Creative Writing Option: Family Memory

Write a short story or a personal essay which is rooted in experiences from your own childhood. You may even want to set your story during the holidays.

Steep yourself in Capote's method. Working from his own journal entries about the adventures that he had growing up  in Monroeville, Alabama, he eventually wrote his remarkable short story "A Christmas Memory" about the holiday rituals he observed with his closest childhood friend, a retarded aunt. (Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, also grew up in Monroeville with Truman, who was the model of the character Dill in Jem and Scout's story.) 

Observe and imitate Capote's keen appetite for detail. Notice also that even though he draws his story from the point of view of a child, he endows its narrator's with the vocabulary of someone much older. The narrator is looking back on his memories from long ago.

Louisa Mae Alcott also wrote about her own childhood in the novel Little Women. Read the following selection from the novel which also uses wonderful detail to bring the past to life.

Read Louisa May Alcott's, "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving" (1881) 

Remember that good writing appeals to all of the senses, not just sight. Appeal to our senses of hearing, smell, touch and taste. Let people talk in your story. Capture the way people really speak. Be specific about time of day and year. Name names. Be open to the novel associations and descriptions that your mind devises. Open your mind to everything going on around you in your actual physical space. 

Use the following writing prompts to get started: (prompt 1) (Goldberg 91) (prompt 2) (Goldberg 166)

Short Story:

Your story will be evaluated according to the quality of your writing as well as the following criteria:

- verisimilitude: a realistic evocation of character in a realistic dramatic situation
- a believable setting, a sense of time and place, use of dialogue and interaction of characters; how is this a day unlike any other day?
- dynamic dramatic action: a clear objective for your central character and clear obstacles to that objective