Writing Prompt: On Memoir Writing, and Finding Their Voices

If you ever get writer’s block (which can happen if you’re just working on one project at a time; I tend to work on at least seven, and in a variety of forms and genres), writing prompts might help you get unblocked.  Even better, you might come up with a great, publishable piece that you otherwise would have never written. 

  • The Wife of Brian.  (About not losing your identity, but rather, becoming more of who are you through the marriage relationship.  This would definitely have a Christian chick-lit vibe, as I am not the queen of oversharing.)
  • Second to Fluff:  Growing Up with Pet Parents.  (My mom’s story of having to compete for affection from her mom and dad, who liked to say that “dogs were easier to raise than kids”.)
  • Life with Griff.  (Told from my P.O.V. about growing up with a dad who is an unintentional Lucy Ricardo.)
  • Twice Upon a Time in Pensacola.  (My husband’s story of us, and how we crossed paths before we knew each other.  Love and Serendipity.)
  • Hannah Banana of Florabama.  (Though I had already written this as a nursery rhyme about my daughter, I am going to write another in the form of a fairy tale.  It is easy to take any story, and turn it into a fairy-tale:  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-340-theme-finally-or-at-last/)

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  • The Huntsman of Poplar Bluff.  (My Uncle Bill’s story of his “countrified” life, juxtaposed against the lives of his “citified” children.)
  • Jasper Vizsla:  The Hot Dog of New York.  (Based on Dana Perino’s dog of the same name.  A tale/tail? of New York Life, from a dog’s perspective.)
  • Santa Claus:  The Before.  (A fable or legend about how Santa Claus started his trade/calling.  Maybe this has already been done by L. Frank Baum, I don’t know, but I can have my own take.)
  • Before Laurie Nolan:  A Prequel.  (Laurie Nolan is a character in my book, “Because of Mindy Wiley”.  https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/)   Mine your writings for characters who still have their own story to tell.  You may even end up with a series of short stories to promote your primary work.
  • Lila Caddy’s Second Family.  A poignant narrative (from the P.O.V. of a twenty-five year old Cadillac named Lila).  Lila was my and Brian’s first car together.  She was more than just transportation–she was our freedom to go wherever we wanted.
  • House on Cottage Row.  The story of a house with heartwarming and heartbreaking secrets.  (Think of all the stories Tara, from “Gone with the Wind”, could tell.)
  • Pensacola:  The Dark Paradise.  Think “City Confidential”.  Every town has a story to tell.  I told mine in “The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery” (which was published in an anthology sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post, and was based on a true story).  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/06/more-good-news/

I believe these prompts will also help you to write in other “voices”.  I have found that almost all of my main characters are extensions of myself, and so I am in bad need of an “out-of-body” experience.

A persona poem is another great exercise in this:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-many-faces-of-persona-poems

Prequels and Sequels vs. Retellings and “The Wizard of Oz”

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Is either necessary?  I think most books are better left to stand alone, like “Gone with the Wind”.  I just read where a prequel to “GWTW” is in the works.  Wasn’t “Scarlett” (which, I admit, I never read) bad enough?  Maybe I just don’t want to like “Scarlett”.  I see writers who write sequels or prequels to famous novels as piggybacking off another author’s success.

I prefer retellings.

That said, years ago, when I was an avid fan of V.C. Andrews, I wrote a sequel to “My Sweet Audrina”–the only stand-alone novel V.C. wrote.  I don’t know whatever happened to it, but I am tempted to go back and rewrite it.  I know I could do better in V.C.’s stead than that hack, Andrew Neiderman.  (Most anyone could.)

I’d also thought about writing a sequel to “Pollyanna” (even though the movie was much better than the book), only to find that one had already been written by the author, Eleanor H. Porter.

What’s worse to me, though, is when an author like Nicholas Sparks writes a sweet story (“The Notebook”), and then pens an abysmal sequel (“The Wedding”).  For me, if the same author writes the sequel, it’s hard to separate the two.  Still, it doesn’t diminish the original book for me–I don’t let it.

I watched “The Wizard of Oz” last night.  Still a delight!  I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid, and I picked up on the allegorical nature of the film I didn’t back then.  To me, brains, heart and courage were something only a “wizard” (i.e. God) could give a person.  Glinda was Dorothy’s guardian angel.  The “yellow brick road” was the road paved with gold that led to Heaven (i.e. the Emerald City).  The poppies were drugs that caused them to lose ambition and the snow that refreshed them represented manna.

I tried watching “Oz:  The Great and Powerful”, but gave up about halfway through.  Such a disappointment it was, but one cannot help but compare it to the original, which was as bright as this one was dark.  Had it been a retelling and not a prequel (though the premise had potential), I might have at least finished it.

It’s been years since I read the book by L. Frank Baum, but I don’t recall there being a Good Witch of the South.  I just wrote a story about her and Dorothy’s granddaughter for a short story contest.  The theme was “alien” and what it means to us, so I made Dorothy’s granddaughter an illegal alien in the land of Oz.  Aliens from outer space was too obvious.

The biggest project I’m working on now in relation to this topic is a set of fractured fairy tales juxtaposed with Biblical allegories (i.e. “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel).

This is what “Writer’s Digest” had to say about writing a sequel to someone else’s book:  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/legal-questions/updated-can-you-write-the-sequel-to-someone-elses-book

Looks like I’ll have to publish my sequel, simply titled, “Audrina”, for free on a V.C. fanfiction site.  (That was how the author of “Fifty Shades of Gray” got started; the story was developed from a “Twilight” fanfiction series and published on fanfiction websites.)

Are there any sequels (or prequels) you’d like to read or even write yourself?