Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Memoir Anyone?

June 13, 2020

Another View of the Detroit Skyline

One of the first instincts of most authors is to write about what they’ve experienced. That works well, most of the time.

However, it’s my guess many readers have little desire right now to read fiction that brings to mind the disturbing reports about the pandemic and national demonstrations.

They’re looking instead for an escape.

As I mentioned before, I worked for many years in downtown Detroit’s Renaissance Center (seen above). I don’t normally think about that much, but it’s come to mind often lately since, like many of you, I’ve been cooped up and struggling with all the distractions.

However, I’ve never been one to imagine there’s too much on my plate. So, even though I already have those three troublesome fiction stories in the works, I’m now also contemplating a memoir.

It’s a different genre for me, but not one I’m totally unfamiliar with.

What is a Memoir?
A memoir is essentially an essay. While an essayist must color within the lines of fact, they must also be able to utilize many of the same components of a good fiction author.

Like show, don’t tell.

It’s still the author’s job to spin events into a compelling narrative, and make them shine for public consumption. In other words, put them together as something greater than the sum of their parts.

For those new to the form, I suggest you forget every bland essay you ever had to write, and I officially give you permission to banish your high school English teacher from your mind.

As an author, whether you write fiction or memoir, you are not there to inform or persuade. You are there to tell a story. Fiction is nothing without a strong protagonist. Neither is memoir…but guess who the protagonist is in a memoir?

It’s you.

The memoir is your story. It happened to you. You are the only one who can write it, and your voice needs to be sure, strong, dynamic and believable. A writer with a confident voice knows why they’re telling the story, and they know exactly where it’s going.

Their story says to the reader, from the very first line, hop in, we’re going for a ride, and I promise it’ll be worth your while.

But you’d better keep that promise, because I’ll let you in on a secret. Even if you have a perfect marriage, perfect kids, a great stock portfolio and can provide photographic proof you line-up your books in alphabetical order, no one wants to read 50,000 words about it!

The best stories always involve some sort of struggle. A happy ending only feels good because of the conflict that came before it. Otherwise, it’s just an ending.

Here’s another secret. The most startling, bright and joyful memories you have contain a lot of hidden conflict. Don’t believe it? Then you’d better look closer at your own happy memories to understand what you, or perhaps the people around you, endured to get there.

Maintain the Pace
When you do decide to write that memoir, keep your narrative taut. Maintain a steady release of information to the reader. Don’t bombard them with your whole life story in the first three paragraphs. By the same token, don’t leave out essential information until the very end.

Each sentence must give the reader a reason to keep going.

A finely-tuned memoir, like good fiction, will embed the reader deeply into the author’s world. It should be so deep they can’t hear anything outside of it.

In some ways, holding that tension is easier in memoir, because you already know which parts made your own heart beat a little faster. Your very worst nightmare should be a reader who walks away from your work with nothing more than they started.

There are many ways you can reach an audience. The only way to fail is to forget they’re there in the first place.

Honesty Counts
In a memoir, there are always real people involved. This can often make your efforts tricky, because you may not want to upset those people (family, friends and others) you’ve written into your story.

But it’s important you tell the truth…even if it makes your journey as an author more difficult.

One more note on honesty: Memoirs explore the concept of truth as seen through your eyes, but don’t write in a snarky manner, or with a bitter tone. The motivation for writing a memoir shouldn’t be to whine, exact revenge, or seek forgiveness. It should simply be to share your experience.

All while taking your readers on a journey they won’t forget.

This is essential to your success, because you must invite your reader far enough into your perspective they can draw their own conclusions. They need to experience your story, almost as if it was their own.

While your memoir is a true story, employing the same tried-and-true elements found in fiction will make it far more powerful.

Take readers on an emotional journey that motivates them to read the next chapter, and wonder about you after finishing the last page…then (best of all) makes them want to tell their friends about your book.

The best way to evoke these feelings in your readers is to connect your emotions, as the protagonist, with pivotal events happening throughout your narrative. The experiences you had carry more weight when you show how they affected the weeks, months and years after them. How did they change your approach to life?

Did the experience change how you thought about others or yourself? Did it help you become a better or wiser person in some way? This can be the hardest part of writing a memoir, because it requires so much introspection.

If you do it well, you will captivate your audience and leave them begging for more. But, more importantly, you’ll share your own authentic story with the world.

Now, get out there and write.

Stay safe.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Ever Consider Writing a Memoir?

August 18, 2019

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

I was talking to an old friend recently, and we were both having trouble remembering details from our high school years. Neither one of us could remember the name of our home room teacher.

One of the comments made that had us both laughing was, “well, there goes the memoir.”

But is that true?

So what if you have trouble remembering specific details from the past? After a long passage of time (and going back to my high school years certainly qualifies for that) things can be rather fuzzy.

