1. Gemini_Genie
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    Gemini_Genie Member

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    Writing childhood memories

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gemini_Genie, Mar 17, 2014.

    When you're writing childhood memories from the perspective of an adult do you need to really emphasize the 'child' aspect or is it unimportant since it's being told from the grown-ups point of view?

    I'm writing a book wherein my main character lives alone as a prisoner for 20 years and during this time writes in a diary the events of her life from beginning to present. She starts off detailing the events of her childhood, the first few years spent living with her mother. Since it's written by her as an adult should I worry so much about the tone of voice as I go through it? It's written in the first person and I feel like an adults perspective in a child's world will read awkward.

    If I'm confusing anyone with my question please feel free to ask me to elaborate. ^^;
     
  2. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    You might want to take care to mention that the memory is not entirely clear or that it is mostly images and feelings. As we get older, childhood memories are rarely what they seem. Consider the idea of an unreliable narrator. We have to trust that the memory is accurate, but unless their memory is perfect you might want to give some indication that they don't trust it entirely or that they don't have a full grasp.

    Also, you must distinguish between them recalling a childhood memory or reflecting on one. If they are reflecting, your characters might be inclined to embellish a little here or fill in some there or insert opinion or commentary from hindsight. If they are recalling then, of course, the detail depends on how old the memory is, but in general, it might not be perfect ad we should experience that haziness the same way the narrator does. :p
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds to me as if you make it clear that these are reflections of an adult looking back. That implies a level of understanding in the present (ie. the time of reflection) much greater than in the past (at the time of occurrence). So, if you are concerned that the reader in reading events from the narrator's childhood will expect a child's narration, I would not worry about that. So long as you've made it clear that these are an adult's reflections, the reader will expect an adult's perspective.
     
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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since the narrator is the adult and just writing about what happened in his childhood, of course it has to be in his adult voice... just keep in mind that diary entries are all telling, will have little or no dialog and no 'real time' scenes/action...

    if you include flashbacks, or dreams in which the narrator becomes the mc as a child, then the voice would change... otherwise the whole book will have to be told from the adult mc's pov and in his adult voice...

    why do you think that would be 'awkward'?
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why couldn't one include dialogue or real time scenes in a recollection? Diaries are written in many different styles.

    If you think about it, a diary isn't all that much different from a narration.
     
  6. Gemini_Genie
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    Gemini_Genie Member

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    That's actually how I've been trying to do it Ginger Coffee. I don't want the diary to only be a daily journal where she writes about her past. I want it to be both a window into her past and show the person she is in the present. :)
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Then I don't think a diary is really what you want. A diary is exactly that - a daily journal of reports by the writer. Nonfiction diaries, like Jim Bouton's Ball Four, can be successful because they give the reader an "inside view" of world they don't usually see. In fiction, that's not enough. You want the reader to care about the character, so you need to put them into the character's shoes (of someone else who cares about the character). Judging from your comment above. you are probably more likely to want to use a series of flashbacks.
     
  8. Gemini_Genie
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    Gemini_Genie Member

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    Good advice Mr. NY. :) I do flashbacks a lot when I tell stories to my friends by voice. Maybe that would be a better idea. I just thought the diary might also work well since she's imprisoned. It would help her keep a frame of how much time has passed--something I know personally it's easy to lose track of when you're locked up. :/
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps you can use the diary as a jumping off point for the flashbacks, especially if it is serving another purpose, such as keeping track of passing time. It would allow you to move back and forth between the past and the present. James A. Michener once wrote a (very long) novel, The Source, a historical novel about Israel. There was a modern-day component of the story that involved an archaeological dig, and at each level of the dig, an uncovered artifact became the touchstone for a historical chapter in which it played a role.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    There's a guy in our critique group that is writing first person present tense with the concept it is the protagonist's journal written in the past.

    I think of a diary as present tense. If one is in prison writing about the past it is more of a memoir. However, diaries are whatever you want them to be.

    I do like Ed's idea above, keep coming back to the journal to show the present, but use the entries to introduce a flashback.
     
  11. Gemini_Genie
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    Gemini_Genie Member

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    That might just work. I'll take a look at some of the works you mentioned Mr. NY. Thanks everybody for your advice! ^^
     
  12. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Read David Copperfield and pay close attention to how Dickens did the same thing. Or Jane Eyre, another masterpiece in the first person.
     
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  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two (post)modern works that I really like that are representative of "childhood recollections" genre are Early Sorrows by Danilo Kiš and The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan - check them out. They both dwell into magic realism by using a somewhat similar perspective, a very close focus on the main character. The voice, however, remains unmistakenly adult, which allows for rich vocabulary, details and introspective.
     

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