Welcome back to the series on Unhindered: Story Craft Through Inner Healing. If you missed the part on Emotion, here’s the link back.
One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. -Rita Mae Brown
As you’ve been journeying to connect with your emotions, it’s likely a story follows close behind. Why do you feel the way that you do? Tell yourself the story. By writing it down, you will connect deeper with the source of your pain and move closer to healing.
The place that you end up in your memory (while following your painful emotion) is the dark moment of your story. It’s the character who just couldn’t move beyond his mother’s death. It’s the sidekick who tries to cheer everyone up because he can’t afford to break down like that time he did in second grade—everyone shamed him. It’s the little girl waiting for her parents to throw her a birthday party, but they could never afford it.
Whatever your story, record it. As you discover yourself, you’ll discover your main character’s backstory as well.
Remember, you will be writing fiction. Taking your exact story would be a memoir.
As the author, you get to choose which parts of your history are most relevant to your character. You will, in a sense, write yourself into a story, and then you will deal with your pain on the page the same way you have in your quiet healing time.
When writing, the darkness of [your] character’s past should be seen in the beginning.
When he or she (you) conquers this darkness at the midpoint, then the end can show the character doing the opposite of what he/she failed to do in the beginning.
For example, in my book Ariel: The First Guardian, her dark moment (that was also mine) was being dumped out of the blue by a close boyfriend.
She didn’t trust people not to abandon her, and she always believed she would come in second place. This is the darkness she carries at the beginning. The story begins with her being very private. She’s unable to be vulnerable with anyone, including herself, and showing weakness is not optional.
As the story goes, she has to turn back and face that pain at the midpoint. It turns out that now she’s in first place when Ryan tells her his true feelings—he’s in love with her.
That rocks her world. All of a sudden, she sees that everything she thought was true was in fact a lie. She isn’t abandoned, and she isn’t a second choice. It’s okay to be vulnerable because she’s wanted.
Then at the conclusion of the story, she’s able to open herself emotionally to her new husband and to herself. She’s able to do what she couldn’t at the beginning of the story because she had to go through that midpoint of transformation.
This is exactly what will happen to you on your own journey.
You may have to go through a series of midpoints, and as you go you’ll see that there are layers of healing.
We may never arrive at completion down here on this earth, but free, abundant life is possible.
You may find yourself getting stuck when going into a memory. Let your mind go where it will, even if you get blocked. Reconnecting with the emotion will likely unlock your memory (as it will for your character—how far will he/she go to never feel pain again?).
Once you are in a memory with a painful emotion, ask yourself, “How does this make me feel?”
Then, “Why am I feeling this way?”
Lastly, “Why does believing make me feel ?”
As emotion is the door to your memory, so memory is the door to your beliefs (your upcoming theme and story questions).
Your mind may skip around in a way that doesn’t seem logical. That’s okay.
If you’re journaling through this process, then when you surface from your memories and look back, I bet you will notice a pathway and understand how you got from Point A to Point Q.
The human mind was designed to recognize when something feels bad—so that we can avoid that in the future! By allowing your memories to flow, you’re letting your brain do what it was designed to do.
Like emotions, your choice can get in the way in the memory stage as well. Perhaps there is something incredibly painful that you would rather die than remember. You may begin reconnecting with the emotion, and then the memory overwhelms you, so you shut down.
That is okay. That is your choice. If you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready.
Give yourself the grace to be where you are until you have the courage to move forward. When you’re ready to move forward, you will, although that may require you to push yourself to move forward when you know it’s time.
There comes a point where being stuck is comfortable, but we aren’t meant to stay there. We’re meant to find true freedom. That means you’ll be able to step into your memory, be fully there, and experience peace and joy instead of trauma.
That may sound impossible right now. You may not believe me. In fact, I struggled to grasp this process until I experienced it for myself. Each time facilitating myself and others, if a person was truly ready to let go and offer their pain in exchange for truth, they found peace.
This is why, as your story goes along, you will have to bring your main character to his or her knees. That character will have to show they are desperate for change! They’re ready to do things a new way.
You will have walked that path before them. You will know what to do to push their buttons. The very thing you didn’t want to do will be the thing your character would rather die than face.
My character Ariel wanted to poke out her eyes and chew off her nails before exposing her emotions to someone who hurt her in the past—even though he loved her and wanted to reconcile.
In my own life, though there was never a rebound romance, my ex was pushing for reconciliation. It was a year and a half before I could offer that to him.
That journey taught me what to put Ariel through to make sure that when healing was offered to her at the midpoint, she was ready to take it. Then she was able to move forward into the happy ending I wished I’d had! (No worries, love came again as it always does. 😆 )
Find your dark moment and pull what you want to use in your character from that experience. Bookend your story.
Here’s what my character couldn’t do in the beginning (in my case, reconcile), and here’s them doing that thing (vulnerable togetherness) at the end.
In the middle, they (you) had to face their darkness, and though it was excruciating, they triumphed and came out alive.
This is really sinking into the meat and potatoes of writing transformational fiction. Emotions give us the tension for the story. Memories give us the scenes. And now the beliefs in those memories will give us the themes where you will wrestle with your deepest questions and convictions on the page.