25 April 2009

Especially for Memoir Writers

Anxious to leave a legacy, more and more baby boomers are turning to writing their memoirs or the next Great American Novel. For some, the story reveals itself effortlessly. Others have difficulty raising the veil for clarity. In the second case, I often find the problem lies in having lived a vast and rich life. What to put in and what to leave out becomes the dilemma.

In order to bring a story to fullness, a writer searches for the underlying sttucture that will best demonstrate some sort of meaning. As far as I'm concerned, there are three ways to do this.

1) Write what you are drawn to write and see what you end up with
2) Pre-plot scenes and ideas on the Universal Story form, alert for the moments that could constitute a major Crisis which in turn creates a jumping off place for the crowning glory of the work ~ the Climax.
3) Write what you are drawn to write and, at the same time, plot out scenes and ideas, keeping in mind the Universal Story form.

A scene does not warrant staying in a story merely because "it happened that way."

A good writer also knows that in order for a certain passage or sentence or character or plot turn to be in a story is not because of the beauty of the writing or the cleverness in the plotting or the depth of the characters, although these things are critical in captivating the reader. A good writer knows that each line and each element in each and every scene belongs there because it has a definite purpose in providing an overall meaning to the piece.

The only scenes that belong in a piece are the ones that best show how a character responds to the challenges, conflicts, tension, and suspense in one's own life as they move closer to transformation, and that contribute to the overall meaning of the story.