Unlock your secret writing weapon: your memory

Writing a romance, thriller, historical, whodunit, sci-fi adventure? Whichever it is, it’s a depressing thought, but all the stories have been done before. There are only supposed to be seven plots:

man vs. nature
man and woman/man
man vs. society
man vs. machines/technology
man vs. the supernatural
man vs. self
man vs. God
(‘man’ obviously taken as including ‘woman’!)

But basically it boils down to a series of conflicts, often summarised into the rather clinical GMC – goal, motivation, conflict – and their resolution.

So what’s left for you to write about?

You should write the story you want to, the one you’re passionate about, the one with the characters you love, hate or are fascinated by. But you have a secret weapon: your own memory. Nobody else feels about things the way you do. Nobody else gets wound up about things the way you do. Nobody else’s memories are triggered by tiny things the way yours is.

I blogged before about the power of memory unlocked and double memories. Another one was triggered this morning when I took a suitcase to the tip. Memories of trips over the past twenty-five years flooded back as it went in the skip: queues at airports, hugs on platforms, arm-ache as I tugged it along, crushing it closed with new purchases. But most of all, times with friends overseas, holidays, new scents and sights and that time it fell into the harbour in Malta…

And these memories are mine, uniquely, to do with as I choose.

How have you used your memories in your writing?


Updated 2023: Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

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