The Motif of Curiosity

An important series in my book is curiosity. In fact, the 230,000+ words I’ve written (yes, I know it needs a lot  of cutting) and the dream of the book itself would not exist without curiosity–namely, my curiosity.

From the time I started reading Bobbsey Twin  books (like Nancy Drew but for younger kids) at age 5, I realized that curiosity was a constant flame inside me. If you aren’t familiar with these old books, the detectives are two sets of twins in one family–Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie. This series is so old that I grew up reading the books that belonged to my mother when she was a child.

My Bobbsey Twins collection

As a kid, I practically inhaled all the mystery series books I could get my hands on–mainly from the school and public libraries. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, the Khaki Girls.  On and on.

In my early twenties I read every single Agatha Christie mystery.

Today I still enjoy mysteries, but I also am working on genealogy and my family history blog. The great thing about genealogy is that when the past gives up some of its secrets, it presents the genealogist with many more! The genealogy bloggers I’ve met are incredibly curious people.

All of this has been preparing me for writing my memoir, of course. Only I didn’t know it until recently.

When faced with secrets and unknowns, my recourse is to–well, what else?–PRY.

Are you a curious person? How has your curious or incurious nature affected your life?


Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

53 responses to “The Motif of Curiosity

  1. “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”
    ― Eleanor Roosevelt

    I truly believe this. It is what drives both science and art.

    • LOVE that quote! Maybe you are right about it driving both science and art. I always thought it was an oddity about me, but I was raised by a mother who is never curious so that seemed more the “norm.”

  2. Curious? Moi? Like a cat. And I think I’ve got the nine lives to prove it!

  3. I’d describe myself as intensely curious while pretending not to be.(Except right now.)

    • I love that “except right now! where you are fessing up to it! I wonder if the pretending not to be was learned behavior. It’s actually good behavior for a detective!

  4. 230,000 pages….YOWZA! Oh yes, I’m very curious. I’m often accused of asking too many questions. 🙂

    • Jill, you and me both! My husband loves to point out that everything I say is a question ;). In fact, he just did it again this morning, so I quoted SK (above) without crediting her. I told him that it’s curiosity like mine that drives science and art. That stopped him for a minute!
      On the 230,000+ pages they are a sloppy mess. I don’t know how to ever pull out what I need and put it into order!

  5. What an accomplishment! Congrats! BTW you forgot to mention my favorite childhood mystery series, Trixie Belden. So fun!

    • Thanks, Kate. This is the weirdest thing. I went to look up Trixie Belden because it sounds familiar, but I don’t remember reading them–and I discovered that remember Honey! but not the books or Trixie! What is that about?!

  6. Luanne, I did not realize you had accumulated so many pages. Wowzers! Curiosity predicates an interesting life, right? Curiosity is a pulse that is needed to explore and unearth the most vulnerable places in our lives.

  7. I think curiosity is the key to living life enthusiastically and what keeps us moving forward. The first thing I remember writing as a child was a ‘re-make’ of the Nancy Drew mystery I’d just read!

  8. I used to read the Bobbsey Twins books! And Nancy Drew! What page turners the Nancy Drew books were. I remember the teacher getting mad at me for reading in class (when I should have been listening to her). But wasn’t it more important to read, or to want to read? Guess not. I just had bad timing.

  9. I am curious, but not particularly perceptive, so mysteries are great fun for me because I NEVER have a clue and am always completely surprised by the twists and turns! Save for mystery movies and whodunits. I am that one person who never guesses anything in advance. And then, if I wait a few years and read the book again, I’ll have totally forgotten what happened and be completely surprised all over again! What fun!

  10. I am a curious person. I am partially psychic, therefore when I am with someone, I tend to want to know more.

    Separate thought: That you are into genealogy sounds so interesting to me! I have always wanted to pursue that!

    Another separate thought: When I was fourteen or so, I made up an entire diary as if I was someone else. Of course, Troy Donahue (you are probably too young to remember him?) was in it, and I was simply irresistible to him! The book is actually quite thick!

    • Hollis, I love the idea of the diary you wrote! I remember Troy Donahue in this way: when I was a kid you could order autographed photos of celebrities and he was always one of the males in the ads. So I knew he was important to the older girls! I’m sure you would have been irresistible to him. If only he’d been lucky enough to meet you!
      Genealogy is fascinating, especially the way I pursue it–I avoid the most tedious parts (I don’t document my research well at all, for instance) and go after the more interesting information like identifying photographs, etc.
      Are you psychic? I can be too! I have had some amazing experiences that way, but it is never about anything important! I’d love to hear how yours works.

      • Thank you, Luanne. I have deep feelings about what is to happen. And about people. If I ignore my “intuition”, I usually screw up. I guess you could say I am a sensitive person. It gets me in trouble sometimes, because sometimes I know a lot about someone and it scares them! I will tell you about the experiences sometime!

  11. I was an avid Bobbsey Twins reader before I went on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I remember being frustrated because Freddie and Flossie would be five years old in one book, seven in the next, and six in the one after that. I probably wasn’t reading them in order — and now I understand how difficult it is to write a long-running series with characters who can’t age very much. (I was probably on my way to becoming an editor even then.)

