I’ve just added a new page to this blog: a place to keep the “things” of my dad’s life. The stuff he liked (or didn’t), or the things I most associated with him. This serves a functional purpose for my writing; it helps me remember him more clearly.
But I also like the project of characterization via the tangible details of a life. This is something I teach my students to do in their fiction. Get to know and understand your character by rifling through their purse, snooping through their drawers. What’s out in plain sight? What do you have to dig for? What’s on the highest shelf in the closet, behind your mother’s shoe boxes?
Thus far in the memoir, I have relied on the memories that have risen to the surface easily, or the ones which never sank to the bottom in the first place. And that has been useful and productive to be sure. I have many pages, many scenes written as a result. But I am starting to get stuck, and I think the thing to do is to take a very deliberate tour through the rooms of my memory–the actual rooms of our houses– and see what I can find there that I might have otherwise missed.