Writing prompts are great conversation starters. Exploring childhood memories is a great place to start, whether you’re working on your own story or helping a friend or family member. Don’t be satisfied with “Oh, I had a good childhood, or “My growing up years were rough.”
Get specific and sensory whether you’re telling your own story or helping draw out someone else’s.
Kim Kautzer of WriteShop has a great list of questions to get those memories flowing, check out her blog on Childhood Memory Writing for inspiration. She says:
“As vivid as the moment seems at the time, memories fade. These prompts will help jog them. Invite your older children to participate. They’re in closer proximity to their memories, and can usually remember the details more vividly….”
Here’s an example using one of her prompts:
Describe your favorite hideaway.
Before middle school hit like a freight train full of angst I’d spend hours at a time in my secret warm, dusty hideout. During these late childhood years I’d wrestle a few sweet smelling hay bales around so they made a little cave up in the top of the pole barn. Then, I’d climb down to collect whatever book I was reading that week, tuck a cat under one arm and clamber back up to my nest, being careful of my chronically skinned knees. Curling my long skinny frame onto an old coat spread out on the hay I’d settle into my secret sanctuary with a contented cat and book.
Safe, quiet, peaceful. Traveling to distant places, getting lost in story, daydreaming about winning the track meet, becoming a writer or just the sweet red headed boy who said “hi.” Kid stuff yes, but crucial deposits into a bank of memories to draw on through life.
Learning to communicate well is a skill you can nurture in anyone, whether 5 or 75. If you have kiddos who are “reluctant writers” take a look at the rest of the WriteShop website, you’ll find a wealth of practical help. Pass it along to your teacher friends too.
Childhood memories could also turn into a bit of story like this:
Grandma had a penchant for daydreaming and a vivid imagination and used these skills to liven up the duties and routine of caring for a large family. Rosie had discovered this one summer when she’d been sent to help Grandma on the farm, and, she suspected, get her out of her overworked mother’s hair for a few weeks. She’d promised that she would help and not sleep too late and do chores without being told, and wash the dishes and, the list went on.
When she arrived at the Big House however, that’s what her dad always called the old white Victorian, she discovered that Grandma was energetic and capable and didn’t feel overworked in the least. On the contrary, as she bustled about her morning routine with the sun shining in through the wavy glass of the old windows, Rosie had followed her around, trying to help and watching her. Grandma was quick to smile, her green eyes crinkling at the corners. She was patient to and Rosie did learn, but it took her three times as long to do a chore as it did Grandma who smoothly went through the motions of caring for her home and family just like she had for all the decades of her adult life.
Rosie shyly asked about what things were like when Grandma was a girl, then got lost in the stories she told as they hung up sheets in the grass scented breeze outside on the drying lines or picked sun warmed blackberries in the garden, licking the juice off their fingers and feeling the delicious pop when biting down on a ripe berry. They made cobbler in her big cast iron skillet with Grandma’s homemade sweet biscuit dough.