This questionnaire works on a rather different approach than selecting one answer from a choice of alternatives. It is designed to provide writers with ways of building up source material for fiction, and by the time the answers have been completed, the person answering the questions should have quite an extensive supply of potential ideas and the means of acquiring many more. I think ‘memory and imagination’, both together and separately, are the major influences on providing the writer with fiction material. For this questionnaire, I’m going to concentrate on the writer’s own childhood and adolescence, not because of any assumption on my part that writers necessarily want to write for young people, but because this is one area where the potential for source material is immense; others will be suggested at the end of the questionnaire. This questionnaire, in common with the other four, is confidential to the writer completing it; no scores or answers will be required or requested to be revealed at any time, and anything published on the ‘Writing Short Fiction’ site will be confined entirely to voluntary feedback offerings from site visitors. I am using my own younger days to inform some of the questions but, as will be seen, this doesn’t necessarily mean that only the individual writer’s experience can be used for fiction.
I am Subdividing The Main Childhood And Adolescence Theme Into Four Areas:
Events, People, Places, Times
I am going to describe three events in my own background, and in each case, a number of ideas for ‘first person’ story ideas based on my experience of the event, alongside ‘third person’ ideas from the perspectives of others involved.
Taken Into Hospital With Pneumonia
First person (1) my experience of the night when the illness was at its height; vividly coloured dreams; vague memories of faces near the bed, in the room; physical sweats and aches; waking in hospital with temperature down; (2) more comic account of first hospital experience – big Irish nurse waking me up at 6.00 a.m.; injections in the bottom, the needle prepared at a trolley at the foot of my bed;
(3) adjusting; the period of convalescence, with the luxury of not going to school tempered with feelings of isolation and physical weakness.
Third person (1) a four voice description of the main fever night, e.g. my mother, my brother, an ambulance driver, a doctor. The experience of a hospital using the first widely available penicillin (research needed);
(2) the way back; a boy or girl’s experience of a good friend returning to school after a long illness;
(3) survival map; a young nurse learning how to deal with the particular demands, practical and emotional, of working in a children’s hospital.
Northern Infant School For A Southern Boy
First person (1) my family moved from Bromley in the south to South Shields in the north just after I’d started infant school, and I started all over again. The setting, the accents, the teachers, were different, and I temporarily was confused and disorientated to the point where I refused all co-operation;
(2) the big house and the big car; our northern place was much, much bigger than the place we left in the south; its house and garden offered all sorts of new opportunities and challenges;
(3) the school had separate boys’ and girls’ yards, with a large fence between, and a big shed-like affair for bikes and shelter in rainy weather; this was kids’ territory, and what went on was a kind of scarcely-controlled anarchy.
Third person (1) aliens arriving; a teacher dealing with the influx of children from another part of the country, or from another country;
(2) the rough and the posh; a man or woman looking back at their schooldays and the barriers of class (‘upwards’ or ‘downwards’) which separated them from their schoolmates;
(3) now and then; a teenager using virtual reality reconstruction to experience parents’ schooling, and vice versa with parents in modern schools.
Winning The Town Athletics’ Championship.
First person (1) I discovered, or more accurately was introduced to, a talent for sprinting in what was then the school fourth year, i.e. on and about the age of fifteen. ‘Win day’ would describe when my school relay team, from a smaller and less prestigious school in the town, defeated the huge local grammar school for the town championship – morning, nervousness, ‘tactical’ discussions, watching people gathering and seeing how many people we would be running in front of, then the race itself, the prizes and presentations, the school ‘clout’ afterwards;
(2) the sudden sportsman; my discovery of running was the first real inkling I had of any sporting ability at all, and the changes it brought about were startling;
(3) teen tug of war; the temptation towards smoking and drinking and the battle to keep within the sports/health lobby.
Third person (1) the young teacher, whose new team/individual athletes give him or her a sudden enormous boost with a town success;
(2) the elite – a squad or team sure of their own superiority, who are brought down to earth with a bump;
(3) buddies; two young sports people, one prepared to train and work, the other not, and their experiences after school.
Now complete this section of the questionnaire by quoting three events from your own childhood/adolescence and working out, on a separate sheet, three first person and three third person possibilities for each.