Where memories go when they’re forgotten

December is never a good writing month for me. I find the excessive amounts of darkness pretty wearing, and what surplus creative energy I do have seems nowadays to get sucked into preparing for the the double whammy of Christmas and Arthur’s birthday three days later.

It really stressed me out last year, but this year I’ve accepted my limitations and (other than external demands on my time which I have less control over), I’m finding things all a lot easier to handle.

The timing of my self-imposed deadline for getting the latest draft of my WIP to my agent was not accidental. Having submitted that before the end of November I don’t feel too guilty about being a non-writing writer for a bit. That’s not to say all thoughts of novels have been banished completely: as I’ve let myself get caught up once more in the day to day, I have felt my next project tapping away at the corners of my mind, just waiting for its turn in the spotlight.

I find it very curious how a story develops.


The flash of inspiration that comes first – a person, an event, a conceit that needs exploring. Those can seem to come from almost nowhere: they may have their origins somewhere in real life, but the way that concrete experience gets twisted and turned into the beginnings of a work of fiction renders it almost unrecognisable.

But it’s what comes next that really blows my mind. The way the characters start talking to you, offering up little titbits when you least expect it. The way that reading or hearing something completely unrelated seems to jog your memory and fill in an aspect of the plot that hitherto had not quite made sense. The way that you can lay an idea to rest for a while, and when you return you find it is embellished with so many more details that it is hard to believe weren’t always there.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m making a story up at all, that the events that are unfolding didn’t really happen. Sometimes it feels like the story is there, waiting to be discovered, and I’m just a conduit for a tale that needs to be told.

There was something Capaldi’s Doctor said that provided an explanation for it all that’s pretty hard to argue with:

“Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten”

There are so many stories after all. So many things that happen to people, that people think or do, that get lost in that moment. But what if they’re not lost? What if our job as writers – as storytellers – is to seek them out, to share them? We may not get every detail quite right, but perhaps our goal – through the planning, the drafting and the editing – is to get as close to the truth as possible.

And once all of that falls into place, perhaps that’s when we’ve got our story.


Writing Bubble

11 thoughts on “Where memories go when they’re forgotten

  1. Mummy Tries

    Ooooh loved reading this hon! Firstly congrats on sending your WIP off for the Nov 30th deadline, I missed that somehow. That quote is so striking isn’t it, seems perfectly reasonable that that’s exactly what our job as writers is. Good luck with the Xmas and birthday prep. You went all out with stunning home made gifts last year, so I’m not surprised it will all a little bit stressful. What are your plans this year? xx

    1. sophieblovett Post author

      I’m not being quite so ambitious with presents this year… Mostly I’ve been raiding Etsy for the fruits of other people’s creative labours 🙂 What with council and Ofqual stuff there’s not much time for crafting! There are still a few bits I’m hoping to get done though. We shall see… xx

  2. Emily Organ

    We don’t plan our children well do we? My daughter’s birthday is a week before Christmas and we’ve only just got my eldest’s birthday out of the way. It’s a busy time of year. Well done on getting your manuscript sent off though, it’s an important phase and one which gives you time for reflection. I like the idea that stories are already out there. As my current book is historical I like to think that things I’m writing about really did actually happen. And who’s to say they didn’t? It’s so far back in time no one knows. I know what you mean about laying ideas to rest and then they come back to you with plot ideas, usually it’s at moments when you’re doing something completely different.

  3. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    I love this, I have two novel ideas floating in my head at the moment and they are based on my experiences in some senses but also twisted away from my reality too. That quote brilliantly sums it all up. Thanks for sharing.

  4. maddy@writingbubble

    Ooh, I love this post Sophie! What a fantastic quote – the idea that lost memories are out there waiting for us to tell their story is kind of magical. Of course, given the darker side of literature I’d rather think that some stories are pure fantasy but I suspect if a writer can think it, then someone twisted will probably have done it at some point or other. Hmm, that’s less magical. Right, I’m now going back to the romantic way I first read the quote – the idea that lost memories need us.

    Good luck with all your christmas preparations, I’m totally unprepared here but then we go to my parents house on Christmas day so I don’t have the food to think about, just presents and decorations. Loads of my family and friends (though thankfully not my kids) have birthdays late oct to early Dec so it gets really busy then, but those birthdays have now passed. I should really get cracking with Christmas! Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting. xx

  5. agentspitback

    What a lovely quote – so true! I love your post! I was nodding along as I was reading your post. My characters just kind of take over my life as well. Sometimes I have to stop and think just who am I today? And you’re right, the birth of an idea or character just happens! #WhatImWriting

  6. Rebecca Ann Smith

    Thanks for this post, Sophie, I really enjoyed reading it. I’m very interested in that idea of where inspiration comes from because it seems so mysterious, doesn’t it? Sounds like you’re in the ‘fertile void’ now, and a fabulous new idea could strike at any moment. Well done on getting your draft in.

  7. glasgowdragonfly

    I loved this post. Your experience of the storytelling vocation very much mirrors my own trials and tribulations of having a head full of magic. It’s taken me a while to realise that not everyone has this urge inside them when plodding through everyday life. It’s just trying to remember & note down the weirder dreams, funny characters and flashes of inspiration when they strike in amongst the chaos. There’s never enough time. But I suspect this is the case even with all the time in the world. I think it’s great you’ve submitted your latest draft and a wee writing break (call it research time) will be the best tonic over the Xmas holidays! Thanks for sharing x

  8. Rachael

    Oh I love that quote! What a lovely idea… Congrats on getting you MS in so you can enjoy the downtime over Christmas (well, writing downtime, sounds like you’re otherwise pretty busy!)… I hope you have a lovely break and I’m sure inspiration will creep back to you when you least expect it. x

  9. Carie

    I loved that phrase from Dr Who – it resonated so much because part of the reason that I write about my family now is so that the stories are still there when the memories fade. Congratulations on handing in the latest WIP and woo hoo for the itchings of a new idea 🙂


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