A few weeks ago, I was struggling with a part of my novel. For the past few months I've been revising my fiction manuscript, attempting to make it stronger and filling in gaps. In one particular section, I wanted my protagonist to have an encounter with a helpful stranger but I was having a hard time coming up with the specifics. How could I make this stranger different? What should stand out about her? Why should she and my main character meet in the first place?
I have found that thinking back to childhood memories often assist me in writer's block. My sister has always told me that I have "an almost scary" long term memory. I can tell you what I wore on the first day of second grade (black stirrup pants and a purple cheetah shirt, don't judge- it was 1989), or what song I slow danced to with my first crush. These random memories have helped many of my stories develop so I decided to conjure a memory that popped into my head every now and then.
I was ten years old and my parents, my sister, brother, and I were out for ice cream after Saturday night mass. It was a warm summer evening and after everyone had gotten their dessert, we walked outside and sat on the sidewalk. For some reason my parents began having an argument and I recall getting upset and quietly walking away from them. As I licked my soft serve twist in a waffle cone, I saw a girl about my age watching my parents. She was taller than me with blonde hair but what I noticed most about her were all the freckles that decorated her face. After a minute or so the girl walked over to me and said, "My parents get mad too, it will be ok." I remember smiling at her, almost on the verge of tears and before I could respond, she walked away.
I never got that freckled face girl's name, never even saw her again, but the fact that she was a friend to me when I needed one always remained with me. Every once in awhile I wonder what became of her, and as I sat at my computer figuring out how this new character needed to appear in my protagonist's life, this memory came to me. Why not show my gratitude to my mystery friend though a scene in my book?
The part where my main character has a breakdown in the parking lot of an ice cream shop was written within an hour after I thought of this memory. It is a funny and heartwarming scene and it was the least I could do and yes, every time I eat a twist soft serve in a waffle cone, I now think of my freckle faced savior.