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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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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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20 Comments

  • Marian Allen says:

    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!

  • Kelly says:

    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!

  • I love the visual of an hourglass. You are so talented that I just bought your book! I can’t wait to read it :0)
    -Elisa

  • I give them detailed backgrounds, so memories of those times resurface later in the story.
    You really should use the meat tree story!

  • Ross Mannell says:

    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.

  • Damyanti says:

    You’re welcome, Moni. I guess all of us writers use it, only not consciously. 🙂

  • monideepa says:

    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.

  • Damyanti says:

    Being a character for some time is great practice, Mary :). Thanks for dropping by to comment!

  • MPax says:

    What a great exercise. Very creative. Must bring a lot of insights to you on your characters.

  • 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.

  • Karina says:

    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. 🙂

  • 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!

  • Arlee Bird says:

    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.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks…real-seeming people, yes. For me, (unfortunately) they Are real people, screaming for attention, lol.

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