Just because something happened in real life, doesn’t make it a good story. At a writers’ conference I heard agents sigh every time someone said they were writing a memoir. “Why not turn it into a fictional story?” one said, brightly, with barely disguised overtones of desperation.
Today we’re going to try to do that. Instead of trying to capture something exactly as you remember it happening, we’re going to give your experience to a character and mine the universal truths (or funnies, or horror) from it.
Write a story inspired by a memory from your own life
- How many different homes have you lived in? What little things do you remember about each? Could they be the spark for a story (think of the connected attics in The Magician’s Nephew or the bricked-up adjoining door in Coraline’s house-turned-apartment-building. Was there anything quirky about a house you lived in? Could it spark a story?
- Who was your crazy neighbor? What do you remember about that lady on your street who always shouted at you when your ball went into her front garden? What stories did you tell about her as kids?
- What was that big trauma that happened in your town when you young? An unexpected death? A fire? You know, the thing you reminisced about for years afterwards (“Remember when we were 10 and there was that huge blackout?”). Think of the movie Stand By Me for the ways you could turn a big event in the lives of a group of kids, into a real story that has implications for your characters.
- What do you remember from when you were five or younger? From 5-10 years old. 10-15? 16-20? 20-30? 30-40? What was life like for someone that age, at that time? What was important to you? Is there a moment when you realized things had changed? When you did something for the first time? The last time?
- Who were the influential people in your life at each age? What were their stories? Were they they people you imagined? (You know how we were all freaked out the first time we saw a teacher outside school? Everyone is more than the sum of our interactions with them. Revisit someone from your past and give them a more rounded story than just your memories of them.)