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Notes on writing a memoire
Voice: Goal; Write in the first person and find one’s voice.
Organize the life story around the “inner enemy”— a psychic struggle against oneself that works like a thread or plot engine. The split self or inner conflict must manifest on the first pages and form the book’s thrust or through line— some journey toward the self’s overhaul by book’s end. Why am I driven to tell the tale?
One of my inner enemies will be aloneness. After all, I left my native country and I don’t speak my native language at home. Aloneness is a fact that played a role, but not the leading role. I am a deep introvert. I am very self-contained– like a lot of introverts. On the other hand, when totally alone I am not comfortuable When totally alone, I always made a connection. I always formed deep relationships. I love deeply, naturally, and easily. Unfortunately my deep introversion can manifests itself by not reaching out to loved ones spontaneously.
The memoire should show how the self evolves to reconcile its inner conflict over time. This is a sub-plot to keep the memoire interesting. The main change over time should be spiritual growth. So I need to define this sub-plot.
Awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes…..
I will comment self-reflexively on the fact that I’m writing, as when a theatre characters breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience….
Carnality may determine if the memoir’s any good, but interiority—that kingdom the camera never captures—makes a book readable.
Of memoir’s five elements, carnality is the most easy to master. Carnal means selecting sensual data—items, odors, sounds—to recount detials based on their psychological effects on a reader. The great writer trolls the world for totemic objects to place on a page. In every genre, it’s key.
Trust own memory of the scene, and not something heard about.
To diagnose blind spots:
-what do people usually like and dislike about you. reflect both aspects
-how do I want to be perceived? in what ways have I been false or posed as other than I am (this might be answered by ex-wifes screaming at me)
-what verbal signpost suggests I’m posturing
Rules for dealing with others:
-notify subjects in advance, detailing parts that might make them wince
-don’t show pages to anybody mid-process
-if writing about someone I hate, do it with great love
-never speak with authority about how people feel or what their motives were, just speculate
-don’t use jargon to describe people, it’s disrespectful.
-consider that I might be wrong, and make corrections
-cut anything that someone denies
-say that my view is subjective
Metaphors help to flesh out experiences.
An obvious order will appear—mostly chronological, with one flash forward at the outset.
The flashback structure is a time-honored one.
In memoir the heart is the brain.
-paint a physical reality that uses all the senses and exists in the time I’m writing about
-tell a story that describes the milieu. A story is the place to start
-package information or backstory so it has emotional scene
-why do I want to deal with the past?
-think, figure, wonder, guess…show that I’m weighing what is true
-change time, back and forth early on, to establish the “looking back voice” and the “being in it voice”
-collude with the reader
-do not show the suffering, show the surviving. use humor over dark places.
-love the characters
-sound on the page like I do in person
-it is more than talking…its a mindset that stems from feeling oneself alive inside the past
-the goal of a voice is to speak not with objective authority but with subjective curiosity
The inner conflict needs to be defined.