww look at the baby Dennis!

Standing in the street, all wrapped up against the snow.

Sitting in the front of a removal van, seeing the slag run-off from the steelworks at Corby.

The corner shop, Milky Way bars stuck onto ice lolly sticks and then frozen.

The point was to write a story, but, in my usual fashion, my mind went in a different direction and the memories suggested a poem. So here’s the first rough draft…

                                                                                                                                      

Transition

I bite into the chocolate and the smooth creaminess transports me…

Sitting in the van, anything that could be saved piled high in the back.

Feeling grown up, allowed to ride with the workers,

brother and sister following behind.

Warm at last, the snow melting on my plain grey clothes.

Miles travelled in the watery grey light.

I fidget and fret, beginning to worry that the journey will never end.

The driver, old enough to be my grandfather, grins and hands me a chocolate.

“Don’t worry, not far to go.”

I smile shyly, cupping the precious sweet in my hand.

The way is different now,

The straight, wide road has become winding, narrow.

Hedgerows crowd in from both sides,

giant shapes loom in the mist – strange machines…

We come to the top of a hill and I cry out.

The Earth is on fire, the mist glowing red.

It is as if the world is dissolving, consumed by lava from the depths.

The van carries on, leaving hell behind us – but I carry it within me.

I still do…

Our convoy arrives,

halting outside a brick box, indistinguishable from its neighbours.

The workers unload the treasures

and pile them in the cold empty space that is to be our home.

I stand, surrounded by boxes that formerly transported fragrant tea from exotic islands.

Once emptied they will become places of sanctuary,

the metal linings feel safe.

Looking down, I see the sticky mess on my hands;

melted into nothingness,

the prospect of sweetness gone.

                                                                                                                                       

What three memories would you use for inspiration?

What could you see yourself using them for? (Short story, novel, poem, essay etc.)

Feel free to post links to any works inspired by memories.

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17 Comments to “Memories As Inspiration”

  1. Love it! “The Earth is on fire, the mist glowing red.It is as if the world is dissolving, consumed by lava from the depths.” Is such an evocative description. 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment Carrie. For a first draft I’m quite happy with it, but it still needs some work…

  2. You’ve captured so well the small child in a big world feeling – watching wide-eyed as the world moves around you. Nicely done and a cool idea! 🙂

    • Thanks Neeks. I have some ideas to expand on it into the SF realm and send it in for Star*Line Magazine, I’ll let you know when it’s done…

  3. I like your description from a child’s perspective: innocent and yes, wide-eyed.

    My memories tend towards the loss of childhood and a carefree, different time. Nostalgia of sorts.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      That specific exercise was for three earliest memories, but it could easily be used for three school memories, three memories of summer holidays etc. etc.

  4. I don’t often use memories for ideas, because they are often unhappy. But I answered a Plinky prompt with a memory recently: http://diabeticredemption.com/2013/05/22/plinky-prompt-i-know-where-love-is/. I also wrote a short – short story about the same memory. Can you tell it’s a happy one? http://diabeticredemption.com/2012/05/12/fig-tree-dreams/

    • Thanks for the comment. Ҫeşme Beach sounds like a wonderful place and, through your description, I can really get a feel of what it was like. I also loved your short short story, I feel that, with all of your experiences there, you could easily expand on it (I would love to read more). Thanks again, D.

  5. Reblogged this on Sadie Carrieri, romance is it! and commented:
    I love this thought.

  6. The prospect of sweetness gone. I love that.
    One quick one is the memory ( a sound really) of a wooden spoon on a glass bowl, mixing. I think it is my mother making a cake.

    • Thanks for the comment Kate. I don’t have such a memory for sound (for me it is definitely taste) but you did make me think about music. Northern Soul is my brother, punk is Michael Green my cool mate when I was in the scouts, opera is my colleague in the early 90’s who organised trips for us all to ENO and with whom I experienced Pavarotti in the Park (in the rain).

      Music is always with me and intricately bound into my memories.

      P.S. Unfortunately my memories of Mum’s cakes are the ones we called ‘rubber sponges’…

  7. Wonderful post and such a good point to make about memories. In acting, reliance on ’emotional memory’ is very important – so why not in writing? 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Cat. I hadn’t thought about acting but it makes sense, when I read through my stories I do it out loud and ‘act’ it so there is definitely a link there…

  8. I think “story” and “poem” are one and the same, here, Dennis. And it’s really lovely! I especially enjoy the way the narrator himself feels grown-up (riding in front), while the reader is drawn to the childlike qualities.

    Memories are a great source for writing, I agree! Smells are most potent for me, I think. I’ve never done this for my young memories, but I’ve definitely used snippets of memories – sights, smells, sensations – to tell the story of some of my characters. I’ll have to remember to keep this technique in mind when I write again. 🙂

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