Annie's song by John Denver
When I was listening to Radio 2 in the car yesterday, Chris Evans played Annie's Song by John Denver. I haven't heard this song for years and I was instantly taken back to the 1970s. I was around four years old, sitting in the back of our pea-green Ford Escort. The John Denver tape was playing and I can picture my mother, with her long brown hair engrossed in the map whilst my father drove us along a country lane. I've included a link from youtube.com in case you remember this song and would like to listen to it.
When I catch a whiff of Chanel No 5 I remember my late mother and a flood of memories come back.
Cinnamon reminds me of New York. I worked there for a month in 2001 and remember eating cinnamon bagels.
I ate Nutella on toast the other day and was taken back to Italy.
The senses bring a page of writing to life but they can also be used to evoke memories.
After writing a few drafts of my novel, 'The Grandson' it took me a while to work out where the novel should begin. Several thousand words which came before the new Page One were cut. Getting that backstory into the novel without dumping the information everywhere was a challenge. After reading 'how to' books and going to writing classes, I worked out that nostalgia can be used to bring in backstory. When a character is being nostalgic, relevant information from their past can be included in a more subtle way.
Cross-referencing to an earlier part of the novel
Towards the end of 'The Grandson', the hero, Alessandro returns a cardigan to the heroine, Jessica when she visits him in New York. Two years previously, she left this cardigan on the back of a chair in a restaurant in Siena. The cardigan smells of the perfume she wore then and Jessica is taken back to Siena. Alessandro likes the perfume but Jessica doesn't wear it anymore because her fiancé, Sebastian doesn't like it.
Nostalgia can be used as inspiration. My novel, 'The Grandson' was inspired by eight months studying and au pairing in Siena in 1994.
Have you used nostalgia to inspire a novel? When writing do you use nostalgia as an opportunity to bring in backstory or reference an earlier part of the novel? I'd be interested to read your comments.