Memorization Trick

written by David Steffen

It’s not uncommon for new story ideas to pop into my head at the most inconvenient times–often while I’m running errands and don’t have anything to write with. I don’t want to just discard the ideas while the ideas are flowing, so I’ve worked out a trick to try to remember such things, even a bunch of them that aren’t related.

For each idea, an important part for me is to boil each idea down to one syllable reminder of the idea–an associative hook that when you think about it can expand into your full memory of the idea. Maybe it’s an idea involving an alien hive mind. “Hive” might be suitable for that idea. If more ideas come to mind while you’re thinking on it (and they often come in big groups for me) then if another idea comes that doesn’t easily follow from the first, boil that down to a single syllable. It works best for me if the multiple trigger words flow into each other, either by sounding like a common phrase or if they rhyme, and you can change a word as long as you can think of another good association. So if you thought of a second one that involved a trinity of some kind, you could choose the word “three” for it, and then change “hive” to “bee”. So far you have the words “bee three”–it rhymes and it sounds like a Battleship play, makes it easy to remember.

Then I repeat the phrase in my head whenever my attention is not otherwise occupied–soon it sticks and when it sticks it usually sticks for a day or more so I have plenty of time to write the whole ideas down. I’ve strung together a half dozen or so trigger words that when typed out into full explanations gave me more than a 1000 words into my idea file. It’s very handy for making sure you don’t lose the gem of an idea you thought up in the cereal aisle at the grocery store.