My husband took me to see The Vow on Valentine’s Day. It’s gotten me thinking a lot about memory and about that computer in our heads. Our lives are basically one long film, a storyboard of our lives from beginning to end. Each part of our journey broken down on the celluloid in our memory cells for our use as we make it through life. It is what prevents us from sticking our fingers in an open flame more than once. Oops, remember that hurt the last time. It is a file cabinet of everything we’ve learned from the mundane to the extraordinary. It’s a keepsake box full of memorabilia from the smell of our first corsage to the feeling of butterflies before our first kiss. Housed there are the hopes and the dreams some of which we’ll realize and some which will remain just sweet possibilities. What makes memories so important to us? They are the sum of who we were, who we are, and who we can be. Without those memories, we become a blank slate devoid of possibilities.
A lot like that computer screen or that sheet of paper that a writer begins with. It is important in writing to remember that before the story can exist, characters must exist, characters with memories. Their lives existed long before the story began and will exist after the story ends. It is up to the writer to bring those pieces of the character out of the dark recesses of a character’s mind and into the light for the reader to see and understand.
How do you build memories for your characters?