Friday, April 5, 2013

Writer's Update / Writing Craft: Memory and Incident

On the left are the two original stories
that I should be giving more attention to,
while on the right are two fanfiction I wasted
precious time on this week.
Don't you hate it when one day you have a great idea for a story, but you just can't seem to get it out sounding the way you want it and it takes you a whole day with lots of interruption to write a measly couple of thousand words? And then the next day you come up with a not-as-great idea, but still okay, and you manage to pump out almost 6000 words in little more than four uninterrupted hours... Yeah, that happened to me. To put the cherry on top of my disappointment, they were both only fanfictions. Why couldn't it have been some good original work instead?! In other writerly news, no progress has been made to the revisions of KATHERINE in over a month now, I haven't touched my W.I.P WALLS in even longer and I am two books behind on my Goodreads challenges of 24 books read in the year. How are all your goals and revisions and W.I.Ps going?

I'm just about up-to-date as far as sharing my lecture-notes with you all goes. This is what we covered in Writing Craft, week 3:

Memory and Incident

Readings for this week were The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (pages 288-314), The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (pages 13-26) and The Sea by John Banville (pages 3-17).

How do we incorporate isolated examples of observation into what we write? This leads on from the previous lesson about observation and accuracy. The thing is, once something is no longer before us, it is a memory. A common problem with writing about something after-the-fact is that we might write about it too generally.

But imagination is possible because we have a wealth of memories to draw upon and to transform. Just because we are writing from a memory, does not mean we have to be 100% true to that memory. Unless we are being asked to write an autobiography, a memory can be nothing more than the seed of something much, much bigger. Telling a story is a creative process and this is also true when the story we are telling is a memory. Like a game of Chinese whispers: you see something happen and you tell somebody about it later. To make the story seem worth telling, you might unintentionally talk it up or exaggerate, or maybe you really do think it was more story-worthy than what it really was. Either way, say your audience decides to tell somebody else; they're going to tell it differently, using their own interpretation of the event, which might not be 100% accurate to the story you told them, but it is what they remember and it is what comes out through the creative process of retelling a story.

So how do we use memories when we write? We discussed three different ways in our lecture:

1. Using our memories as part of the writer's craft, to add a certain detail to our story: our protagonist is wearing the same sweater as the girl we saw getting off the tram earlier the same day, because that sweater really caught your eye and you remember it and you want your character to have it too.

2. Writers can draw on memory in a broader way, using episodes, settings, atmospheres and situations that can be reworked into our writing. You saw the girl with the sweater trying not to drop her bags while she extracted her mobile phone from her pocket and you decided to get your protagonist to have a similar moment walking home with the groceries.

3. The most direct way of using memory in our writing is to use a memory as a 'performance' in the text, as in when the protagonist retells an event that happened in their childhood.

My second assignment for Writing Craft is using memory as the seed for a fictional story. I've already written a first-draft of this and my tutorial group workshopped it (everyone has to workshop one of their assignments in a tutorial). I'm glad to say I received a lot of positive feedback and my tutor was happy with the way the group as a whole handled the workshop setting.

Have you used memory in one of these ways when writing a story? 

- Bonnee.


  1. Don't sweat the work on the WiP, etc.. I know how frustrating it can be to put stuff on the back burner when you REALLY want to write it, but, you know, school and all. I'm a little slow now, too, have had a really busy week + and haven't been able to get as much done as I'd like.

    Yeah, I've definitely used memory in all three ways. I used a lot of that transformative stuff when I wrote my first one. My memories were a jumping off point for trying to capture particular moods.

    1. University is priority, of course. As much as I'd like to just sit in my corner and write forever... haha :)

      I think using memories to capture particular moods is effective. It's always a good starting point, because it's writing with what you know.

  2. I've found that the can't-write-fast-enough days balance out the ones when the words don't come as easily. And hey, don't knock fanfic -- you're still writing, and you're still growing, and you're still getting your thoughts down. I'm of the opinion that no time spent writing is bad! :)

    1. I think that's a good opinion to be of, I just WISH I'd been writing something original instead. Hopefully my days will find that balance. Thanks Shari :)

  3. Please, Bonnee, don't put pressure on yourself and manage your time wisely. You can put aside the Goodreads challenges. It's no longer that important, because you do a lot of other reading in your courses. You already know that you should focus on your University's courses. You two novels also can wait. You starts writing at such early age, that you can resume writing after the university year is over. This week I met my first Aussie author in person. She had a book event in my city for her best selling debut novel "The Light Between Oceans." Her name is M.L. Stedman and she was born in Western Australia and her novel is set in Western Australia. She's very impressive, speaks well and elegant and .... she decided to start writing at age 40+. She started studying writing and her first novel after more than 10 years of writing is a best seller. So, there's no rush for you to finish your two novel this year. I use memory a little in my first novel as a motivation for the heroine, but usually I don't you the past. My novels are in the present. Be well.

    1. Rest assured, my university studies will remain the priority no matter how much I bemoan my loss of time to write and read freely. I know I can always pick up where I left off at the end of the year. There's months worth of a break between years after all.

      I still haven't been to anyone's book tours! But that's great that you got to meet an Aussie author. I still haven't been to Western Australia yet, though I really want to.

      'My novels are in the present.' That's an interesting piece of food for thought :) Thanks for your comment, as always, Giora!

  4. I love these points you create. I am now relying heavily on my memory to write book 2 since I'm not living in Korea anymore.

    1. That's definitely something you'll have to rely on memory for. I think I will at some point be making a blog post related to living in your setting, because I'm the kind who wants to write about foreign places too.


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