Friday, May 06, 2011

Where the past meets the present


I study my favorite authors’ works.

I’m one of those people who underline in the books I own, trying to find a pattern in the style to how the book comes together.

I’ve been doing that this week. And I’ve found something.

Much of what I admire in my writers is their depth of layers and where they take their characters.

Deep into their head.

Memories filled with details that mingle with their thoughts and actions in the present.

Today I read where the character collected Bazooka bubblegum wrappers to order glasses that she would let her see through people and items. Fast forward, she remembered this childhood detail when she wished for that same ability in her current relationship.

Yeah, I love those snippets because they shoot me back into my own memories. Like the time I found a fifty cent piece frozen in a snow bank in my neighbor’s front yard. I saved that coin in my glass bear bank, pulling it out and feeling the cool metal in my hand.
 
For me, the coin was a gift, a promise that God would provide.

Our childhood memories and beliefs often stick with us, shaping us into who we are today.

 I haven’t found any fifty cent pieces lately in any snow banks but I have been blessed in many other ways.

What memories still play a huge part in your life today?

44 comments:

Jessica R. Patch said...

When I was a girl, my best friend and I would go around our small farming town, and "sleuth." Our big imaginations conjured up all sorts of crazy ideas. One time in particular, we picked the lock to my aunt's trailer and rummaged through her drawers, certain she had a boyfriend. She was married at the time. We didn't find any evidence, but her cat did jump on my shoulder and scratch me. I have a character that constantly sees things that aren't there and she has a fear of cats. :)

Heather Sunseri said...

Oh, I have all sorts of childhood adventures that play into who I am today - as a persona and as a writer. I'm always hoping and wondering if my children are experiencing as much fun/adventure as I did.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm attached to a lot of scents b/c of memory. Lipstuck tubes remind me of my mom. Dirt reminds me of making mudpies w/ my sisters. Skunk cabbage of when my older sister and I thought we were saving the stream by whacking most of it down.

Happy Mother's Day!
~ Wendy

Kathryn Magendie said...

I can't smell Sweet Olive without being catapulted back to childhood summers playing and playing and ever playing!

Karen Lange said...

Memories of my Mom. She passed away last year but will always live on in our hearts. Her legacy lives on through her daughters.
Happy Mother's Day, Terri!
Blessings,
Karen

Susan said...

Hi Terri....So many parts of my childhood remain with me....smells of lilacs, cigars, apple pie baking, peonies, and iris in the spring.

My parents and their values of hard work, family, and serving God are with me always.

My love of dolls and miniatures, flowers, and music----all began in childhood.

Thanks for the question! Have a super day. Susan

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, my, a very negative one just popped into my head. Hunting for a better one to share...oh, got one...singing with my sisters on the steps into a new recorder we got. Such fun, carefree, times!

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Underlying or highlighting different stylistic patterns in a novel is really interesting. I've never thought of that. Truth is, I'm so precious about my books that I don't think I'd want them to get marked.

But it's definitely a good way of keeping the things that you admire jumping out at you.

Susan Panzica - EternityCafe said...

Few of my childhood memories were happy ones. Both good and bad memories play into who I am today. A scent, a fleeting image, a certain word, all bring rise up emotions and recall memories of times gone by.

Happy Mother's Day, Terri!
Blessings,
Susan

ps - traveling to FL later this month, but sadly I don't think I'll be in your area. I'll be near Boca Raton visiting my ailing dad.

Deborah said...

hehe...I remember those bubble gum wrappers and x-ray glasses!
This post couldn't have come at a better time! I've just started a project, and drawing on my childhood memories is something I hadn't thought of, but is what I need to do.
You already know that my son, Justin, makes short videos...well, this summer he wants to do a full movie with his friends, and guess who gets to write the screen play!? It's a good thing I grew up with 5 brothers, as the main characters of this movie will be teen boys. Still...I've never attempted anything like this, so don't be surprised if I come back here saying...Someone please help me write dialogue!!

Keli Gwyn said...

My trip down Memory Lane includes playing jacks, hopscotch, and Chinese jump rope; going the the library and checking out Nancy Drew, Little House, and Bobbsey Twins books; and riding my bike to the tiny store nearby that sold penny candy, where I bought licorice ropes, jawbreakers, and Sixlets.

Nancy said...

I have lots of memories and many of them still play in my actions and thinking.

I used to save money in a piggy bank, too. This was the kind you had to use a nail file to empty. I was a regular Silas Marner. I still have some of the same tendencies as I refuse to spend big money on clothes and things if I can help it.

Nehha N Josshi said...

We have lived in different cities throughout these years. So apart from the people, I have a certain fondness for every city I lived in and every house I spent my childhood in.

Julie Gillies said...

I have memories of diving off of a raft anchored in the middle of a lake, swimming away the lazy days of summer. That, and the ground-bologna sandwiches my Gram used to make when we picnicked out in her back yard during the summer.

Good thoughts for good writing, Terri!

Carol J. Garvin said...

Memories enrich our lives so much. They're entwined with the present because who we are today is a result of all our past experiences. One of my childhood memories is of sitting on the floor in a secluded corner of my grandparents' livingroom, at one end of the couch where a glass-doored bookcase was built in beside the fireplace. In my little cubbyhole I devoured books while my parents visited in the kitchen and thought I was listening to the Sunday afternoon radio programs, like "The Shadow", "Amos and Andy" and "Our Miss Brooks". I recall skimming through adult books I probably wasn't meant to be reading! Oh, the memories! :)

Katie Ganshert said...

Memories I have of me and my best friend in middle school. We laughed ALL the time.

