11 09, 2019

Trigger Dates, Anniversaries, and Memories – Virgil

By |2019-09-01T11:53:09-05:00September 11th, 2019|Wednesday Words, Wednesday Words of Wisdom, Weekly Quote|1 Comment

Years after things happen, whether we were part of the event or not, we recall and react on the anniversary. Even hearing those dates or seeing those dates can trigger memories.

  • December 7, 1941               Pearl Harbor
  • November 25, 1963            Kennedy Assassination

And, of course, September 11 2001         Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of that event.

I sat at home drinking coffee in our sun room with news on TV. I stared in horror as the second plane hit towers, watching the first building burn. I didn’t turn off TV for days filled with concern that my Army Reserve husband would have to go fight whatever evil had breached our borders.

I’m sure today will stir memories for those of us who lived through the event and the days following. Others will only imagine our memories through pictures like this.

No matter what date or anniversary triggers memories for you. Let’s remember Virgil’s quote used at Ground Zero.

11 09, 2013


By |2013-09-11T06:28:18-05:00September 11th, 2013|one word Wednesday|0 Comments

If you read Monday’s blog, you recognize today’s word:


05-1979 World Trade Center pixI’m sure today’s date will trigger memories for you like it does for me.

My husband worked in the New York City for many years.

Our photo albums are filled with pictures of our many trips into the city.

None of our pictures can erase the scenes from what happened on September 11, 2001. towers burning

To those who lost so much on that day I send Abraham Lincoln’s words:

patriotic_memorium 9-11

9 09, 2013

Dates Trigger Emotions So Should Your Writing: 5 Ways to Write for Emotional Impact

By |2013-09-09T06:07:50-05:00September 9th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments


Years after something happens, whether we were part of the event or not, we recall and react.

I sent out a questionnaire to friends and family asking them to recall dates that spark memories. The responses were surprising and predictable at the same time. Dates and events in the list below appeared multiple times.

These two only appeared on one responder’s list and reading the dates jogged my memory.

Another responder labeled their list: “Things not ingrained by exact date, but by what they were.”

The list included:  Branch Davidian Complex Raid; Last Episode of MASH; Sandy Hook; Gabby Gifford’s’ shooting; the non-concession speech of Al Gore in 2000; the election of Obama (#1); the eventual concession of Gore in 2000; The Lewinski stuff with Clinton; The OJ Trial; The Ellen Show where her character ‘came out

A thought provoking list that brought back memories and some strong feelings for me.

Another responder offered strong memories triggered by thinking about certain dates.

“Nov 22 1963. Kennedy assassination. I was working in the music dept on UT campus. Someone had a radio on and we heard the news. I ran to student union to watch it on TV. Later I went home and worked on a theme (book report) that was due on the “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. Mournful weekend.”  

“9-11-01. Home drinking coffee in our sun room with news on TV. Watched second plane hit towers. Didn’t turn off TV for days.” 

“August 22 1966. Charles Whitman shooting from tower. I was in Dallas on job interview, but hadn’t moved from Austin yet. Heard on radio. Not sure if it was Aug. 22 or 26. I didn’t know my husband then but he was on campus and took shelter in the student union. I recalled that at that time of day I would have been walking right across the mall for lunch, but I had taken that day off to go to Dallas.”

I’ve coined a phrase to define times that linger in our memories and by simple recall produce an emotional reaction.


As fiction writers, we must use trigger dates in our writing a way that our readers experience our characters’ fear and feel joy and become angry or excited and know grief. Readers should laugh and cry, shiver and rage. All from reading our story.

Why do we need to write for emotional impact?

Two BIG reasons: So readers will remember our characters and come back again and again. So readers recommend our stories or  write positive reviews for our novels.

How does a writer write for emotional impact? I offer five ways:

  1. Through Character action and response

No reporting a character is afraid or giddy or grieving. Show through the character’s actions.

  1. Create a sympathetic character

As a story evolves, the reader must know and relate to the characters. If you put the reader in the character’s place, the reader will experience a physical response—laughter or tears or shivers—as if whatever happened to your character has actually happened to them.

  1. Write conflict into every scene

Don’t be afraid of killing off someone close to your main characters or taking away something else dear to them. This is fiction; you’re not really hurting someone if you do mean things to your characters. When characters are agitated, readers will be too.

  1. Choose words to evoke emotion.

Words are our trigger dates. Use harsh or sharp words for the harsher emotions, soft-sounding and soft-meaning words for gentle emotions.

  1. Use sensory details to immerse readers in the reality of the scene.

What can your character hear and smell? What does a change in sight or sound mean? Using all the senses puts your reader there in the story.

YOUR TURN: Did reading the Trigger Date list stir emotions for you? If you’re a writer, how do you trigger your reader’s emotions?

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