Researching background to a story

Researching background to a story 

For any ghost writing project, checking the availability of background material can often be a good starting point. This can involve looking through pictures, diaries, letters and any other source documents that come to hand. Magazine articles or newspaper clips are always useful in any ghost writer jobs.

It is probably a good idea for us all to keep a diary. One never knows when one will want to remember something or even want to write a memoir. Nevertheless, for research, a diary is invaluable. Memory is imperfect. Rereading a diary, or even looking at old pictures can trigger long forgotten memories. If you don’t believe me, try digging out some old photos and see what happens. I feel sure something will come back to you. And I hope it will be a pleasant memory. You will find it an interesting experiment. Some memories do not open, of course.

In the old days photography had to be thought about. Nowadays, with smart phones, photographs and even video can be taken and shot respectively, almost at will. These can then be transmitted to social media for all your friends to see as you go. The question is now how permanent will these captured memories be?

I would recommend backing up your photos, and print them off even. Any computer problems, lost phone, etc., could be a disaster otherwise.

All this will probably mean ghost writers will be spoilt for choice for records made in the digital world in any future ghostwriting jobs.

Facebook has recognised the power of memories associated with posts and photos. They have introduced their ‘On This Day’ whereby a user can post to their friends and others their old posts and pictures from way back. This is a great, innovative idea that will help future ghost writers no end.

The importance of setting for memories

Often a person’s story can centre, or revolve around locations that are significant in their overall memoir. Like a living photo album. A visit to these places can be useful. But as it is a living place, things do change and evolve. These visits can then be a disappointment to some people. A ghost writer would have to take these changes into account so that they can interpret what the place meant to the person during the era of their memory. This sometimes can take a lot of imagination.

Of course the magic of the location can still be there. And certainly a visit under those circumstances can be rewarding for me as a writer and a person whose memories we are trying to recall. These can be personal, memorable, happy, sad, traumatic, the whole gambit of human emotions.

This part of the process can sometimes kick off other ideas and memories that can become part of the story.

An example of my own experience

When I work with someone, I will try to understand their feelings for a place. I remember my own experiences. This helps me to focus on my ghost writing and the ways I can help.

I have fond memories of outings with my father when I was a small child. I used to own a tricycle which was an important form of transport for me in those days.

We used to go to a small lagoon that nestled a little in land from an expansive beach. For me, this location was and still is special. I would go there for walks with my father and my dog. When I go there, even today, all those happy memories flood back.

Anyway, on this particular day my father and my dog were enjoying their walk while I was cycling round the lagoon. There was a steep slope at one point that led to the water’s edge. I carefully missed this part as I completed my circuits.

After a while, I started to wonder what would happen if I cycled on this slope. I took the plunge, literarily because as I enter the slope my tricycle and I toppled and both of us entered the lagoon.

I was wearing a heavy rain coat and my cap. I shouted to my dad to save my bike. Almost instantly his big hands pulled me up by my shoulders. I was dripping wet and worried only about my tricycle.

We walked back to the car, me following my father who was holding my tricycle with one hand and the dog with the other. Usually, he would give me a bar of chocolate. That day I missed out on the chocolate.

Later my father told my mother about the story. My mum told me he laughed because all I was worried was my bike. Of course, in my life, I have always been loyal.

As I stand by that water’s edge today, I think of my father, my dog and of course my tricycle. This is why memories are so important. I hope you can keep yours.

So try and research some of your old memories

On a quiet day, a wet one maybe, try and dig out some old memories. Is it a place you visited? Were you with someone important? We are our memories. As a ghost writer, I can’t help but think how important it is to keep your memories alive.

I know they may not all be happy. However, I feel we are the sum total of our experiences. While helping people to write their stories, I have found that looking backwards, so to speak, can help them go forward. And this can be a great honour and privilege to achieve.

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