Friday, September 16, 2016

MEMOIR - where do we start and what do we include?

As I teach my memoir class at the junior college in Murphy, NC each week, I am delighted to see how much my students improve in their writing and in seeing what is good and what needs work in the writing of their fellow students.


In this advanced class we are discussing finding the theme of our memoir. It is easy to write just the facts of our lives. "I was born June 5, 1970 at 2:30 a.m. in Austin, Texas. I attended Marlin Elementary School. My mother was a nurse. My father worked for a moving company."

We can tell where we were born, the date and time and we can tell where we lived when we were in elementary school. It is easy to tell how many siblings we have and where they went to school. 

But the reader will quickly become bored if all we give are the facts. We want the stories of our lives, the truth as we remember it, and why the stories are important to us. In memoir we have the opportunity to reflect on our memories, our lives and write about our thoughts then and today. We ask ourselves why did this happen or why do I still remember this?

We write our true stories with elements of fiction such as plot, setting, characterization, action and dialogue. Dialogue is the part of a story that no one skips. We can't make dialogue carry the entire scene in our personal narrative, but we can use it to move the story along. 

Writing about my family, it is easy to use dialogue because I know each of my characters so well, I hear their voices in my ear. 

My story is unique as my family and my life are unique. No one else can tell my story like I can. Your story is also unique and you can tell it best. Begin now to leave the story of your life for the next generation and the next and the next. 

This is a prompt to start you writing your story: Think about a house where you lived when you were a child and draw that house showing rooms, porches, and yard on your paper. Imagine walking through that house and stopping in each room. What do you see? What do you hear or smell in that room? What would you touch or taste? Try to remember something that happened in that room or something you remember when you think about being in that room. Write about it. Get all your thoughts on the paper or on the screen and don't stop to correct anything. Corrections can be made after the entire story has flowed from your memory to your finger tips. 

1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

An interesting prompt.
My direct line dies with me, and I suspect the story does too. That said, memoirs are one of my favourite genres.