Saturday, February 27, 2010

Conjecture, Tapping Into our Minds

By Keith Fisher

While cleaning the bedroom the other day, I stumbled across a pair of shoes I haven’t seen in a year. The shoes are made for river rafting and things like that, semi closed in but open enough to make your feet feel free.

To say, I hadn’t seen them, is only part of the story, however. I forgot I owned them. Perhaps my mind was protecting me. Well, let me explain.

As you might remember, we lost my father to a fast growing cancer in March of 2009. Several months before he knew he was dying, he gave me the pair of shoes. He said they were too big for him, they looked cool, and felt great. I wore them on cold, snowy days, because they were comfortable. I wore them at the hospital when Dad was dying.

Sometime after he died, I stopped wearing the shoes I don’t remember making a conscious decision. I just wore other shoes. Dad’s shoes ended up in the back of my closet.

When I found them, I sat down, to put them on. Thoughts of my father, his life, and the turbulent time during his death, flooded my mind. The reality of missing him hit me harder than it had before.

As I mentioned in a blog last year, I’m happy for Dad. He had a degenerative eye problem that was taking his sight. In 1986, he was the victim of an industrial accident, so his health had been deteriorating for years. I spoke to him before he died, and he was happy about the prospect of being able to see again.

Putting on his shoes, took my mind past the logical, and forced me into the emotional side of losing him. Dad was my best friend, and I miss him. I know a little about grief, and what I experienced was normal. I’m fine, but the incident pointed out a writing concept to me, and I wanted to share.

Did you ever notice how different objects conjure up different memories and thoughts? Like my father’s shoes, other objects bring back memories, both good and bad. Our need to stay connected, is the reason we keep trophies. We hold onto scraps of paper because our child drew a picture on it. I’m keeping a pacifier that reminds me of the day my daughter decided she was tired of sucking on her binky and gave it up for good.

My point, if you haven’t figured it out, is we carry an arsenal of experiences wherever we go. Nested in our computer hard drive we call the brain. We can retrieve the data anytime and insert it into a story, but sometimes it takes a little jog in our memory to recall the facts. That’s why writing prompts are so effective in getting the juices flowing.

My critique group told me I’m good at plotting. I can take a situation or object and build a story on it. I thought everyone could do that, but apparently we can’t. So, I suggest you pick up an object and try to imagine how you could use that object in, say committing a murder. Before you think you can drop the object in favor of a knife, or a heavy lamp, I want you to close your eyes and get on the floor. Pick up one of the scattered toys in your family room. Now, that is your murder weapon.

Adapt this exercise to different scenarios, and eventually you will tap into a place where ideas come from. This is a good writer’s party game, by the way.

Now I want you to imagine. You’re walking in the desert. Miles from anywhere, and you glance at the ground. Sitting on top of the sand is an old, rusty spoon. How did it get there? How old is it?

Here is another one. In a graveyard, you find a headstone with a unique signet inscribed above the name. It’s identical to the ring you purchased at a yard sale. You turn around and the signet is on another headstone. Ask your questions.

Imaging what it was like, coupled with known facts and a recent discovery, inspired the blockbuster movie, Titanic.

How many of you wonder what really happened to Amelia Earheart and Fred noonan? I can think of dozens of possibilities, starting with the fact of a faster jet stream.

Open your mind to conjecture. That’s where plots come from. The reason objects conjure memories for you, is the same reason you can write plots. If you tap into it, you might find you have too many plot lines to explore. Then, it’s just a matter of choosing the best one.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.


ali said...

Keith, I was really touched by the story you shared about your dad and his shoes. You really did open my eyes to the possibilities. Thank you! And, hugs :)

C. K. Bryant said...

Great Post Keith. I love to brainstorm, am very good at it actually, so I love this idea of finding objects to jog our memory. I'm so gonna use that.

Also, thanks for sharing your dad with us. Knowing the kind of person you are, I'm sure he was a great man.


Braden Bell said...

Keith, what you wrote about your father was quite moving. I also enjoyed your scenarios and the writing exercise. I'm excited to try the idea with the rings/gravestone.

Dan and Wendy said...

I was brainstorming yesterday. I wish that I had read this post first, but I'll definitely keep it in mind the next time.