If this were enough to stop people from writing their memoirs, there would be no such genre. However, memory only acts through the act of remembering. And what does that require?

Only an imagination.

Something most good fiction authors have tons of at their disposal.

I’ve written about this before. The subject of all memoirs, after all, is memory, and memory cannot exist without the imagination.

I like to think of the people in memoirs as characters. A great memoir pulls you into their lives; shows what they struggle with, what they are successful at and what they wonder about.

Many of the best memoir writers focus on a few key characteristics of their characters, allowing the reader to get to know each one in depth. After all, your readers must be able to either love your characters or hate them, and you can’t provide too much detail.

Also, good memoirs introduce intriguing settings and show readers the locations you describe. Don’t be afraid to evoke emotions. Readers need to experience your story, almost as if it was their own.

You need imagination, not in the sense of inventing things, but in binding together the facts. What you know for a fact is one thing; but what you remember matters every bit as much.

Leave your readers with their mouths open in awe, laughing hysterically, or crying with sadness – or, better yet, all three. Take them on an emotional journey that provokes them to read the next chapter, and then tell their friends about your book when they finish.

Is There Any Risk?
Fiction is frequently inspired by real people or events, but it’s still ambiguous. Memoir, on the other hand, is direct and explicit, and carries some definite risks.

For instance, no matter how carefully you try to avoid it, a memoir is bound to annoy someone.

To be true to yourself, you should not use this as an excuse not to write a memoir. “I can’t write this until so-and-so dies” is more likely a crutch than a valid reason not to write.

Consider the possible ramifications, sure. But write for yourself. I believe in writing what obsesses you. It may be why I have three new novels in the works, with my own memoir already coming to a slow boil on the back burner of my mind.

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I will be joining other authors signing books from 1:00-4:00 at the Orion Township Library Local Artist & Author Fair on September 28, 2019.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Writing Your Own Life Story

April 14, 2019

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

I believe the wisdom and power to create real change lives not only in the experiences of leaders and community builders … but in the things that happen to everyday people all over the world. Each one of us has a story born from our life experience.

We often forget, by offering up our stories we can help others understand their own. We build a structure with our truth so other people can shelter there. In this way, a memoir is not self-indulgent but a road map for the human experience.

Your story also deserves to be told but, unless you’re someone really famous, it’s probably your own responsibility to tell it. Are you ready to share your life story with the world?

Develop a Concept
A memoir captures a period of time or a set of events in your life, rather than cataloging your experience from cradle to grave (that’s an autobiography or biography).

In order to appeal to an audience beyond your friends and family, you must bridge the gap between your life and that of your reader.

Most aspiring authors feel overwhelmed before they even begin. Below are some tips to help you on your way to sharing your story.

You need a solid concept that invites the reader’s concerns into the experience. To get them reading, it has to be more than something saying, “Let me tell you all about wonderful me.”

Consider the elements of your story that are universal and find ways to write them so your reader can imagine their own life through the lens of your circumstances.

Make It Memorable
You can make your nonfiction book as memorable as its fictional counterparts by using sensory language. By that, I mean language that conveys how you felt, what you saw, heard, smelled, and tasted during the scenes you present.

Before you write a pivotal scene, take yourself back to the place, time, and emotion of the moment. Once you’ve transported yourself back to that moment, write your scene.

When you’ve gotten it down on the page, go back and look for ways to vary your language to make it richer and more interesting.

Break out your thesaurus if that helps!

Include Details
Writing in detail takes time to develop, but not as much as you might think. It has helped me in my own writing. View the world in small sections. That limited focus can help you really hone-in on detail.

Construct your book scene-by-scene, moment-by-moment. See the minutiae … the crack etched in the sidewalk cement, the one green pea that rolled under the table, the rim of grease under the thumbnail of your father as he cuts the Thanksgiving turkey. When you add detail to your writing, you are painting with words, and you can use all the colors!

Details like that make the difference, so show them to your readers!

Your Story is Exceptional
You’ve lived through, learned, discovered, or developed something, and you’re still busy living your life. You’re out accomplishing things. What better time is there to write a book about your own life story than now? Don’t keep it to yourself!

Believe it or not, someone out there may need your message. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you may become part of the solution for someone.

You may not think of yourself as a writer, but you can do anything you want to do. What do you have to lose? When will there ever be a better moment than now? You don’t need to learn the publishing industry or take writing classes to write your book. You simply need to get your message out into the world.

Writing a book about yourself is definitely a big hurdle, perhaps comparable to running a marathon. But, just like that epic race, once you do it, you may look back and want to do it again.

What are you waiting for?

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I’ll be joining other authors signing books at Detroit Festival of Books at Eastern Market on July 21 and at SterlingFest in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 27.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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