Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Time Flies And Memories Fade

When I was a little kid, I enjoyed asking my grandmother questions about her youth. I was always confused when she said she couldn’t remember something like the first time she saw a plane or car. Hey, the woman was born in 1896.

I would also ask my mother questions about when she was a kid and she would claim she didn’t remember anything except having to pick cotton. Well, I didn’t believe either of them. How could they forget something so important?

I figured my mom told me that because she had a horrible childhood (she did pick cotton) and just didn't want to talk about it. I understood picking cotton wasn’t a walk in the park. For those who never lived in the country and had grandparents who didn’t, you have to work around the bristles of the plant to “pick” the soft white fibers inside the dry bolls. If you don’t have thick gloves and long sleeves, you can get cut up pretty bad.

As I get older I understand why they had a memory problem. There are parts of my childhood I’ve forgotten and it makes me so sad. I do remember that until I turned eleven, my childhood was wonderful. Long summer days and nights at the lake. Riding my bike up and down my street (though I was too scared to ride it off Horseshoe Hill). Catching lightning bugs. But every day I can feel some of it slipping away, though occasionally something pops into my mind and surprises me. Of course, I worry that it’s my imagination and not really a memory.

Oh, I would like to mention that my dad can remember so much more of his childhood than I could ever dream of. He remembers things from when he was three. Considering the man is 79, that’s darn good.

Of course, you’re wondering, why in the world am I talking about picking cotton and my family’s childhoods?

Well, it has all to do with memory. Remembering things. Funny thing, I can remember odds facts and figures about movies, TV shows, work, etc. (Will Ferrell and I share a birthday except for a nine year difference), but to remember what color of eyes my hero has in the book I’m writing, especially when I on page 234, forget it. I can’t tell you how often I’ll be editing my manuscript and get to a plot point I had set up and realize I had totally forgotten about it. Geez!

So I keep a separate file that I call MANUSCRIPT NAME HISTORY and all the details and quirks about the characters, plot points, urls that I used to look up information, reminders to add or delete info, short and long pitches, breakdown of the chapter and numerous other items to help me organize my thoughts/manuscript.

At times, if I have an idea of what I want to write in the next scene, I’ll go ahead and jot it down at the end of the manuscript with stars before and after the sentence so it’ll stand out.

How often on the ride to work and back you think of an idea? I own a small tape recorder and tried using it. But I found I hated to hear myself voice suggestions and details of scenes. It was kinda embarrassing in fact, especially when I played it back with my husband in the room and it sounded like, “Go back and lengthen the time the hero and the heroine make love. Make it hotter.” My husband is bit of prude. So you can imagine how well this went over.

How do you keep up with your details?

Speaking of my hubby and time flying, wish us happy anniversary. Today is our 36th. Yes. I was five when we married.


Jeanie said...

Carla, you are too funny, girl! I was five when I got married, too, which means I'm still twenty-something. Yea, I like your kind of math!

I, too, have to keep details when I'm writing or I forget things. I make a plot points document that I refer to and I also stick things at the end of the book I want to use later.

The fantasy I've written . . . forget it. I have an entire index of character names, eye color, country colors, weird words, etc. You are not alone.

Callie James said...

What a wonderful blog, Carla. Like you, I have to keep notes as well, but often by the time I start a book it's been in my head so long I have most of it down. Even those little details.

I remember when I was 3! Although, I'm not retired so that's not a big deal.

Callie James said...

And HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Hope you're planning something special. :)

Heather said...

Great post and happy anniversary! I keep a notebook with all of the plot points and character bios. I've read several people use wikis - I don't even know where to begin making one!

Thanks again for the great post!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Happy anniversary, Carla. Memory (or lack of it) is so frustrating sometimes. For writing, I keep track of all those details and research in separate files too. I use Scrivener, which lets me keep it all within the writing project I'm working on, but I also use Evernote to "clip" online articles, make notes, etc.

I also used Evernote to take notes about my trip to Europe this summer, and while on the KOD tour at RWA10. I just jotted down little things that came to mind since I didn't have my laptop. Thanks!

Cari Hislop said...

Yes, it's darn irritating to realise you can't remember something so obvious as eye colour or the hero's Christian name and have to flip all the way through a manuscript to try and find the info...been there done that! If I know I won't remember I'll use note cards. I love note cards. I'm a note card addict...without a file.

To Carla: I LOVED that closing vignette...the image of you sitting there listened to your voice recorder playing back your notes with your husband in the background...that's hilarious! That would make a great scene in a story if you ever have a character who's a married writer!!!

Carla Swafford said...

Jeanie, you know we're encouraging the belief that all Southern girls marry too young and to cousins too. LOL!

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Callie.

Carla Swafford said...

Heather, I want to know more about these things you call wikis.


Carla Swafford said...

Scrivener: I wish someone would hurry up and develop one for Windows. Geez! Thanks, Gwen.

Carla Swafford said...

Cari, I'm so glad someone else knows my pain...misery loves company you know. Note cards: Oh, yes. I use to use them often. My history file for each manuscript takes care of that now. Plus I keep a file for "miscellaneous" info that might come in handle one day. I love the search feature in computers for that reason. :-)

Christine said...

Happy Anniversary! We celebrated our 25th yesterday on the 17th. We sat down and reminisced about how much we'd done throughout the years and laughed about how we'd somehow muddled through with the marriage certificate intact despite our mutual bullheaded ways. A Crusader and a Warrior if you wanted to pigeonhole us, but thankfully, there's enough of a Prof in him and Spunky Kid in me to make it interesting and fun.


Jeanie said...

Actually, Carla, I was an old lady when I got married. And when I had children. Thirty-one when I got hitched, thirty-three when I had my first child and thirty-nine when I had my second. Yikes! I'm a late bloomer.

And no cousins. Definitely no cousins. Heck, I wanted new blood in the gene pool so bad I married a North Dakota boy. No cross-pollination there. He's second-generation, half Norwegian, a quarter German and a quarter Dane. That's it. Nothing else.

Me, my folks have been here since Jesus was in short pants and I'm a total mutt.

Kate Diamond said...

Happy anniversary!

I don't tend to forget my details. I just struggle with the minor things like, oh, plot.

Diane Richmond said...


When you get into your writing you are so intense that I am surprised you are even aware of your husband being in the room. Happy Anniversary. I know you are the stereotypical southern girl. How do you like your 40's?