Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Childhood Memories, Tainted by Technology

One of the reasons I love reading is because I feel a strong need to know how stories end. I don't like loose ends, so I keep turning the pages.

When my parents were the age I am now, they might mention something that had happened in their childhood or teen years. They'd tell some fun story about an adventure with, say, Jim, and then end the story with, "Wonder whatever happened to ol' Jim?" And that was, truly, the end.

"Wonder whatever happened to..." is rarely a valid question these days. If you want to know what became of ol' Jim, you can get online and within five minutes, you can most likely see his most recent photo, find out about his entire family, learn his every political opinion, and get a map directly to his house, along with a photo of said house. 

As a person who loves to know how stories end, this should be fantastic. But as a writer, I find it kind of sad. No one gets to live forever in our memory frozen in time, unless said person lives off the grid or we don't bother to look that person up. 

It's better for me not to look up people I used to know when I was younger. If I need to write a character who's a jerk, I need that memory of middle school jerks I knew. But if I look up a kid I thought was a jerk, I might find that he/she has grown into a well-adjusted, wonderful human being. Certainly, I hope we all have matured a great deal since I was pretty much a moron myself back in the day. But if I find out that the kid who beat up the scrawny kid is now a foster dad who takes in hard-to-place, needy children, how can that not color the character description I might have drawn from my memory of him? 

My own children love stories I've told them about a friend from middle school named Andy. Andy used to make up silly songs and sing them during our social studies class. He had zero qualms about being thought goofy or weird, and he let his creativity run wild. I can still sing the words to some of his hilarious songs, and so can my children. I actually tried to look up Andy on Facebook so I could tell him he was a big hit at our house, but I can find no sign of him. In a way, that's too bad, but in another way, I love the fact that Andy, in my mind, will never be older than 13. He will always be the goofy, awesome kid who made everybody laugh. 

I haven't used Andy as a basis for a character...yet. But if I ever wanted to, the memory I'd draw from would remain untainted.

Ginger Rue's latest book, Wonder Women of Science, is co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission. The book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields.

1 comment: