Migrated from The Writing Spectacle. Originally posted January 7th, 2007.
As an example of how memories can be woven into your fiction, below is an excerpt--based loosely on my own experience--from my second novel, "Caldera". The movie mentioned below really does exist somewhere in the dark recesses of some elementary school vault.
Growing up in the countryside with neither siblings nor neighbors, Myke had spent many solitary days outdoors, running through the fields and woods that surrounded her home. Free to discover the world without gaining a fear of it, hers had been a dreamlike existence. She made friends with the squirrels, and the birds, and the rabbits; she grew to love every rock and shrub and tree. Looking back, she knew it was that sincere childlike wonder about nature that had made her such an easy target.
She’d heard whisperings about man’s destruction of nature throughout grade school. They came in seemingly harmless storybooks, and on various children’s television programs, and in snippets of the news that she would catch as she played in the living room each evening. Still, as she looked back over her life, she’d come to the realization that her real indoctrination came in earnest during her third grade year.
Many times since, Myke recalled that incident and realized that in any other country if she had been exposed to information of that nature in that form, it would have been denounced as propaganda. That it came to her in an American public classroom in the form of a short film made it education. Looking back, she could only think of it as repulsive.
The movie had seemed innocuous enough, clicking along on its rickety projector as all such films did. It could have easily been about Nanook of the North, or about the Grand Canyon for all the notice her classmates took of it. For them, movies were just another form of recess; for her, they were another means of gaining knowledge. She loved them all, but movies about the outdoors were her favorites. Though she never could have known it, it had been her downfall. Sadly, at eight years old, she had been ripe for the picking.
By that age, she’d already been subjected to many such films about the beauty of untouched nature. This one seemed to be no different. At first the film showed a great sweeping primeval forest with a gentle meadow in the forefront; a babbling stream and marsh grasses filled with birds, alongside. She could remember leaning forward onto her elbows in rapt attention at the splendor of it all. When suddenly the camera panned in closer to show men standing in the field, she had felt a rush of disappointment. Men had no place there, in her mind, and she had resented their intrusion.
The men seemed to be making plans of some sort. They were wearing hardhats and pointing from blueprints they were holding to the landscape around them. The voice-over had reflected Myke’s own thoughts as it spoke of the men and her own indignation had been apparent in the script. When the scene shifted to show bulldozers pulling down trees and plowing through the meadows, she had only nodded her head.
At barely eight, she’d already understood that it was a bad thing for man to use nature to suit his own purposes and that man was bad because of it. The next scene, though, had sealed the lid on her perception of mankind as wanton destructor. The scene showed men starting a fire to burn off the marsh grass, and in a very graphic display, that had made little Myke feel lightheaded and that haunted her adult self still, the camera showed nests full of baby birds being burned alive.
On that day, Myke learned to hate mankind.
May the makers of that movie rot in hell for what they did to hundreds, if not thousands, of impressionable 8 year olds.