Home > Fiction writing, Personal Thoughts - It's Not Always a Mystery, Sisters in Crime, Writer's Thoughts, Writing > Guest Blogger Grace Topping: Revenge! Exorcizing Bad Memories Through Your Writing

Guest Blogger Grace Topping: Revenge! Exorcizing Bad Memories Through Your Writing

Grace Topping with Debra H. Goldstein

Grace Topping with Debra H. Goldstein


by Grace Topping

All of us have them. Those pesky, uncomfortable memories that make us blanch, screech, moan, grimace, shudder, or cry. Thankfully, most of them are buried deep in our subconscious and don’t come to mind often. But when we least expect it, a scent of cologne, a bit of music on the radio, or even a billboard along the highway can cause a memory to invade our thoughts like an unwelcome intruder.

Some memories might be nothing more than the recollection of something embarrassing, while others might be truly painful. Embarrassing or painful, our experiences are the things that shape and give texture to our lives, and our memories of those experiences are fodder for our writing.

Some memoirists talk about writing to exorcize ghosts from their past. In fiction, writers boast about taking revenge on someone by loosely basing a character, preferably a murder victim, on that person—in a way killing off a memory. If we can learn to laugh at things that happened in our lives, we might be able to move past them. What better revenge than basing a ridiculous character on someone who hurt us. It just might help do the trick.

The memory of falling in high school in front of the three best-looking guys in my class who laughed and stepped around me used to make me cringe. It always seemed to come to mind around the time for high school reunions. In my yet-to-be published mystery, I took that experience, added an attractive father who deserted the family and a handsome unfaithful husband and used them as the basis for my main character’s dislike of handsome men. It was a character flaw that caused her problems when she had to work with attractive police officers and other characters. It makes me laugh to think that three now middle-aged pillars of the community are immortalized in my manuscript. Now, if that memory were to intrude, I can laugh.

It would be wonderful if we had a pill or button that enabled us to zap uncomfortable or painful memories. But until such a thing is developed, why not take some of those memories and turn them into memorable characters and intriguing plots. They are free for the taking.

Do you have a ghost of a memory you’d like to exorcize?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thirty years of writing about computer systems was enough to drive Grace Topping to murder—or at least writing about it. Grace’s yet-to-be published mystery features a professional home stager. When she isn’t writing, she’s busy helping friends stage their homes. She is a member of the Chesapeake and Guppy Chapters of Sisters in Crime and of Mystery Writers of America. Grace and her husband reside in Northern Virginia.

  1. January 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I always think that writing is a great way to exorcise ghosts of any kind, be it bad memories of things we’ve done or that others have done that has stayed with us. It’s wonderful fodder for our character and maybe even helps us a little bit too!

    • Grace Topping
      January 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Hi, Jen — Thanks for stopping by. Now when I read your books I’m going to wonder what experiences were actually yours to begin with.

  2. January 23, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Grace, you’re so on the nose with this! When I need to make a character uncomfortable, I think back to something I experienced that I caused the same reaction and I write about that. It helps (I think?) that I’m a natural klutz and trip more than I’d like to admit.

    • Grace Topping
      January 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Hi, Diane —

      So that’s where you come up with all those situations you have Samatha Kidd experiencing! Often when I read something in a book I’ll stop and wonder if that was something the author personally experienced. They sound too much like real life. Now I’m going to be wondering about Samantha’s escapades..

    • January 23, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Diane, appreciate you stopping by “It’s Not Always a Mystery” today. Having recently read a short story and book by you, I can’t imagine you being a klutz — a fashionista but not a klutz.

  3. January 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Grace, I think the older we get with more life experiences behind us whether good, bad, embarrassing,or painful it can only add to our writing through the characters we create.

    • Grace Topping
      January 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Hi, Gloria —

      You’re right. The older we get, the more we have to draw on for our writing. But, fortunately with age, I’m better at shrugging off things that would have driven me crazy when I was younger. But I can still write about them–and laugh.

      • January 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm

        Grace is so right about the laughter….but I’m not sure I can shrug the memories off…..but Gloria, I agree the experiences can only add to our writing.

  4. January 22, 2014 at 7:56 am

    So, Dear Sister, I’m supposed to take the memory of my husband’s ex girlfriend giving me an enema after childbirth (this was 36 yrs ago) while my husband bottle fed our newborn son in a chair beside my bed, and put it into my next Abstract Painting.

    Not only does that sound interesting, I find myself intrigued with new thoughts of where to find inspiration for my next piece.

    It is of no surprise to me that your talents in writing have come to blogging.

    Now the RESPECT I’ve had for you all my life is out there for the world to see.

    Words haven’t been invented yet to describe the PRIDE I am feeling. DADDY WOULD BE SO PROUD.

    With Love, Libes

    • Grace Topping
      January 22, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Every woman in the world should have a sister as great as you! The memory you describe is definitely one that should be zapped. However, It might make for an interesting abstract painting. Just don’t tell the person you sell it to what it represents. Thanks for your loving support.

      • Anonymous
        January 23, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        The unpleasant incident was brought to mind to make me cringe once again because I had just run into the woman at the Baptism. After reading your blog of the 3 boys in High School being a red faced moment, I immediately went to one of my worst memories.

        • Grace Topping
          January 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

          Oh, no. To have that memory and then run into that person. That’s not a memory, that’s a nightmare!

  5. vsk8s
    January 21, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Nice post, Grace–you’re right we all have them! But iif anyone figures out it’s their mean behavior buried beneath our fictional camouflage, we can always say, “well, if you’d behaved better, I wouldn’t have put you in my book!”

    • Grace Topping
      January 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

      You made me laugh. Even when we don’t base a character on someone in our lives, people think they are in your book. Of course, they only see themselves as the good characters. I had a lot of fun creating characters in my manuscript and even drew on my memory of a dentist who made me angry. Talk about exacting revenge!

    • January 21, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      But we will never admit we put them in our book….we will just think of new ways to write about the person so as to continue the torment.

  6. Grace Topping
    January 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Hi, Mary —

    Thanks for your comments. Isn’t it great to be able to take revenge and not have a guilty conscience for doing so. No one is harmed, and we feel better.


    • January 20, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Yes, I’ll definitely feel better.You know that line about “forgive and forget”? I definitely believe that one should forgive, but I don’t know how it’s possible to totally forget.

  7. January 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Great post, Grace. And yes, I do have some memories I intend to exorcise in the near future. I’ll be attacking one bad memory in my present ‘Rhodes to Murder’ series and a second set of bad memories in an upcoming new series (just now working on the first book for that series). Can’t wait to fictionally kill off a couple of people from my recent past. 🙂

    • January 20, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Having recently been reading the Rhodes to Murder series, I can’t wait to read the new memories you plan to exorcise in both series!

      • January 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

        Glad to hear you enjoyed the series, Debra. The fifth book, CRIMINAL MISCHIEF, was released in November. Hopefully the next one will be released this summer.

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