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Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Robinne Weiss, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    One of the many sessions I attended this past weekend was presented by the delightful David Hill, whose books I'm afraid I haven't read. His session touched on many things, but one which resonated with me was his discussion of where to get the raw material for stories. He had us reflect on our own lives and come up with stories that could become a piece of writing (or part of a piece of writing). He focused our thought by asking us to look at a moment we wish we could return to (either to re-experience it or to change it). He further focused us by saying we should think of moments that involved a special place, an animal, a moment of triumph, a puzzle, or a moment of distress, because these are all things that will engage readers.

    I loved the wide range of experiences participants came up with, and I started seeing experiences I hadn't ever really thought of mining before. I thought it would be interesting to hear some of your stories--a moment you wish you could return to that could become the nugget for a piece of writing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  2. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    This exercise could provide a starting point for an analytical template of a person's character! Whether they're optimists or pessimists, control freaks or disorganised slobs and selfish or selfless.

    It's been said of life, that people tend to remember the happy moments more than sad times, as part of the self's defence mechanism. But, as writers thinking of projects surely we tend to focus on areas where there's doubt, with a chance of disappointment or even disaster unless we find a way to pull our fictional protagonist's irons out of the fire. In imagining going back in time, I initially found myself thinking of moments that I wish I could change to avert troubled times in my own life; these were when I heard a dull 'clunk' in my noddle, instead of a clear warning bell that all was not right and that I shouldn't become more involved.

    Hindsight always gives us 20/20 vision, which is the most useless of superpowers! Living a happy life involves a lot of conquering of regret. If I could collect a few happy memories, it would include when I first met various lovers, moments when all is alive with thrilling possibilities. Also, when I went to meet my cat Pushkin, from a Cat Rescue organisation. We were together for ten years, and he came to America with me—my animal spirit daemon—he kept me honest and was a constant source of happiness.
     
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  3. Amber

    Amber Member

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    I'm not sure. Sometimes I get ideas while I'm writing. I usually don't end up writing exactly what I intend to write. I get ideas while watching TV, and movies.

    But now that I've thought about it some ... I realize... its only when I've finished writing that I see where the idea came from and its usually not something I would share with most people.
     
  4. Rich.

    Rich. Member

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    I was about seven and I desperately wanted to go to my friend's house for dinner (I'd received an invitation).

    'Please, Mum, please, please, pleeeeeeeeeeease!'

    Mum looked at me with a half-smile. 'But I thought we might have dinner together. I'll cook chips if you like and we can watch the Muppets.'

    'Oh, but I want to go to Scot's. His mum said I could. Can I please. Please, please, pleeeeeeease!'

    Mum turned away. 'All right then. Off you go.'

    Triumph!

    My soldier dad had left that morning for a six-month unaccompanied tour. Years later I realised how much Mum had wanted company that day, how much she'd wanted me to stay and watch the Muppets.

    Not triumph any more.

    --

    I reckon there's a story in there, if I ever find the distance to write it.
     
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  5. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Yes...those moments of triumph that aren't. Mine is more humorous, though. I was living in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had one baby and another on the way, and in a desperate attempt to feel I was something more than a milk dispensing device, I entered a quilt in the Minnesota State Fair. If you've never been to the MN State Fair, I've got to encourage you to go. It's the granddaddy of agricultural shows. Anyway, I was thrilled to learn I'd won second place...I did a little happy dance...then I found out mine was the only entry in its category...
     
  6. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Yes...those moments of triumph that aren't. Mine is more humorous, though. I was living in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had one baby and another on the way, and in a desperate attempt to feel I was something more than a milk dispensing device, I entered a quilt in the Minnesota State Fair. If you've never been to the MN State Fair, I've got to encourage you to go. It's the granddaddy of agricultural shows. Anyway, I was thrilled to learn I'd won second place...I did a little happy dance...then I found out mine was the only entry in its category...
     
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  7. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Very touching. Yes, I'd say there's a story there, and yes, I'm not surprised that you'd need some distance to get it down.
     
  8. Rich.

    Rich. Member

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    @Marc Joan, yeah, that memory's still an ouchy, even after thirty-odd years. I have a suspicion it will turn up in my writing one day though.

    --

    In more cheerful news (brace yourselves, there's another childhood memory coming), I once played the angel Gabriel in a school nativity. I had this grand flowing gown of silver that would rustle beatifically as I raised my arms above the cowering shepherds. For the first-night performance, the drama department had pushed the boat out and hired a million-billion-trillion-watt arc-lamp to illuminate me from behind. I stepped out from the wings, raised my arms and felt the heat of seven suns at my rear as the arc-lamp was lit. The heavenly light was so powerful it turned my silver gown transparent, leaving me standing there apparently wearing nothing but my underpants.

