How to write the unspeakable

Mnemosyne cover     When you write the unspeakable, particularly if you’re writing about childhood sexual abuse, the task is heavy.  How much detail do I reveal?  How much do I want the reader to feel?  What will my family think?  These are some of the considerations that I had to address when telling my story, “Mnemosyne:  A Love Affair with Memory.”

I decided to reveal enough information that would enable the reader to “experience” the scene, while remaining within my artistic guidelines.  This will vary with each individual.  I visualized the characters and actions of the scene much like I was watching a movie.  The feelings rushed through my body while I chose words that described my experience.  And each time a deep, dark depression grabbed my soul, and each time I turned it away.   Here’s how I wrote about being raped.  “Some memories were clear and no interpretation or analysis were required.  But others appeared as images that were less defined , accompanied by a strong sense that something terrible was going on.  I remembered the physical structure of the barn to the most minute detail.  But some of the happenings were less clear, leaving me to squint as I struggled to make out the face of a character, or to wipe the blur from my vision.  The distorted images were always accompanied by fear, related anxiety, and the clammy feel of a cold sweat.  The hayloft — stinging pain of my naked body being thrown across a bale of hay, hot breath on the back of my neck, screams from three jubilant boys gone wild.  Now that time has become my friend, the memories are clearer, the dark clouds are patchy at the end of a raging storm.”

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