Post #14 – Memoir Writing, Journaling – Amber Starfire
WHEN you’re writing in your journal about the events and people in your life — particularly when your intention is to practice writing skills, record a scene, or use your writing for later storytelling or memoir — take some time to think about and describe their traits. You may be tempted not to bother with writing down these details, but people change. Children grow up, physical features morph into something altogether new. Adults age. Temperaments may remain basically the same, but interests and behaviors change.
Making the effort to record these real live people as they are in a particular period of your life will help you later. When you are trying to remember how Aunt Millie styled her hair, or your youngest son looked at age twelve.
As you consider writing about the people in your life, here are a list of things to consider:
Think about the different situations in which you’ve known this person and the situation about which you are writing. How does this person’s personality affect her speech and behaviors? Is she creative, curious, and open-minded? Or is her view of the world a static black and white, right and wrong perspective? Is she an adventurer or a homebody? Does she love to learn or is she content to do thing the tried and true way? High maintenance or easy-going?
Beyond basic personality traits, certain psychological traits are important aspects of a person’s behavior. If the person is slightly obsessive-compulsive, for example, her tendency to pick up after everyone (and complain about it) can be humorous, irritate everyone in the family, or both. A person’s tendency to sadness or depression can affect everyone around her. And an adolescent who cuts or has an eating disorder will display some outward expression of self-loathing.
Often, we describe a person using only their physical characteristics. That is why I purposefully placed this lower on the list of considerations. When you describe a person physically, try to keep it simple, yet precise. Hair length and color, face shape, appearance of height and weight, age, etc. And anything particular to the time (Aunt Millie’s hairstyle, for example).
Special things to consider about children:
In which stage of growth is the child — infant, toddler, pre-teen, or adolescent? Describing motor skills, cute speech patterns, immature behaviors, kinds of fears, tendencies to impulsiveness, and physical traits that the child is likely to outgrow (braces, acne, gangliness) is a great way to “capture” the place in the scene or event that the youth inhabits.
Even if you’re not planning to write memoir or fiction using your relatives as character models, it’s a good idea to include enough description of the people who are involved in your life so that later, when you look back at that time, you may smile with fondness as you read about how your now-conservative daughter dyed her hair bubble-gum pink and painted her fingernails black just before heading out on her first date.
Photo by ÇP