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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Strategy # 8 Hidden Secrets: Family History Cont’d

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Family Heirlooms

What is it—either of value, or funny—catalogue the items.

The one item that my youngest aunt saved for me from this grandmother was a christening gown, made of intricate lace and exquisite needlework. Each child in the family had worn it and I was the last to inherit it. How she came upon such a rich garment from a lower working-class background was a secret that no one knew. But it traveled across the ocean with her and christened her next three children born in her new country.

What heirloom has a secret? Is it dangerous? What damage can it do to present relationships?

Family Reunions

1.     Do you remember? Ask the older generation questions; use tape recorders if possible.
  1. If an artist do some sketches, or get pictures.
  2. If talking about family history while at the reunion is not appropriate then set up appointments either in person or by phone.
  3. If possible—do a group memory of a particular incident.
  4. Ask—how did you get your name?
  5. Family “secrets” Was the person really a scoundrel or just different from the others?

Share:  What reprobate is in your character’s family history? How does she think of him or her?

Read deep, marcy


Thank you for following this workshop. Soon it will be available in a workbook format if you would like to have all 8 Strategies in one place. The launch will be posted on this blog or sign up for my newsletter for other breaking news as well as giveaways. And please let me know if you have any questions that didn’t get covered so I can add them to the workbook.

I hope you will continue to drop by my blog for weekly writing prompts and conversation.

Sincerely Marcy

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Strategy # 8 Hidden Secrets: Family History

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Exercise: 1) Write a letter to a relative in your past. What do you wish you knew about their circumstances or their feelings?

For example: I knew at some point in my life that my paternal grandmother had crossed the Atlantic in 1911 to join her husband. She had three young children under the age of ten. The full concept didn’t connect with me until I saw a ship from that era and the unit she and the children would have occupied. I was stunned at the deprivation, barely more than a narrow bunk, and wished I could know more about her courage to immigrate. All I had of her were a few pictures. (This picture is not of them)

2) Write a letter to a grandchild or great grandchild, niece, nephew in the future. What do you want them to know about their family—what do you feel is so important that it must be remembered?

Learning To Remember

Choose one of the journal suggestions from last week that involved a family event.

A 1. Make a list of what you do remember.
    2. Make a list of what you don’t remember.

B. What is a memory in your life that you keep going back to? Look for one or two sharp details.

Places to look or prepare for your character

photo albums with vignettes/anecdotes
photo album with or without stories, autobiography, biographical sketches.
a memory book either for individuals or whole family
family tree
a record of archives

All of these family memories have the potential to be turned into fictional episodes with secrets.

Exercise: Take a real incident in your own life and adapt the emotional and sensory reactions from the main character’s personality. Try reversing your own reactions. For example if you felt embarrassed at a remark that was made, but laughed at a joke have your character do the opposite.

Share:  What is the key sensory detail to that memory for either you or your character?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Strategy # 8 Hidden Secrets: Reflective Journal

 Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Begin building a sensory journal for your main characters to give you fuel throughout the series. Tie it to the personal memories—both trauma and joy—and fix the location whenever relevant. Focus the emotional description. Next to each category list the senses incorporated and how the senses responded.

Journal entries for your protagonist’s:

  • saddest day
  •  happiest day
  •  scariest
  • challenging
  • hopeful
  • joyous
  • disappointing
  • despairing
  • successful

Another way to develop a sensory language, and assist in character or physical location, is to keep a family journal. It’s an extension of the reflective journal, but this focus is on relationships, memories and communication. Look for threads where past history can connect with present history in your story world. The exercises can be interspersed between all three angles. And the key here is once again to connect the emotional, sensory layers that result. Consider writing it up for yourself first; next connect to a character, and then to her situation. Take some of your episodes as seeds and grow them into the opposite outcome.

For example, in one workshop a student mentioned that that she had a heroine who goes back to the house she lived in, one that holds bad memories and one she accidentally burned down.  It's still in ashes.  What she doesn't know is that one person was killed there and one was badly burned and disfigured.  The house will play a crucial role in the story.” 

Share:  Did you choose a secret trauma or a secret joy? Why does your character need to keep it a secret?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Strategy # 8 Hidden Secrets

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

“You don’t need a one-eyed, foul-breathed monster with a rusty knife, or an indescribable something (covered in slime), to conjure up terrors in the human heart.”  Sarah LeFanu

Introduction Secrets
Folktales, fairytales and legends hold a repository of universal shadows. Just as settings can be a link between internal and external ‘soul’ language, so does this literature connect our personal fears and shadows to find our way through darkness. They offer a childhood’s nightlight to all ages. We may not all be afraid of the same things but we connect with the heart pounding, dry mouth sensations when we see them.

It’s most often in the ordinary world that psychological fears can wreak havoc. Just the slightest noise or silence that is out of sync causes us to pause and listen. As pain is a warning that something is wrong physically, so fear warns us of danger. Our intuitive radar activates.  The ordinary world holds all our secrets that we like to keep in the dark until a situation reveals them.

Memory holds our emotional reservoir, both personal and public. Some memories are buried so deep that we don’t recognize them when they echo in the present. We have a fleeting pang or touch of comfort, and wonder why. What can happen to our secrets when our memories are erased or distorted?

Put yourself or your character in a situation where time has stood still and the world moved on. What has been lost? What has been gained?

Choose one memory that you would want to be able to guarantee remembering? Do you choose a comfort, or a warning? Why? How will it impact your story?

Share: Why did you make that choice?

Read deep, marcy

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