Tag Archives: #memories

Changing What Might Have Been

War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things

If you were around during the Vietnam War, maybe you remember that oft seen refrain. Posters, bumper stickers and more. There really is no good war. Some religions say there are just ones–not necessarily good. Inevitably, the innocents suffer. So do the people fighting in them. Oh, it is true that collectively there may be self defense—as in one-to-one self defense when one is attacked, instead, defense of a community or a nation.

Soldiers who fight in war see and do terrible, inhuman deeds. They suffer PTSD from the memories they relive at prompts that occur in daily life. So do the survivors of the war—those who lost friends and loved ones or were themselves victims. It used to go by other names, shell shock, war neurosis and more. It’s all the same and not just from war-related events—rape, murder, and more.

I didn’t suffer PTSD after a year in Vietnam—I wasn’t in combat nor did I witness it. I came close, but not close enough. My brothers had far different experiences from me during the Korean War. One served as a radar operator in Hawaii for two years. The other saw combat as a platoon sergeant in Korea. The former suffered not at all, of course. The other became an alcoholic. The first had a family and retired from a successful career at a major American corporation.

Time for another visit with Derek. If I were Derek, could I go back and perform a reset on my deceased oldest brother? What might he have accomplished had he not died of a heart attack at 48? Overweight, a smoker and a 20-plus-year alcoholic that drank a fifth of whisky each day. He had a brief stint of sobriety lasting nearly two years before relapsing. He had a girlfriend from the past who he reunited with during the booze break. They might have married had he never used tobacco and alcohol to mediate memories of life at war—and the nearly simultaneous death of his father from cancer.

I don’t know, today, what his life might have been. I won’t know next month or next year. But I will write about it. Perhaps in the Derek novel, with some changes to my brother’s circumstances and connection to me. Or I might come up with an answer in the Buddhist fiction series that I will start sooner. Consider the correlation of changing one’s life through Buddhism with that of meddling with the past via time travel. In Buddhism, one creates karma through thought word and deed. In other words, one makes causes that inscribe potential results in one’s life. Karma is not predestination. It’s constantly changing as one makes good causes and bad causes. Not only that, but the Buddhism which I practice enables one to eradicate (or change) negative karma. We have described how in other posts.

In the meantime, here’s a brief explanation. Let’s say you did something years ago that you regret. A deed that might result in loss of a job, a breakup of a relationship, a health problem, etc. You can’t change what you did. You can lessen or erase entirely the effects of such karma through connecting with your Buddha nature and the karmic storage in your life. Not quite traveling through time but the result is the same as going back and not doing what you did.

 

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Memories Are Made of This–and That

Dean Martin recorded “Memories Are Made of This” in 1955. To the iconic hit song  I added “and that.” Memories pop up in response to the oddest things. At least mine do. A doctor told her to drink ginger ale for a swallowing issue. Turns out it could be almost any other carbonated beverage. But it happened to be ginger ale that she had with lunch the other day. Pop (a Midwestern pun there) goes the memory. The Variety Bar and Café, 9th street and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Long since gone, but it used to be there.

What’s that got to do with ginger ale. I was drinking it, in that long gone bar. A memory that hadn’t been in consciousness for many decades. It might have been in 1955, as in Martin’s song. Yes, I would have been a child in the in the 50s. Things were probably a bit looser then. I wasn’t there alone. The unknown part is who was I with. My father died of cancer in 1954, when I was seven. He’d had it a few years already. More likely my oldest brother. Can’t say. All I remember is the bar, the ginger ale—some Juicy Fruit gum and at least a couple more people. Could have been the brother and his neighborhood friend.

Now, I could have posted this on my story blog, John Maberry’s Writing. I put it here because it’s a writing tip. Grab those memories and the word associations that prompted them. They work great for writing fiction or nonfiction. Writing for life is the parlance. Change the names, the places, etc. to protect the privacy of yourself and others—but make use of them. Everything doesn’t have to come from your imagination!

On the story blog, you’ll find a recent post, Derek is Back in Time. Derek is the time traveling protagonist in an SF novel to be published some years from now. I keep puttering away with snippets here and there while accumulating more knowledge from movies, TV shows and books featuring time travel. It’s a challenging thing. I believe I can do it well—no rush, I must take my time (ha-ha). The thing about it is, we time travel often—not physically, but through our memories. Think about that. My current conception is that this is an essential part of the storyline and the reality—if there is any, with regard to physical time travel.

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Tips, Tips and Observations on Writing

Do you identify with your characters?

If you don’t, how do you expect your readers to? Well, OK, of course you identify with them. You write from life, don’t you?  Some people say you should talk to your characters. I try, but most of the time they don’t answer. You remember Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters–it’s dangerous to get too far into your characters.

But lately I’ve found myself talking like my characters, more than to them. It started with the ones on TV series or movies we watch on TV.  What happens when you’re around people from a different part of the country, speak with a foreign accent or have a cultural vocabulary wholly apart from you. Do you become a verbal chameleon, emulating them?

If you can do that, you can build better dialogue. You can better identify with your characters. Caution–be careful trying on the verbal tics of others, they might find it a tad offensive. Duh!

OK, back to TV and scripted shows. Did you watch this year’s eight episode installment of “True Detective” on HBO. Outstanding for me and frustrating for her. The continual time shifting between 1980, 1990 and 2015 drove her crazy. Truthfully, I did find it confusing at times–OK, more often than I’d care to admit. All right, enough background–on to the writing tips (through the television lens).

Wayne Hays, played by the outstanding Mahershala  Ali, has episodes of dementia/Alzheimer’s in 2015. Watch those parts to see how you might write a character with that problem (or, heaven forbid, you have family or friends who have experienced either of these and you don’t need the show).

Watching the final  episode, I saw Ali stagger in confusion a bit during an incidence of the disease. But it wasn’t just that, it was aging. It brought the memory to me of an introductory/survey course to Theater decades ago. The professor illustrated how an actor portrays age–showing the effects of gravity on his or her limbs. Ali did that. Unless you’re adding illustrations to your stories, you must find words to show that aging. Words like ones I’ve used in the past:

He had attained that age in a man’s life when the hair on arms, legs and chest grows brittle and breaks off while other hairs sprout and flourish mysteriously from nose and ears.

For more of this aging sketch, see the rest here.

I would be remiss in failing to mention the irony. Wayne Hays spends much time digging deeply in the recesses of his mind for memories of the case that bedeviled his partner and himself. Things pop into his head that explain it all, better than Clarissa. So, as I am watching the show, Wayne’s walk takes me back nearly 50 years to Arthur Ballet’s class–a teaching moment that I clearly visualized. No, I’m not on the verge of Alzheimer’s but there was an odd sensation. A reminder of how amazing the human mind of memories is.

You can find incidents in your life, moment by moment and day by day that will enrich whatever you write. Trust me on this.

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