February 3, 2021 Carol Brennan King
It has been nearly two months since we gathered, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but it was like a family reunion to see your lovely faces, guys – your masculine visages, and catch up.
We did do more than catch up, so I will share a few notes for those of you who could not be with us.
Using your senses: That’s what we talked about in the first hour, as a warm-up exercise to get back into the rhythm of thinking like writers. As you write your story or your scene, think about what you see, smell, feel, hear, and even taste, if there is a tray of cookies waiting in your scene.
- What do you see? Notice the colors, the shapes, the ages of every element that you see. Write it so your reader can see it. For instance: Moira peered through the tiny peephole in the door and recognized her nosy neighbor, still in her tattered chenille robe, but with a cup of coffee in her hand. This was not to be a short visit.
2. What do you smell? For instance: She cracked the door, intending only to send Betty on her way, but Betty’s Evening in Paris preceded her as did the fragrance of burnt coffee with which she led the invasion, pressing her coffee-cup hand through the narrow space, and following it into the house.
3. What do you feel? For instance: Moira stepped backward, holding the thick oaken door for balance as Betty brushed through, her worn robe trailing over Moira’s bare feet, Moira’s house-shoes cast off by the leather chair where she had been poring over yesterday’s writing.
4. What do you hear? For instance: Strains of Bocellli’s lullabyes wanted to be heard, had always served as comforting wallpaper music for Moira, but Betty took charge even of Moira’s space as she had always taken charge of any space she stepped into. “Don’t you want to turn that stuff off? Doesn’t it put you right to sleep? Do you want some coffee? I can run over to my house and get you some.” As if point out what a poor hostess Moira was for not closing off any single sound that would interfere with the important things Betty was about to say.
5. What do you taste? Perhaps by now you can taste the burned coffee that wafted in with Betty, but what about this? “Oh dear, I can tell you were cooking Italian last night. Don’t you just hate it the way garlic stinks every single thing up and just won’t go away unless you use some good flowery air freshener?”
Now maybe these examples might be a bit exaggerated, but see what you can do with the current manuscript you are working on, so that your reader really has a sense of the scene.
In both classes we did some writing to prompts before we read the work we had brought to class. Prompts can be useful tools to open up our minds, to help us wade through all that is in there, and perhaps look at it a new way. Or write it in a new way. If you would like me to post prompts here, I would be glad to. Just let me know. For today, if you would like a prompt, you could choose from these:
Boots, school lunch, first cup of coffee – or anything else that you had not tasted before, first job you got paid for.
And in Nonfiction/Memoir, we talked about the benefits of being in a class, as a community of writers.
- There is the benefit of accountability to write something, even one good page. You never have to stop at one good page, and I invite you to write on if you are “on a roll.”
- The second benefit is that you have permission, because you are a writer involved in a writing community, to write. It is a significant part of who you are.
- The third benefit we talked about is the instruction you get to help you on your way. For those of you who have been in this community for more than a year, you may hear some repeated material. But that is not a bad thing. I think if material is repeated, it must be because someone in our writing family needs that refreshing nudge.
A key thought that should influence us as we write is that the role of the memoir is to have one heart speak to another heart.
Yes, we are writing to preserve our stories, but we are also writing to reach our readers, sometimes to entertain, sometimes to encourage, sometimes to heal, or show the reader he or she is not alone in their journey. So as you write, every once in a while, use your imagination to see your reader holding your pages in anticipation.