It’s a tantalizing idea, writing our most passionate memories down on the page. Maybe we’ve been wronged and would like to go about finding justice the old fashioned way, with a published book and characters that resemble someone a little too closely. Or maybe we’re madly in love and want to give eternal life to our lover.
We have this unending wealth of knowledge sitting behind our skulls and it’s, for the most part, untapped. But we shouldn’t ever use our memories. We shouldn’t use that great, perfectly believable plot we’ve already lived.
Aside from the gray area of morality, it doesn’t do us any favors in the long run. If we rely on our memories for one story, we’ll rely on them for others. Before you realize it, you’re a writer who writes a little too close to home or worse, writes the same thing over and over.
That isn’t what any of us want.
Well, if we can’t use the memories we have, what’s the point of drawing on personal experience at all?
The point is, our audience can tell if a story is fabricated without authentic understanding, replicated with clouded emotions, or crafted with a firm grasp of the human experience. If it’s the latter, the writer hardly has to say anything at all to get their point across.
We owe it to our audience to create a believable story. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the sequence of events are plausible. It means that our story has spirit, emotion. The connections between characters are genuine and, if placed in our own lives, we can understand. We are trying to cast a reflection in the eyes of our readers. They should be able to see themselves in our work.
At least, that’s how I view it.
Inserting memories doesn’t accomplish that. All it does is give us a platform for our own petty emotions. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes the cause is questionable.
So as you go forward in your writing, ask yourself this:
How can I extract the emotions of this memory without bringing the scene and characters with it?
We don’t need the characters in our memories (boyfriend, friend, wife, mother, etc) and we don’t need the scene (high school science class, gym, side of the road, etc) to be able to pull the emotions out and insert them into a different place with a different set of characters.
Give it a go!