First, the memory part. Memory is a really, really good jumping-off point for anything. Memoir, yes, and poetry, yes— but also fiction. Mark Twain said this about memory:
When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.
Through exercises and prompts, we will explore memory and we will be open to going where we go, wherever it may be. Whether we’re writing prose or poetry, we will do so with the understanding that even the smallest memories illuminate the deepest themes of our lives. That’s true in fiction as well as non-fiction.
Now the surprise part. One of the great pleasures of writing is the surprise we feel as writers when we go to places we don’t expect. Flannery O’Connor famously said about one of her characters in her story “Good Country People,”
I didn’t know he was going to steal that wooden leg until ten or twelve lines before he did it, and when I found out that this was what was going to happen, I realized it was inevitable.