    I’m insatiably curious about how people interact with each other, in relationships and especially in groups. Big surprise: that’s usually what drives my writing, both fiction and nonfiction. It’s also what fascinates me most as a reader. I wish I were more curious about how inanimate objects worked. I’d love to be able to fix stuff, like my car.

    • Susanna, haha, I know! I used to get frustrated about stuff like that, too. And actually I thought Flossie and Freddie were really annoying ;).
      You bring up a good point: how curiosity is so often confined to certain “arenas” that are of interest to the curious person. I am not curious about how to fix a car either. I mean, if I were locked in a garage with a car to fix and they wouldn’t let me out until it was done, I would get curious in a big hurry. I think my laziness comes out in things that I don’t find creative. That said, people do all kinds of creative repairs on vehicles and houses, etc.

  12. I loved the Nancy Drew stories too as a kid. I think my curiosity tends toward the deeper mysteries of life. I want to know what lies beyond the stars, within the tiniest particles of our bodies, how all that is connected–what’s the meaning of it all? I’m deeply curious about how the mind works, dreams, imagination, the creative process. All the things I’ll probably never know–alas!

    • What lovely “big” areas to stir your curiosity, Deborah! I too am curious about imagination and the creative process, but when I start to get into it too deeply I get scared. I think of that XJ Kennedy poem:
      Ars Poetica

      The goose that laid the golden egg
      Died looking up its crotch
      To find out how its sphincter worked.
      Would you lay well? Don’t watch.

  13. I’m a very curious person, Luanne! And I absolutely love your choice of books 😀

  14. I agree that curiosity creates a great memoir writer. You are ever vigilant to make your story interesting and include details, while letting the reader’s imagination go a little wild, at times. I love mysteries, have read the list you included. Having moved to a small apt. I gave away my books, at my garage sale. No prices listed, just asked them to give them a ‘good home.’ I loved auto- and regular biographies. Did you like reading about Clara Barton, Betsy Ross, Eleanor Roosevelt, Annie Oakley and others? Boy, I sure did! I had written over 500 hand written pages front and back to a mystery, with the main character an artist, stay at home mom, who lived in a small town where a university was, who knew something about why someone got murdered. I ended up packing it up, so to speak when I asked my Mom, the mystery aficionado if my use of a certain ‘weapon’ had ever been used before, she said yes! I was devastated, wanted that to be the great surprise at the end! Oh well…. Smiles for this post, Pry away!

    • It is fortuitous that I mentioned on this comment of 9/9/14, my interest in mysteries. Voila! you gave us S.K. Nicholls’ great book, with her idea of using different genres, nonfiction, mystery, biography and a ‘key’ to unlock all of these, without facing ‘libel’ charges! I am so glad I told you about my mystery book, which does have elements of fact in my own story I wrote… Smiles! Robin

    • Oh, I did love the biographies of all the historical women!! Yes yes yes! My favorites were the women who grew up on the prairies and as pioneers and settlers. And a book of ballerina biographies called “To Dance, To Dream.” LOVED that book.
      Robin, don’t give up on your mystery because your mom wasn’t surprised!!! She’s your mom, so you two might think a lot alike, for one thing, and for another, you will always have to revise and change things when you write a book, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a lot of what you have written! Don’t let anybody stop you (except your boss, so we need to get you retired as soon as possible).

  15. You’ve written a lot Luanne, I can’t wait to read your book when it’s out! 🙂

  16. 230,000 wds = 4.6 NaNo Novels. 😀
    Love the Bobbsey Twin Library pic!

  17. Oh I am deeply curious, although I was more a fan of Encyclopedia Brown 🙂

  18. Wow Luanne, 230,000 plus words! I wonder how many I’ll end up with at the end of my first draft but I feel better knowing this because now I know why…it’s the curiousity, the wanting to know more, the why, the who, the where. I adored mysteries as a child (and still do) but our equivalent to Nancy Drew would have been Enid Blyton who wrote the Famous Five and books such as The Mystery of the Missing Necklace. Reading this makes me understand why I’m so nosey, haha! But I can see how being fascinated by genealogy and family history has prepared you for writing your memoir. This is why your memoir will be wonderful and I can’t wait to read it 🙂

    • I’d love to read an Enid Blyton book because I don’t think I have read one! Or have I? Oh my. Can you describe Enid for me? I think those books helped me develop my curiosity, too! (Nosey is another word for it but when it pertains to me I prefer curiosity 😉 LOL). Thank you so much for your support, Sherri!

  19. Thank you for the awesome trip down memory lane with Agatha Christie + Nancy Drew. I have always been a big lover of mysteries + my curiosity definitely spills over into my life outside of books. I think curiosity helps keep us on our toes, always looking for another answer or perspective.

    • Caitlin, that’s a good point. Curiosity isn’t just good for writing, but for living and for solving problems that come up on a day to day basis. What a great reminder!

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