Tapping into your own memories can be a tricky proposition and even a challenging one, but I have found that it’s necessary to do it in order to write a believable story. In my novel, there are several background scenery types of settings where I had to dip into my own specific memories to come up with a description of a place or dialogue between characters or thoughts in my characters’ heads.
Growing up, I went to a small Baptist church in New Jersey. However, it always seemed to me that most people were Catholic or some form of Eastern European Orthodox Christianity. I always felt like we were in the minority. There was a Methodist segment but as far as I knew, most folks were Catholic.
Scout’s Honor takes specific memories that I had as a child, as well as my own religious upbringing, and uses them to help tell a character’s thinking patterns or thoughts or how a belief system – especially when raised in one – can completely shape a young mind for the better or for the worse. I use a Baptist flavor from my own experiences and then a Catholic one from what I know indirectly or what Catholics themselves have explained to me. It is important to describe how a specific religious background indeed makes a human mind – it can turn a mind away, it can create and direct a mind in another direction, it can provide an outline or a guide or a family dynamic or town dynamic.
It is always interesting to me how harshly a religious upbringing and a belief system can affect a person and then how the exact same upbringing and system can help someone else be at peace.
In the first chapter of Scout’s Honor, Scout Webb is 14 years old and narrating how she doesn’t want Jesus to come back for the Christians until after she goes to summer camp. She doesn’t want to miss camp, so if Jesus is going to come back, she asks him to just wait. I used that narration from my own memories and thinking as a child. I remember praying to God that the rapture (a belief that Jesus comes back for the Christians before the start of Armageddon) would not happen until after I was able to do whatever exciting thing I was about to do – whether it be Christmas morning or the start of school or the start of a sports season.
As a writer, it is good to bring those childhood memories to the surface and relive them through the eyes and hearts of your characters and then see how far you have come in your life since then.