Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Denial -- writing tip

Who could resist an antebellum mansion by such a name? 
Not Ariel. She's there to write the family history for her great-aunt. 
Elderly Aunt Belle still runs the place without electricity, 
determined to keep it exactly as it was before 
"The War of Northern Aggression."

Question from the e-Mail:  I am writing some short stories based on memories of my childhood, and my sister  just argues with me, then says, "That's not the way it happened!"  Some of my childhood was quite painful and there are not words enough to say how badly her actions hurt, even now.

Answer: No two people ever remember anything the same way.  If your memories differ, go with your own instinct and write what you want.  Writing can be one way to work through past pain, as most of us know. Either don't let your sister read them, or if she mentions the ones she read before, just tell her to go and write her own version.

I remember talking with my mother as I cared for her during her last illness. She remembered several incidents from my  childhood and listening to them from her perspective I could (at last) understand what drove some of her decisions. But my own perception of those past events was very different from hers. 

Things that “weren’t important” to her, were deeply painful to me. I allowed the bitterness and pain to leave me, but not the understanding of her motivation. That wasn’t always easy to do. 

There’s no use reliving the pain or arguing with other family members about events that can’t be changed now. I am sure, looking back, if she had seen more clearly, she might have acted differently. I know she did the best she could.

Whatever you choose to write, you have to write your own story, you own way. No one can tell your truth, but you.

I'll mention one other thing--a writer's technique--called "denial" because it is based on a universal truth that stems from human nature.  When you want your reader to believe in something impossible -- ghosts, aliens, grumpkins -- have another character deny it. The more they deny  it, the more they scoff, the more your reader will secretly believe in your premise. Since that is a universal truth, it could be possible that your sister's denials are her own subconscious path to acceptance.


  1. I firmly believe that every history book ever written, along with every memoir, has been shown and edited through the eyes and mind of the person who wrote it down.
    I remember being taught History in school. Boy, was I in for a surprise when I grew up and began to see the world as it really is...and always has been.