A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Having Literary Flashbacks


Follow me down this mind trail…

Do you ever get those miniature flashbacks to random, ordinary places and moments from your childhood or other past eras in your life? For example, I’ll suddenly remember being in a certain classroom, though I haven’t thought about that classroom since I was young.

Often it’s a smell that triggers these sudden memories, I think. I also get them frequently when I’m falling asleep and when I’m so tired that my brain is trying to do its thing (whatever it does when we’re asleep) while I’m awake. It’s kind of fun to see what places from my past will pop into my head when I’m going to sleep.

But the coolest random memories of all are flashbacks to being in fictional worlds—in other words, remembering reading a book. I’ll get a sudden mental image of a field, for example, accompanied by a certain set of feelings. Then I’ll stop and ponder that memory for a moment, wondering where it came from and why I feel like I want to go back there. Then I’ll remember: that image-memory was formed while I was reading Anna Karenina. And I smile and hope I’ll get to reread the book soon.

Other books I have frequent flashbacks to are 1984 (especially the rendezvous locations), Madame Bovary (walking in the streets of her town), and Happily After All by Laura C. Stevenson, a favorite novel of mine as a child (the Vermont setting). There are more, I’m sure, but I can’t call these up at will very easily, just as with memories of dreams. They come back to my consciousness only when my subconscious mind pulls them out of its file drawers. I think that at least in some cases, the memories are triggered by connections with what I was doing while I was reading those books.

As I learn to write fiction, I want to create vivid and evocative settings so that my readers will build their own literary place memories to flashback to later!


4 comments on “Having Literary Flashbacks

  1. emilievardaman
    June 11, 2014

    I am not as well read as you. And I tend more toward modern writing. However, I can relate to that feeling. There are moments I recall snippets of a book I’ve read. Sometimes I can’t recall the title or the author when that happens, but the rush of that little piece of the book is delicious.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      June 11, 2014

      Thanks for commenting, Emilie. It’s not a competition. 🙂 I’m glad you get what I’m trying to express; I like how you put it: “the rush of that little piece of the book is delicious.” Exactly!


  2. lucindasagemidgorden
    June 11, 2014

    Sarrah, I can relate to having flashbacks about books. I also do it with movies. Those are actual images. I’ll see an actor and say, where have I seen that person before. Then my mind goes through the files and eventually I remember in what other movie or TV show I’ve seen them. Sometimes I get lonesome for the feeling a book gave me. In general, I don’t re-read books. But not long ago, I re-read *Shogun* one of my favorite books. And now I’m re-reading *Middlemarch* because my book club is discussing it. It’s amazing how much I had forgotten about the story lines in both of those books.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      June 11, 2014

      Lucinda, thanks for your thoughts. I definitely share the sense of getting loneseome for the feeling of a particular book!

      I don’t often get to re-read books either, because there are just too many other books to read!


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This entry was posted on June 11, 2014 by in Discoveries from Living and tagged , , , , , , .
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