As I work on my story, it is already becoming crystal clear that I must create scenes with a broad brush. Trying to use specific events, as they happened, as I felt in that moment, can’t possibly convey the sense of things. What I can do is remember something I did, i.e. ride my bike out to the picnic ground, together with my sister. I can take that real memory and embellish it as I wish, with details from two dozen other memories, dialogue, sensory detail, and other related verbal and sensory memories, and jam them all into that single package. Everything is real and true, it just didn’t all happen in conjunction that way. By picking and choosing when and how to say what, and artfully arranging my puzzle pieces, the picture becomes more true, IMO.

It reminds me of the way our minds jump around when we start remembering things. Neurons sizzle and snap with connections going off in dozens of directions. How do we decide which path to be aware of? We may not even be conscious of our choices, but it’s much like the “Oh, that reminds me of the time … ” conversations we all have while reminiscing with friends and family.

As I’ve written, there have been a few times when I’ve continually come up empty after trying all sorts of things to retrieve memories and emotions around some event. I’ve finally stumbled upon a technique that works. I briefly describe the event in a freewriting session (or while journaling) and end the description with the line, “If I were writing about a fictional character in this situation, how would she feel?” As I write my answer, building that fictitious character, my own authentic feelings usually come streaming back. If they aren’t “authentic,” they are real enough to fool me!