Inspiration can come from anywhere, and we writers must often have the feeling that ‘I’ll use that in a story one day’ when we see or overhear something interesting.
I sometimes find myself foraging for goodies in my memory banks going back 50 years to my childhood. It’s interesting how we come to an understanding of the way that the world works through dramatic and confusing incidents, that are only half-explained to us by our parents.
I wrote a short story called In The Graveyard At Dawn, based on my experiences of walking my dog through the grounds of the local church. This included encountering a widower driven mad with grief, who used to lay on his wife’s grave. When I first saw him at 6:00 am, as an impressionable 13-year-old, I thought it was a corpse not yet buried and I looked around for the gravedigger. He became aware of my presence and sat up hinging at the waist like Nosferatu rising from his coffin. The hair on my dog’s spine and on the back of my neck rose in hackles before we ran from the scene!
I’ve been entering writing competitions recently, and have been casting around for ideas for new short stories to write, as most contests only accept previously unpublished material. I remembered seeing a mysterious and extraordinary woman when I was a youngster, who used to walk past my house. I grew up on what was once known as the Great North Road, a Roman road that’s arrow straight in many places. Playing with my toy cars beside the footpath, I could see this lady coming from half-a-mile away.
What made her stand out, was that she was short, about 4′ 10″ tall, and she walked between two huge dogs, an Irish Wolfhound and a Great Dane, her forearms resting on their backs as they kept pace with her. Her hairdo was unusual for the early 1960s, closely cropped to her head. She had an upright posture, one eye on the horizon as she had a black patch over the other one. At 8-years-old, the only people I knew who wore eye-patches were pirates, and as she lived in the posh houses of millionaire’s row, presumably she was a retired pirate captain!
I never did find out who she was, or how she’d been injured, but she’ll soon appear in one of my stories. You’re probably already making up theories about her—it’s impossible not to when you’re a writer—it’s what we automatically do.
Have you used any childhood memories in your stories?