Tapping our Inner Child For Writing by Darlene Beck Jacobson

 This month's theme of mining our own childhood for ideas, settings, and characters in our stories really resonated with me. My latest MG novel WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY began as a strong voice in my head. The main character, Jack, had a lot to say about one summer spent at his grandparents house. After writing a few poems of this novel-in-verse, it became apparent that I needed to decide the time period for his story. And, it needed to be at a time when kids were free to ride bikes, play, hang out together all day long without parents hovering nearby.

So, I chose 1964 which just happened to be the time when I was Jack's age. Filling out his story using the memories of my own childhood was a fun trip on the "way back" machine and added authenticity to the tale. We don't have to write historical fiction to use our own memories and events from childhood in our writing.

What are some ways we can tap into our childhood memories and use them in stories?

* Look through old photo albums and recall the feelings you had when the pictures were taken. I was feeling pretty satisfied having climbed to the highest crotch of our willow tree. What objects are in the background that might evoke feelings or memories that you can use with your current story. Who were you with? Are those people still in your life?

* Listen to music and songs that you enjoyed as a kid. Which songs made you dance and still give you that feeling today? Music has a special way of bringing us back to the time and place we heard the songs when they were new.

* What did you like about celebrations? What rituals did you and your family practice that you carried over into your adulthood? How would your character feel about these rituals?

* How did you feel about dressing up and choosing your own clothes to wear? 

* What was your favorite hang-out spot? What was it about the place that made you want to keep going back? One of mine happened to be our local library...a tiny building filled with musty, dusty books that were portals to adventure beyond my small town imagination.



* Remember your favorite snacks or after-school treats? Are those foods still your favorite and are they popular today?

ALL these ideas help tap into our childhood. The feelings we remember associated with these events and memories are the same feelings kids have today. Use them to add depth and dimension to your modern-day stories. Being a kid transcends time and place.

Darlene Beck Jacobson still loves libraries, trees, and dressing up. The snacks she enjoyed during childhood still make an appearance now and then.