From Memoir to Novel

#ICYMI, It Started With a Memory

What did? Out of the Desert.

That memory was triggered by an old black-and-white photograph of two kids hiding in a fort they’d dug in the desert. My cousin, Jerry, and I loved to play cowboys and Indians, or war, or anything else that required a hole in the sand. We’d lie outside, gazing up at the stars at night, and dream about what we were going to be when we grew up. Kinda like most kids at 10, 11, 12.

We had grand dreams. Jerry was going to be a spaceman. I was going to be a doctor. He was going to fly airplanes. I was going to be a champion barrel racer. He wanted to escape; I wanted to stay. Neither of us got what we dreamed about. I did race around barrels (What the heck what I thinking???). I didn’t become a doctor. Well, not a medical doctor. Jerry didn’t have chance. Fate took him too soon.

But, when I looked at that picture, I knew I had to write about us. I started with a short story about daydreaming on the high Mojave desert near Victorville, CA. I was 11; Jerry was 12. I remembered a lot about how we dreamed of being something other than kids in school. I published that short story in The Best of the Virginia Writers Club: Centennial Anthology, 1918-2018 as “Toad.” I was pretty satisfied with it.

Guess I wasn’t through, because Jerry kept returning in my dreams some sixty years after he died. He wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t through with his story. I couldn’t write a memoir of our life together, because I didn’t have enough material. What I could, and did, do was imagine what he would have become had fate not stepped in. I gave Jerry a life. I gave him the future he never had. And now, looking back on Out of the Desert, who’s to say this isn’t the exact life my cousin would have enjoyed.

So, do you have a memory? Or an idea of something that might have happened? Do you want to tell it? Well, darn it. Tell it. Shout it loud and clear. Let readers know how much you loved the person you’re writing about. Fictionalize the story when you run out of memories. It’s all right to do that. It’s your story. Own it. Tell it. Share it. You’ll be glad you did.

Out of the Desert is available on Amazon in print and ebook formats.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #OutOfTheDesert, #ToadtheDreamer, Burro

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