    Bless you all. Amen.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
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  9. Rich.

    Rich. Member

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    Okay, so now I'm in danger of hogging the thread, but I have one more I really want to share. This one's a mixture of triumph and distress.

    Yesterday. I'm walking down the street with my mad-about-planes three-year-old son. A neighbour of ours, a large lady, walks past us, and my son says to me, in that shouting high voice of small children, 'Look, Daddy, look! A jumbo jet girl!'

    Distress, oh yes, by the bucket load. Triumph? Well, I can't fault the little tyke's imagination.
     
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  10. Luciferette

    Luciferette Active Member

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    Maybe I'm an incurable miserabilist, but it's the sad things that stick with me, so vividly that I can remember everything. I think the one memory that interests me the most in terms of writing, though, is very recent. I had my old Labrador, Jack, put to sleep in January -- he'd had a wonderful life, but suffered dreadfully with arthritis and I'd always said that when he struggled to come to work with me every day I'd know it was time. I ran through the process in my head incessantly; I'd sit with him at night watching him sleep and knowing that soon I'd be watching and he wouldn't wake up. And I made myself sob, torturing myself, just thinking about it.
    So, the dreaded time came. My ex-husband and I (joint custodians!) planned it like a military operation: the time we wanted, the vet we wanted to do it etc. The night before, Jack and I went to stay at my ex's house. We said he would go out of our world as he came into it, with both of us, in his own bed in his first home. Anyway, we watched Fawlty Towers, drank wine, ate pizza (and so did Jack, just not the wine), and tried to get to grips with what the morning would bring. It was the strangest evening.
    The next day, we took Jack for a last hobble in his favourite spot, came back and waited for the vet. Everything went so smoothly, so peacefully -- I'd been dreading the idea that he'd be in pain, or struggling, or would cling to life. But he wasn't and he didn't. As deaths go, his was a good one.
    Now, here's the thing that fascinates me, and something that I'll remember for writing future scenes. After the vet left, taking my beloved dog with him, all those thoughts I'd tortured myself with about being inconsolable, traumatised, and so on proved oddly wrong. The only way I can describe it was...I was HIGH. We drank champagne and sat on Jack's still-warm bed and laughed about him as a puppy and talked as N and I hadn't done for years. I was -- and I know this sounds weird -- happy, in a state of ecstasy, almost. Most surprising and very weird indeed.
    (I should add, for two days after that I literally couldn't move with grief, and cried until my face was raw. It's just that I didn't expect such a delayed reaction; that's the aspect I find fascinating.)
     
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  11. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    A lovely story, @Luciferette. I would follow that with my own dying animal story (I have quite a few, actually), but perhaps a happier story is in order, so here's one I've blogged about but which I'd love to work into a longer piece some day.

    My husband was hosting some international colleagues a few years back, and they were coming out to the house for dinner. Being the good faculty spouse, I'd cleaned and tidied the house, and prepared a lovely dinner.

    And there it all fell apart. As they drove in, I realised one of my goats was in labour. She was an older animal who regularly needed help kidding. So, after greeting them and foisting the last of the dinner prep on my husband, I ran out to the paddock. I was in and out of the house a couple of times for various things, each time trying to be pleasant and polite to our guests eating dinner, and to ignore the fact I was covered in blood and birthing fluids. I was also trying to ignore the fact that the kidding was in full view of the porch where everyone was eating, so our poor guests were trying to eat dinner while watching it. After the first kid was delivered, I took a short break and grabbed a plate of food, trying to make small talk while keeping an eye on the goat in the paddock. The second kid was breaching before I finished, so I dashed back out to the paddock. I delivered number two and thought my task was over, so I headed back to the house to finish my now cold dinner. I didn't stay long, because just a few minutes later, kid number three arrived (two is normal, and I didn't expect three from an older goat). I frantically towelled the kids off and tried to clean them up as our guests strolled out to the paddock to see the new babies (did they know how awful newborns look?). They arrived just as the doe started eating the afterbirth--something that makes even me a little queasy. I didn't know whether to be thrilled (the kidding had gone relatively smoothly, and one of the kids was a doe to add to my herd) or mortified (I'd just delivered three kids at a dinner party). One of the many James Herriot moments I've had since I got goats.

    Incidentally, the visitors e-mailed after they returned home to say that kidding was the best experience they had in New Zealand.
     
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