Thursdays are normally my clean-up days. I wake up, straighten up for an hour or so, then go into meditation. This week, however, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. I’m generally not interested in the past at all, but I thought it would be fun to scan through what I had written.
I found an entry about an old boyfriend from years ago who wasn’t very nice to me. One of those things where you break up and the next thing you know he’s posting about introducing some woman to his parents. “Hi, I’m getting engaged!” “But, wait, didn’t we break up a couple of seconds ago?”
I care nothing about this now, but it was a bummer then. However, when I read what I had written about him, I realized that it wasn’t even a bummer then. In my mind, I had glossed over the negative because so much time had passed. When I actually went back and read my journal entries, it was obvious that we were in no way right for each other. If his new boo is the right one, I’m happy for him. Truly. Time heals all wounds (if you let it).
But time is also a liar. Had I not stumbled across that journal entry, I might have told myself a story about that situation which was patently untrue. The truth was written in black and white: Our break up had been inevitable. Only the clarity of hindsight made that crystal clear.
As a writer, the truth of any situation is what is most important to me. Memories are unreliable. How we remember something often has nothing to do with what actually occurred. Only by recording things as they happen, can we capture how we really feel in the moment – before time has a chance to come in with its airbrush and make it all pretty.
Our characters are the same way. What they remember in our stories will not be accurate. Show how that happens. And if you’re ever struggling with writer’s block, it can help to have your characters write a few journal entries. It helps us get inside their minds when we allow them to write about their problems freely, from their own perspective. Just open up a new Word doc and call it “So and so’s diary.” You may be amazed at what you come up with.
And if your characters are unhappy, that’s a great thing for drama! Have them write about it and get some juicy details flowing.
Peace and love,