Use photos to get your own juices flowing! As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Here's an example -- what the original picture on the left led me to recall, and record.
Those are my grandparents. The photo comp is on the cover of my book, "How to Write Your Memoirs...Fun Prompts to Make Writing...and Reading...Your Life Stories a Pleasure!" I added the pitchfork to the shot in honor of my dad. He drew one onto a copy of the Grant Wood classic, and this solemn pose reminded me of that couple in front of the barn. Of course my dad added blood to the ends of the tines, but only the outer two, which still makes me laugh. Trust me, he was not at all a ghoul; it was just one of those tiny things that once you notice them, make you giggle. And he never told anyone he'd done it, leaving it for you to discover.
He was a wonderful character, my dad. Can you imagine never being bored when making a cross country trip in a car ... at the age of 9? That was because Dad was a consummate storyteller. Whenever we were in the car -- which was often, as we all loved road trips -- my dad would keep my younger brother and me enthralled. There were, first, the jokes, always shaggy and long, and wry. He'd also regale us with tales from history, and then, to enliven the atmosphere if we began to show signs of incipient yawning, he'd start a game of Name That Car. He and my brother were much more adept than I at recognizing almost any auto on the road, but a love of driving, and of cars, was imprinted on me, too. To this day the only car I've ever owned is a stick. When you love driving, you love that contact with the road an automatic just can't deliver, and appreciate being able to corner without tipping over. Which I almost did one time in Tennessee. But that's another story.
Use the word prompts below as first lines or titles for stories. Your own tale can be true or a flight of fancy -- I believe completely in taking the occasional excursion into the realm of the imaginary. Wakes up creative juices and enlivens our memoir writing immensely. Off the wall prompts in the second half of this set of springboards can also lead you to recollections of real-life events and people, which you can then slide into your memoir.
The fondest memory I have of my mother is ______________________________. Be as concrete as possible. What was happening? Who was there? What were people wearing? What sounds, smells do you remember. You do not have to include answers to all of these questions, but use them to get your memory as vivid as you can.
I remember Mr. ___________________, from our block when I was a kid. (Why do you remember him? Was there something unusual about him? What was it? Did he dress a particular way? Have a special saying he liked to say, etc.)
It was always good to see ______________________ when I was younger.
We had __________________ (no, one, two, lots of) pets when I was a kid. The first one I remember is __________________________. (What do you remember about this/these pets? Aside from physical details, what did you feel when you were around them?)
On my first day of school ___________________________. (Get as concrete as you can -- what sights, smells, people, clothing, events and most of all, feelings do you recall? And this can be kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school; it's good to draw on all at some point)
You're at a party. A guest appears in the doorway. The person (could be male or female) is quite interesting, and draws much attention. There is only one thing about this person that is slightly amiss. There is a tiny green turtle sitting on top of the person's glasses. What happens? Describe the person, your reactions, and events. See an example of a story based on this prompt from Arabella Bell-Mitchell.
You have just brought a new kitten into a houseful of cats, at least two others. What happens?
Last Sunday, in ______________________, a man appeared. His name was _____________. See what our Kay Roberts did with this one -- she actually became obsessed with the man she came to call old weird Harold, and is still writing stories about him years after first hearing this prompt.
I was walking down the street in ______________, and suddenly a box appeared in front of me. (I have no idea what was in it, or what happens next. You figure it out!)
I woke up to a world in which there was no chocolate.
The day the chalk ran out
For more prompts please see the book, "How to Write Your Memoirs," by Ina, and Vol. 3 of "Stories From The Heart," which contains both prompts and examples of how some people developed stories based on them. Coming: How to Write Your Memoirs II -- The Toolbox Edition. This will contain a raft of prompts to help you recall your life vividly, and capture it on paper, and others to send you off on creative sprees to sparkle up your writing. Plus, many more "Writerly Tips" on ways to both enrich your stories and make your writing adhere to rules of good writing, and when it's fine to ignore them!