writing from memory

There’s a reason.


Writers walk atop a paper-thin edge. They must get to the truth of a tale–but that does not always mean they will present the events of the story accurately.

Or maybe they will.

We draw on our own memories for our sensory details, which might be extremely helpful.

Or not.

Some of you might have heard about my *unexpected surgery. Blahblahblah. The point is:

I mentioned to Big Bopper that while I was waiting for the ambulance I had been rolling around in pain. He said, “No you weren’t. You were lying perfectly still.”


Geez. I was rolling around in pain in my head.

Now, as a writer, what would I do with a scene like that?


A wave of nausea surged through my chest. Someone lodged a giant baseball bat under my ribs and pushed–shoved my insides out of the way to make room. Cold sweat beaded up on my forehead and back. I moaned, crumpled to the floor, my hands holding my abdomen. I rolled back and forth like a whipped dog. “Make it stop,” I said.


A wave of nausea surges through my chest. A terrible weight under my ribs. Clammy, I lie on the couch. Is it what I think it is?

The pain spreads–burns–hard to bear…

“I’d feel better if I could lie still,” I say.

My husband frowns down at me. “What do you mean? You’re not moving. At all.”


No freakouts. It was not what I thought it was.


I don’t think either piece  of writing is particularly superior or inferior. I think it has to do with who your audience is, and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Have any opinions on which audience these two examples might be suited for? Because I’m tired and I need you to finish this blogpost for me.

After all, I just had some *unexpected surgery.

*disclaimer: oh, please. i am fine. pay attention to the point i’m trying to get across, will you?


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on June 23, 2011, in writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Good post. Our perceptions don’t always match reality!

  2. Good post. Yeah, memory is very selective and very filtered; just ask a couple of siblings their take on an early family vacation–totally different impressions of the same events. I think many people have a very clear memory of their *feelings* surrounding a life event, even if the physical details become hazy with time.
    As for what audience these examples might be suited for: to me, the first example is dead serious and I can picture it in a crime/detective novel; the second example has a touch of humor and I’m picturing it in a drier, humorous novel even though it has serious subject matter. Just my two cents worth. 🙂

  3. No kidding, Sue. Although, I still think I was rolling and he missed it. *won’t give up*

    A very good two cents, Judy.

    Also, if that really is what happened–what was going on in my head so DID NOT MATCH WHAT I WAS REALLY DOING–does that not make the scene more frightening?

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