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The Good Mother (1988 film)

Sure you love your mom, but what secrets have you kept from her? The Good Mother (1988 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I CAN THINK of a few things I’ve never told my mother about: the acid, the married man, the real story about how I lost the keys to my Volkwagen convertible at 17.

These ruminations from reading 642 Things to Write About, by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto (Chronicle Books) via Writer’s Digest. A prompt I and the WD writer loves is Something you never told your mother.

How could the resulting words not be strokes of agony and regret and suspense and intensity? Our poor mothers.

Our poor fingers, for the first time considering the darkest of secrets. Readers sense that charge in the words and in the light of a truth that most would hide. They gasp. They think, ‘Oh my God.’ And then they turn the page.

This is the stuff of great memoir writing: an honest recollection of an intimate experience, the truest of thoughts, and everything a writer has ever felt about an experience laid out on a page like a yard sale, for all to view in plain light.

Memoir writers don’t just air their dirty laundry, they blow a whistle and call their neighbours over and open the gate to the back and point to their underwear, swaying in the wind.

Memoir writers don’t just air their dirty laundry, they blow a whistle and call their neighbours over and open the gate to the back and point to their underwear, swaying in the wind.

We should always write as if our mothers will never read our work. We must be frank, even at the cost of our mothers’ hearts.

Something you never told your mother is just one brilliant prompt from 642 Things to Write About, for those days when you’re stuck and you don’t really feel like writing.

Other personal favourites I’ve used myself and in writing classes include:

  • Write the story of a scar, or all of your scars
  • Write about the hands of someone you’re close to
  • Write about your first….anything

What are some writing prompts that have worked for you? How did you fare with the Something you never told your mother prompt?

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