Saturday 28 September 2019

Plundering Memory. A Writer's Odyssey

I am thoroughly relishing the work on my new short story collection called Kaleidoscope – Stories from the Frontier. I am now writing the sixteenth of what will be twenty short stories. Perhaps you read one of them on my last blog post - Patchouli?
One of the most exciting things in this new project has been to focus my mind on the whole notion of memory and how it works for a writer.

In the process I have asked myself questions. What is my memory? Is it objective? Is it all I remember? Is it, perhaps, what I have forgotten? Is it all that I’ve been told of what has happened to me? Is it what I have dreamt? Is it these buried subconscious memories that are meat-and-drink in popular articles on crime and its solutions?

Do I as a writer of fiction, plunder my own memory and the memories of others? In surveying my longish list of various kinds of publication I feel certain that I do this – not just in character, content, and narrative - but in those embedded memories of the language and syntax of storytelling – crucial inner memories of the senses, the feelings, the fugitive memories of pain of delight. 

From these I have created and recreated original characters in my fiction. And I have even borrowed others’ memories as though they are our own, and projected memories harvested from my reading. I reinvent lives as essentially original inventions and end up believing that that is what really happened.

The joy and privilege of being part of an oral as well as a written culture is that somehow we inherit memory as part of our acknowledgement of  our membership first of the human clan, and then the human race. This has been reinforced and strengthened throughout the millennia by the sharing of stories in family and social groups, allowing us to develop a shared heritage of collective memory, sensitivity and consciousness as human beings.  Modern discussions of genetic memory perhaps reflect this.  

A writer’s instinct is ultimately to express universalities which will link with our readers' own experience and world-view. Thereby hangs worldly success, after all. Perhaps this particularly might be said to be more purposely focused in novels attached to genres such as espionage, crime, romance or war.  But even in these fields the narratives and the characters should be unique and idiosyncratic to save the work from suffering from an uninspired sameness.

As novelists and storytellers  from the house of our own memory we invent characters with their own histories and conflicts and we use them as psychic dwellings for our own dense complex experiences.

 Each one of us, with our unique baggage of complex memory picks up our pen and then asks the writer’s question What if…?  This is what I have been doing as I am writing Kaleidoscope. Stories from the Frontier.  My theory is that our writing is fuelled and developed from our embedded and continuing memory, whether intended or not. So in the end – as I have found in working on Kaleidoscope -it’s quite exciting to do this with a greater degree of consciousness than ever before.


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