Tag Archive - Memoir

How to Transform Memories into Memoir

Today’s guest post is by Kathleen Pooler. 

“It is the complicated, abiding pleasure, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, of finding the universal thread that connects us to the rest of humanity, and, by doing so, turns our small, personal sorrows and individual tragedies into art,” says Dani Shapiro from The New Yorker. 

Finding a compelling story amid the rubble of memories and events is one of the biggest challenge of a memoirist. But the work goes beyond just identifying and writing.

Excavating the emotional terrain is part of the work of sifting through memories so you can develop a compelling “slice of life” story with a takeaway. In memoir, these “slices of life” moments or defining moments make up a collection of scenes in your memoir.

In a COVID-19 era, many memoirists are finding it increasingly challenging to stay focused. Perhaps starting with that one memory that triggers emotions might be a good place to start. Continue Reading…

Mastering the Voice of the Memoirist

This post originally ran on Jane Friedman’s blog in 2017. Be aware there are mature passages in here.

Voice is like your fingerprint. Each of us has a voice when we speak aloud. We have a style of speaking, our own unique vocabulary and syntax and inflections.

When we write, we also adopt a “voice.” In fiction, each point-of-view character has a unique voice, which permeates both the narrative and dialogue. In nonfiction, the writer’s voice sets the tone and style for the entire book.

When we consider penning a memoir, we can (and should) carefully choose the type of voice that would best suit the story we are telling.

Setting the Tone

Voice is different from tone, but the two are connected. If you plan to write a humorous memoir, the tone will be funny and light (though you can have dark humor too), and the voice you would use would need to fit that tone.

Your story may be one of very painful, dark, and/or terrifying experiences. But that does not mean your tone should be dark, nor that your voice should be heavy, somber, or depressing. Continue Reading…

Writing Authentic Dialogue in Memoir

Dialogue is the epitome of “showing” instead of telling. Dialogue brings characters to life and engages readers. If we have no dialogue in our “scenes,” those long descriptive paragraphs will get boring. These basic tenets apply to fiction as well as in memoir.

Dialogue adds “white space” to our pages, makes the reading move quickly, and helps keep our story from becoming cumbersome.

But dialogue can be boring, right? And who can accurately remember every word of a conversation? If you’ve ever had a fight with a friend or spouse, you know that it only takes a minute or two to forget something that had just been said—especially when it’s a hot, emotional argument. I’ve often blurted, “But you just said . . . !” and my spouse replied, “No way! I did not!”

Needless to say, we often have selected memory.

Unless you have tape-recorded every moment of your past, you are not going to remember, word for word, what was said. Continue Reading…

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