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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Friday, May 25, 2012


As we’ve discussed before memories are not always measurable according to facts. Our perceptions change with our emotional focus and we can often re-write them. Like a public eulogy or obituary we hone in on particular details and choose to keep them as our remembrance.

However the reality still exists and can break through to shatter our illusions. What we see as narrative shatters into splintered particles that lack purpose or direction.

In the movie Tree of Life, the story examines the conflicting memories of one son to his father. Sometimes his reactions appear to be shared with his brothers and at other times in complete contrast. Often the father showed extreme restraint towards this son’s emotional journey but then inexplicably over-reacted towards apparent surface issues.

A friend noted that, “The extended focus on beautiful imagery was initially arresting but then became expected and eventually laborious. I wanted the narrative to be more robust to stand up to the really significant and mesmerizing imagery in order to tie it all together in a cohesive way.”

Perhaps the movie’s intent was to leave the viewer to make their own connections and opinions, but instead left out too many real facts to engage that conversation. When we write memories into our own memoirs, or for our fictional characters, we need to both have an understanding of the root and why. Only then can we share honestly—especially when we bury parts of the story.

Journal Prompt:
Take an incident from your character’s past—perhaps childhood—and write it up from two opposite emotional perceptions. Then blend the two into your character’s memory. Can a viewer or reader tell which is the reality? If not, revise.

For example, a child remembers with fondness a special day at the fair with her father who soon after deserted the family. In reality, the father drank heavily and repeatedly put her in danger that day.

Share: What memory does your character refuse to see in its true light? Why?

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