Writing Memories for Your Characters

CHaracter Memories
Childhood Memories by Pigarot on DeviantArt

One of the first memories I have of myself is burying a lamb bone in the garden, hoping to grow a Meat Tree. I was two/three years old, loved lamb curry, and meat was scarce in our diet.

While I don’t know if that particular memory would some day make its way into a story, I know quite a few incidents/scenes in my published stories have transformed from memory to page. In doing so, they may have lost some of their circumstantial  truth, but they have gained a fictional truth, and a wider resonance…I’ve been told by readers it made them feel it was them out there, that it brought back memories.

I think most authors use their childhood/growing up/adult memories in their writing. Most fiction borrows from truth. An author is like an hourglass, memories trickle down and become fiction.

But nowadays, I’ve begun to indulge in a new activity: writing memories for my characters. Using exercise from the book “Old Friend From Far Away” by Natalie Goldberg, which is all about writing memoirs, I pretend I’m a character, and then write down his/her memories—sense impressions of an event or a particular moment. Writing character memories helps in two ways: getting into the skin of the character, and also generating new material for my WIP.

Fiction is all about the game of pretend, and I’m quite enjoying this particular game that helps me shape characters and write scenes.

Have you ever tried writing the memories/memoirs of your characters?


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  1. Marian Allen

    I do give my characters memories. Sometimes they just pop out, but sometimes I interview my characters, asking them questions I don’t already know the answers to. I find it’s a great way to bring out the character’s unique voice as well as his or her background and interior life. Good question, as always!

  2. Kelly

    Such a fab idea to create emories as a way of building depth to characters. I’m filing this away to give it a try!

  3. Ross Mannell

    We are the result of experiences. If this is so, our ability to create is also influenced by experiences. For a writer, drawing on memories can help develop characters with a greater touch of reality. I enjoyed reading your post. It touched well on the idea of blending memories and fictional memories to create character memories.

  4. monideepa

    Thanks for sharing this great idea on building imaginary memories. In a couple of my own stories, when an important character needed to have memories very different from my own, I tended to weave into their pasts stories I had heard in friends share.

  5. Ciara Ballintyne

    I’ve never written a memoir for a character, but the memories of my MC are vitally important to the story. I need to show some of them to the reader to help generate empathy for her. Since she’s an assassin, there’s a good chance the reader would have none otherwise. Her memories are the reason she is the way she is and readers need to understand that.

  6. Karina

    What a wonderful exercise on character development, and one I will be incorporating into my own routine. Thank you!
    P.S. I LOVE lamb curry and love the meat tree memory. 🙂

  7. Lynn Hallbrooks

    I’m lucky that my co-author has a gift for creating a character complete with background in no time flat. However, I do get a say in whether I agree with the way the character acts in the story…sometimes.

    Have a great one!

  8. Arlee Bird

    Love the meat tree memory.

    I tend to write about my memories a lot and use them in stories as well. When writing stories I have often had characters recall certain memories. It turns them into real seeming people.

    Tossing It Out