Good fiction, even fantasy, needs bits of reality—locations, facts, or emotions, which are relevant to readers. Often authors introduce reality into their fiction by using their memories—personal, and probably slightly biased, facts. I guess a purist would say memories and facts are often distinctly different. I don’t want to argue the point today.
Before I wrote The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories, I talked to dozens of people about their memories, especially of their childhoods and adolescences. Thus each of my stories has a different perspective, but they all address historical or social problems in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960, a time that many refer to as the good old days.
I hope as I tell you about the memories which triggered my stories, you’ll remember details from your past or your family’s history that would enliven your writing.
Shoes is a story about child abuse. Instead of describing characters’ facial features, I described their shoes. The person remembering her third grade classroom was shy; her teacher was an authoritarian (a kind word for bully). The student seldom lifted her head in class, so her main memories were of the floor and shoes. Many readers may be surprised to learn how colorful and varied women’s shoes were in the 1950s.
How did students find information for school reports before the Internet? They used encyclopedias, but most were expensive and only in libraries. Then, A&P grocery stores offered a different volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia each month as a sales gimmick. How Old Is the Earth? is a tale of how the increased availability of information changed lives. The story also evokes memories of a time when cotton/polyester wasn’t available and all cotton school uniforms were ironed daily. (Not a fond memory.)
Do you remember your first bra? (Sorry guys, you missed that experience.) Did it look a bit like Madonna’s costume with two cones of foam strung together with straps? Enjoy the humorous memories in I Look Like Papa.
Many towns in the Midwest and New England are awash with grand Victorian ladies (large houses with endless brightly-painted decorations). As an old man remembers his glory days as a high school athlete in Dirty Dave, he also reveals secrets about domestic violence in these so-called nice homes.
Then there are old photos. Do they reflect the past or are they attempts to paint an alternate reality? The answer varies in my vignettes. I’ll let you read Thanks for the Memories and Double Exposure and decide.
Did I spark any of your memories? We all have memories usable in fiction. Perhaps, you remember with horror a car accident or the death of a love one. You could use your painful memories of you raw emotions to make a scene in a novel memorable to others. Maybe, happy memories could add humor to your books.
The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories is available (paperback and Kindle) from Amazon: http://amzn.com/1537743813
Bio: Writing this collection of stories gave JL Greger a chance to get to know old friends better and to make new ones. Typically she writes medical mysteries and thrillers: Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] annual contest & finalist in New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards), I Saw You in Beirut, Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest), and Ignore the Pain. To learn more, visit her website: http://www.jlgreger.com.