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.