If you are going to take the time to write your story, you want to make all the sweat, tears and editing worth is. It needs to be impacting. So how do you do it??
For a memoir writer, this is critical to the success and therefore the impact of your story. Your writing must draw readers into your world. To see things, and feel things from your point of view. To be powerful, you must be able to bring them with you, and not have them observe from a distance.
One of the ways to do it is to use vivid language and similes to describe the scene.
You could tell you reader: My Dad was difficult to live with.
This gives no sense of what that means in your life. There is no way for your them to connect with your statement, and it simply sounds critical and judgmental. Because you have not shown the reader anything, they are left with questions about what that statement means, and are unsure if the statement is in fact, accurate.
Rather you can show your reader:
I was busy doing my homework in the lounge room when the front door opened. The whole house paused for micro second, a quick breath in, slowly out. I stole a look at my sister. Mum was shifting in her chair. Blank face, waiting to rearrange itself around his mood.
Heavy footsteps approaching. We could tell it wasn't good.
Mum straightened her dress and arranged a fake smile on her face. My sister and I began gathering up our things. Move. Move. Move. Quickly, but not too fast. Running away irritated him.
I dropped a pencil in my haste.
Standing, his smell hit me at the same time as his hand. "Hello Dad."
Use elements of fiction to bring your story to life!
It is important that your memoir is true. It is your true story. But that doesn't mean that you are unable to use fictional elements in your story to support your narrative.
This often means treating the people in your memoir as characters, supporting the main focus of the work. Some of the best memoir writers focus on a few key characteristics, allowing the reader to get to know each one in depth. Make it easy for readers to love or hate your characters, and you can’t do that by providing too much detail.
They need to be drawn into, and experience your story, almost as if it was their own. In pursuit of this connection, elements of fictional storytelling best serve your purpose.
Create an emotional journey
Publishers used to advise writers to use a typical narrative arc. Exposition or background, some action moving forwards, rising action, CLIMAX, then falling action and resolution.
It's about as boring to write as to read.
It's a classic approach, and works. But in modern writing, a slow beginning can simply mean the death of your book. People might read a few pages, but without a strong emotional driver at the beginning of the book, will lack the connection required to want to know more.
Take them on an emotional journey that motivates them to read the next chapter, wonder about the journey they have witnessed well after they finish the last page.
This is a crucial part of the editing process. And it works.
For example, this is the chronological view:
A great kid. Loving mum. Going through school. Makes some friends in a gang. Joins gang. Kills a man at 17. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, where they had a life changing spiritual encounter.
The same story edited:
Kills a man & Sentenced to 25 years in prison - Raises a question why?
The rest of the story can be told as a reflection leading up to the present. Showing all the reasons why the main character ended up where they did, before spinning them back to the present to continue their journey to their spiritual revelation.
When you are writing your memoirs, and sharing your truth, use these tools so that your story is shared with impact. And not left unread on the shelf.
If you would like more like this:
Blog: The Wound and the Scar