Deb Shucka said...

It's cool to read this right now especially. I'm taking a class in which this week's lesson is on details and how they convey much more than just the immediate meaning. Like those childhood things that stand for so much more than just a found coin, or a patch of wild strawberries or a gentle touch.

Julie Jarnagin said...

My dad farmed and ranched. Some of my favorite memories involve the cotton up and down the sides of the country roads, the smell of his dusty pick-up truck, and the day he brought home a pony with a big bow around its neck. My writing definitely reflects my childhood in a small farming community.

Melissa Marsh said...

They mostly revolve around my family. We are very close-knit and some of my best memories come from the time I've spent with them.

Shelley L. Snyder said...

Every now and then, I remember every Sunday watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, and those old Disney movies of the 70s with my Dad. I'm sure my Mom and brother watched too, but these seemed to be shows my Dad used to like to watch, that's why I remember him watching them.

Loree Huebner said...

Loved going to the lake in the summer. I can remember sitting on the dock at night, the smell of the lake, frogs croaking, lightning in the distance...and a low roll of thunder. Every now and then, a splash of a feeding bass in the reeds...Wish I was there now.

Sally said...

My home, growing up, was filled with laughter and I keep that going today. Laughter can carry you through many a tough time and it makes your home a place people want to be.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I have a fondness for all the houses we live in. And every time I travel I cherish all those memories.

Sassy Granny ... said...

I dare not begin lest I never stop! My heart is chocked full of musings; and among them are some fabulous childhood memories. I go there to that distant place often, realizing time travel is possible if one but closes their eyes ...

ginny said...

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TERRI! HOPE YOUR DAY IS BLESSED, PEACEFUL, AND FULL OF SURPRISES!

Analisa said...

Funny. Just Friday I was staring at the ground at a patch of clovers. I can rememeber sitting in the grass as a high school teen. The boy I loved had moved away. I was heartbroken. I said if I find a four leaf clover he will call. I looked all the time for that clover....at 52 I smiled down at the patch of clover at my feet. Happy I don't live by luck anymore, but by faith instead.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, my. So many. Going to the beach with my cousins. Picking pansies in my grandmother's front flower bed, then floating them in a bowl on the dining table. My daddy's funeral when I was ten. The Mother's Day I was baptized. Breaking my arm by falling off a skinnny skateboard...

Thanks for asking! What a cool post.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's a great memory! I remember taking long Sunday drive to the shore with my parents--just to have dinner. The drive was a killer but the food and view was oh so worth it!

Tana Adams said...

I remember long hot summers when all of my friends were out of town and I was left to read the lazy days away from the comfort of my backyard. =)

Margo Berendsen said...

Memories are so powerful! And why some stick with me, I just can't fathom, just small seemingly random things, like running in the park with a friend 20 years ago, realizing that someday our paths would separate...

I love those memories blended in the present in stories, too. You should list some of the books you've been reading. I'd love to see that list.

Jill said...

Oh, my goodness, my grandma's cabin in Big Bear, CA! It smelled so nice, so piny and woodsy, and it was right by a park. The upstairs was like a shipshape cabin. And the whole house always smelled like coffee. I could go on and on. ;)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Love layers in characters. Pile 'em deep. ;)

Janet, said...

I have memories of sitting on the front porch with my grandma, and thinking back I wish I had asked her about her past. I knew her as 'grandma' and never knew nothing about her as Lucy, the person she used to be before she became a grandma. I now write stories about how I imagined her life was when she was young.

Lydia K said...

I love that detail about you and the fifty cent piece. Yes, those are the things that I'll remember from a book for a long time.

Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, good points. Sounds like that author did a great job of weaving in backstory.
When I sit outside, I remember sitting outside as a girl with my dog Jip. Doing nothing really, just absorbing nature and stuff. I loved it. :-)

Stacy Henrie said...

I love when authors employ memories like that because then it makes these fictious characters seem like real people.

Cheryl Klarich said...

Talk about employing the senses! Wonderful post; you really got us thinking, Terri!

I tend to let the negative memories provoke anxiety which snuffs out the happy ones- or as least smudges them... I want to let the Holy Spirit heal that.

Thank you Terri. This really helped me. :)

KelliGirl said...

Terri,
I admire your dedication and passion to delve deeper into the whats and hows of good fiction writing. I admire anyone who can write lifelike dialogue, scenes and characters.

I certainly have memories from childhood, but they're not what inspire my writings. Maybe this is one reason I would be a terrible fiction writer!

Keep at it sister! You're doing a great job.

Blessings and prayers,
Kelli

Stephanie Faris said...

That would be a great little snippet to include in one of your books. A character-builder.

Lynn said...

I must agree that what seems only as a simple detail such as finding a coin in a snow bank, is what can make the largest impact on creating rounded, memorable characters. And the Bazooka gum sounds familiar. Maybe I have read the book you are studying??

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

My memories often crop up in my blog posts. I recently did one called, "Waxed Lips." A tasty new toothpaste reminded me of them.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I think it is these little details that really stick with us, because they do create a memory bridge back to our own experiences. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Nehha said...

My childhood memories!

Ann Best said...

There were so many memories to sort through when I wrote my memoir. There are still more to write about--next about my relationship with my younger brother who passed away a few months ago. He was only 62. My sister died a year earlier at age 66. I'm the oldest, and the only one left. I'm now the keeper of the memories. I remember with my sister riding our bicycles around the city and looking for discarded Popsicle wrappers. You could mail them to some address and get a "trinket" that we thought was awesome in the mail. Fun times to remember.
Ann Best, Memoir Author