We’ve just come to the end of two summer intensive workshops. A week of focused writing and thinking about writing, exploring character and dialogue and metaphors and the more abstract questions of “Why I Write”. (Cue George Orwell’s brilliant essay.) Often during an intense time of work, we don’t get the opportunity to figure out what we’ve learnt, or even how we feel about the experience, and it can take weeks for the experience to be absorbed into our system.
Put your character at the end of a concentrated time of work, maybe a painter at the end of a painting, a host at the end of a dinner party. Or if you’re writing memoir, think about a time when you completed a period of focused work – a project, a relationship, a course, a trip. Then have your character looking back at what they did, what they learnt, what they remember.
Even if your story is told in the present tense, your character will also be looking back now and then. If this is the case, such an exercise would be a way to move out of the present tense, to create more variety, more movement in time in the narrative. This may also be a more interesting way to tell the story of the dinner party, the retreat, the painting. A character reviewing an experience when it is still fresh in their mind, not necessarily with too much hindsight. The emotional impact will still be fresh, the different people involved in the experience still very much present in the character’s thoughts.
You could also write about how this experience triggers a memory of a similar experience in the character’s past (or your past), or evokes a similar feeling in the character, maybe something they’ve forgotten until now. A narrative likes layers, so thinking about how one experience links to others, can only be a good thing!