Exercise #7: Mining Memory

Sometimes, I look at the blank page and I’m terrified that I’ll never find the words to fill it.


To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we possess multitudes within us.

If I need to add detail to a character or a motivation, I think back to my own memories and try to discover a detail I never considered.


Objective: Spark your imagination by recalling memories and details from your experience.


  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Write down as many things you can remember under the heading Things That Have Made Me Happy.
  3. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  4. Write down as many things you can remember under the heading Things That Have Pissed Me Off.
  5. Compare and contrast the two lists and see if you can imagine those traits in someone else.
  6. Create a character with a couple of traits from both lists.


I need to create details for a detective character and so I ran through the exercise.

Things That Have Made Me Happy

  • The love of a happy dog.
  • A favorite blanket from when I was a boy.
  • “One” by U2
  • Led Zeppelin
  • A blustery day
  • The smell of cinnamon
  • Sand beneath my toes
  • The soft feeling of hair between my fingers
  • A bath so hot it stings the skin

Things That Have Pissed Me Off

  • Pettiness without cause
  • The bitter taste of coffee
  • Crowded, loud spaces
  • The taste of sweat
  • Cruelty
  • Bullies
  • Hate not being traditionally handsome
  • Burns

Detective Character: Jacob Heller

I created this ill-tempered detective with burned hands over a decade ago in a short story titled “The Art of the Deal” and this led to a series of stories in my Dreamlands universe.  Here are some of the traits I borrowed from myself to make this character:

  • Hate the taste of sweat and bullies
  • Handed burned by infernal fire.
  • Love of Led Zeppelin
  • A blustery day
  • A bath so hot it stings the skin


If I am having difficulty learning about a character I try this exercise to see what traits we might have in common.

Did you enjoy this exercise?  Trying another one on the Creative Writing Exercises page.

If you would like to read more about the Heller Mysteries, then I’d recommend checking out the following megapack.

  • Dark Inheritance: A Collection of Heller Mysteries
    The Heller family has a sacred secret passed along from generation to generation.   During the Battle of Hastings, Jørgen Hellyer fought for William the Conqueror at Battle Abbey. His unknown deeds that night brought forth a curse upon all of his descendants. Unto each generation of the Hellyer lineage comes a champion that must face a trial of darkness and blood. Some rise to the challenge and become heroes destined to fight against evil until they die alone. Others fall to the hunger of their corrupt souls.  The Heller Mysteries were created and written by Jason Andrew. Read the stories that chronicle generations of the Heller family facing the true terrors that haunt the world.

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