I was listening to an interview on Fresh Air with Garry Marshall (re-aired since he just passed) about his career writing comedy and for TV and movies. He is best known for developing and writing for Happy Days among others. He said something interesting: time + pain=comedy. We’re always looking for that elusive creative spark.
Sometimes it is simply butt in chair. Sitting down and writing. Spending time with your material. This is not sexy advice. We always wish for the “secret,” the inside scoop, the magic formula. But often it comes with a prosaic thud. Live life, write about life. That’s it.
He said when looking for material he went back to an embarrassing moment. As a boy he would never take off his shirt at the beach because once his mother said you have so many moles. I bet I can connect the dots. Thereafter he was self-conscious about his moles and freckles. Later he would turn this into a famous episode on the Dick Van Dyke Show, the one where Rob falls asleep on the couch and his son (Ritchie?) comes in and connects the dots with an ink pen. Laura discovers that Rob’s freckles form a facsimile of the Liberty Bell. He ends up appearing on “Reality” TV show, “Odd But True.”
This is exactly what I say in my flash memoir seminars: mine memories from your own life. Riff on stuff from your childhood, and sometimes the pain from the past becomes your most compelling material.
Let’s look at an example. A detail became the basis for a short short 100-word flash. A woman slipping her cellphone into her bra. I took that thought and crafted/flashed a piece called Granny’s Pockets about someone who grew up referring to boobs as pockets because her grandmother was constantly tucking things away down the front of her dress. I wrote it, researched 100-word story journals, submitted the piece, had it accepted, and ONLINE within a few hours. Really.
That was a record and gave me a real boost. (I boast.)
Right now write a flash based upon some fledgling memory from your childhood, suppressed pain, the stuff of nightmares and turn it into a narrative. Revisiting these memories might make for horror, comedy, or slice-of-life- anecdotal flash. Give it a try.
|Odd but True|