Writing about Your Life: Take Your Best Shot

Dew on a spider's web in the morning. Français...
Dew on a spider’s web in the morning. Français : Rosée sur une toile d’araignée au levé du soleil. Русский: Утренняя роса на паутине. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t believe I’ve become such a camera bug! Anytime I see anything remotely interesting, I am ready to snap a picture or do a video. I have to give total credit to my Sprint smart phone. Since I bought my phone back in September, I’ve created a library of 258 photos and 30 videos. In addition, I recently downloaded the Instagram camera app, so I’m sorry to announcement that you may see more of my family on Facebook. While I may never become an Annie Lebowitz, a photographer whose claim to fame is taking pictures of babies in unique settings, I’m on my way to “notoriety” with my family and friends.

Pictures are priceless. My one regret is that I don’t have a picture of someone who made a profound impact on my life–my grandmother, Mom Mamie.  However, I distinctly remember this phenomenal woman. In chapter two of my memoir, The Price of Pearls, I describe her in the following manner:

Mom Mamie was a force to be reckoned with–grey kinky hair, parted down the middle, straightened with a hot com and slicked back with fingertips of My Night conditioner. She had a deep dark face adorned with flared nostrils and breasts that flopped to her waistline, beneath her usual flowered house dress. Her hands were calloused from years of doing “day’s work,” as she called the chores she did in rich white folks’ houses. Bowed legs, straining to keep up stockings knotted at the knees, supported her slightly stooped frame. Fingernails bitten to the nubs were emblems of battle-scarred memories.

     As I grew older, I’d often think about what an odd couple they were. Grandfather surely had been quite a catch; Grandmother’s wisdom and fortitude, I surmised, had no doubt won his heart.

     Recently, my oldest son Duane gave me a much appreciated compliment. “Mom, he remarked, “I always heard you talk about Mom Mamie and Pop Pete (my grandfather), but they were just names before I read your book. Now I know who they are and where I come from.”

Perhaps you want to acquaint your readers with important people in your story.  If you have a photo, fine. But if you, like me, have nothing but your memory, you can retrieve those pictures at any time. Try doing a web. It’s very simple. On a sheet of paper, write the name of the person you want to describe in the middle of the paper. Then draw lines like the rays of the sun extending from the name. Jot down everything you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel when you bring that person into focus in your mind. Then add details as you draw other lines extending from the original lines you drew.  Keep going until you’ve exhausted all your thoughts.

There is no right or wrong way to do this activity, which is generally referred to as “brainstorming.” When you’re finished, decide which details are important to your picture and which can be omitted or added to your story later. Have fun while you’re doing this activity! When you’re finished, begin putting your ideas in sentences. You can go from least to most important details or vice versa. When I described my grandmother, I started with her hair and ended with her hands.

One of the most important aspects of photography is making sure you consider the right lighting. One of the benefits of using Instagram when taking pictures is having the ability to change the lighting after you’ve taken a picture.  Sounds great, right? Well, you, the writer, have total control of lighting.  Truly, what you see is what the reader will get! Creating a picture with words takes practice, but the results are priceless!


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