I’ve reached the age where people have started to make TV shows about my childhood and teen years (and yes, I know I should be watching Stranger Things; I just haven’t got to it yet…)
It got me thinking about how we capture not just a place but a time as well.
Do an image search for the place you grew up in a year from your childhood. Write a story set in that town/street.
I didn’t search for the place I grew up but for the part of town my grandparents lived in. (Govan, 1976, when I was really too young to remember it, to ensure it would look as foreign to me as possible).
Part of me thought I might find the exact street I used to walk along with my Gran to get bread rolls for the obligatory after-church bacon rolls. We’d get them from the newsagent’s — the only shop open on a Sunday morning in Glasgow. I didn’t find that street, but I found one nearby, that felt familiar enough.
- Really look at the picture. What do you remember? What didn’t survive in your memory?
- Does it look idyllic or more run-down than it is in your memory?
- What do you see in the picture that a stranger wouldn’t notice? What kinds of stories does it suggest?
- In my picture I see the Tennant’s Lager sign outside the Rob Roy bar, and the fact that the doorway on the corner is marked ‘public bar’, but I know that what that really means is ‘men only’. (There’s a good chance my own grandfather is in there, now that I think about it, and what a thought that is. My lovely Granda, alive and well, and chewing on his pipe behind the yellow facade in this picture? There’s some emotion I can use in a story!)
- Look at the shop-fronts, the road signs, the aged cars, whatever is in your picture that speaks of the era.
- Maybe your picture has a fresh new housing development with saplings in the front yards and a single car in each driveway. What does that neighborhood look like now? What would today’s stranger never know about life on that street when you lived there?
- Pick a moment and allow two characters to interact. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering, because the third character in this story is going to be your setting. Do everything you can to capture the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of life in that moment.
- Did everyone still smoke? Was the air quieter because nobody was running an air-conditioner? Did everyone barbecue on a Saturday afternoon? Were the buses more noxious? Was there more litter? Less? Why do the windows look different?
- Allow your two characters to interact for a moment, perhaps foreshadow the changes coming to the neighborhood, perhaps grousing about a change that they’ve already seen.
- Short stories revolve around a single moment. Go to town with that today—literally! Your town. Paint me a picture of a moment in the life of your childhood home.
If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.
Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!