Sunday, November 16, 2008

the elements of memoir

I enjoyed today's QRB panel on memoir writing. It's a genre I've taught, but from a rhetorical point of view. Interestingly enough, as the panelist spoke, I found myself jotting notes not about her insight or advice, but ideas for how to improve my own narratives in my nonfiction book. Inspiration struck. There was something else I was reminded of, although it wasn't something that was said today: in a memoir, the writer acts as both an observant and a participant of the event he/she is writing about, and the reader needs to be the same.

I have some ideas about what I'd like to attend to in my narratives -- I don't know that I would classify them as "memoir," but they are stories that need to encompass more of memoir's elements. These include:
  • establishing a better sense of place.
  • doing just a tiny bit of research (tiny, at least, for my purpose and audience) to get a sense of historical context. (My concern is getting too far off the track of the lesson of the story, and turning such context into "info dump".)
  • as of right now, the voice of the narrative has a "going-through-the-motions" feel to it. I want to be more mindful of the narrator as observer and participant.

I'd also like to share something that Stacey, as panel moderator, shared w/ the audience, in regards to process (and revision, I'd say) in his novel-writing, and I think it serves creative nonfiction as well. (Please correct me if I've misprepresented you in any way, Stacey.) At the end of each chapter, he takes inventory of several elements:

  • character POV
  • where is the protag? (and/or supporting characters)
  • how are they feeling?
  • what do they want (internal, external)?
  • how are they going to get it?

After the event, I got to say hello w/ some attendees that I haven't seen in awhile, and got to unveil my newly printed novel. The exitement on their faces, and their compliments and congratulations were all very validating and contagious. I think I am finally ready to take the last step: the ISBN. It's time.

There's something really wonderful about being a part of a community. This Write2Publish group is quite gratifying. To all my readers (many of whom are part of this same community), I'm glad to know you and belong. And to those readers who haven't found their community yet, seek them out. They will benefit your writing -- and you -- in more ways than you know.


G Liz said...

This is definitely an area or writing I would like to learn more about. We'll have to chat!

The Purple Panda said...

Yes, let's!

Let me know if/when you get some free time and we can meet for coffee.