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MEMOIRS From the book, “Writing Today” by Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine.

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Presentation on theme: "MEMOIRS From the book, “Writing Today” by Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine."— Presentation transcript:

1 MEMOIRS From the book, “Writing Today” by Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine

2 MEMOIRS The words memoir and memory come from the same root word. However, good memoirs explore and reflect on a central theme or question. They invite readers to explore and reflect with the narrator to try to unravel the deeper significance of the recounted events.

3 MEMOIRS Introduction: Sets the scene Description of a complication Evaluation of the complication Resolution of the complication Conclusion: What the writer learned

4 MEMOIR OVERVIEW An engaging title: hints at the overall meaning or “theme.” An introduction with a “lead”: captures the reader’s interest or sets a scene. A complication: a tension or conflict that must be resolved in some way by the end of the story. This tension or conflict can be between people’s values, beliefs, desires, or needs. It could be a conflict within the author as he or she moves from one life stage to another or discovers something previously unknown. Or it could be something new, challenging, discomforting, or frightening. A plot: draws the reader forward as the memoir moves through a series of scenes or stages. Intimacy between the narrator and the reader: allowing the writer to speak with readers in a personal on-on-one way. Rich and vivid details: are not announced or answered explicitly, but that the narrator explores and reflects on with the reader.

5 MEMOIR OVERVIEW A central theme or question: is rarely announced or answered explicitly, but that the narrator explores and reflects on with the reader. A new understanding or revelation: presents a moment of growth, transformation, or clarity in the writer.

6 INVENTING MEMOIR’S CONTENT Find an interesting topic – Experiences that were challenging, scary, fun, etc. – Think about times when something important happened to you, helping you make a discovery about yourself or someone else. – Think about the times when you felt pain or great happiness. Possible topics: breaking a leg skiing, winning a competition, failing algebra class, traveling to Mexico, leaving home to go to college, the death of a loved one, discovering Aunt Betsy is a lesbian, meeting Brad Pitt, experiencing an earthquake, not making the cheerleading team, a car breakdown in Idaho, running for office.

7 ORGANIZING & DRAFTING YOUR MEMOIR You might have to go through a series of drafts in order to discover your theme, and how you want to recount events. Think about your tone, and don’t worry about writing “correctly” with the first draft. Set the scene if detail: You might just describe what happened. The, once you have the basic series of events written down, start adding in as much detail as you can. Give descriptions of people, places, things. The People: What did your characters do that hints at who they are? What did they say? How did they behave? What were their blind spots? What did they care about, and what were they ambivalent about? The Scenes: What did each scene look like? How did it feel or smell? What did you taste or hear? What is the history of this place—both its public history and your personal history? Dialogue: What was said before and after the event? Who said what to whom? How did they say it? Were they angry? Excited? Thrilled? Scared?

8 DESCRIBING THE COMPLICATION This is the problem or challenge that your or others needed to resolve. Pay attention to figuring out how this complication came about and why people reacted to it in a particular way. The Event: What exactly happened? Who did it and what did they do? Was the event sudden or did it take a long time to develop? The Complication: What was really at stake here? What was the essential conflict or complication that caused this story to be something more than an everyday event? How did you or the other people in the story feel about that tension? The Immediate Reaction: How did people react to the event? What were their emotions? What id their reaction look like? Did they do anything that they later regretted?

9 EVALUATING AND RESOLVING THE COMPLICATION After the initial reaction, you should show how you and others evaluated and resolved the complication. The complication isn’t necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed. Instead, you should show how the people involved tried to make sense of the complication, reacted to the change, and moved forward. The Evaluation: What did you and other people think was happening? Were there any misunderstandings? Did you talk about the appropriate ways to respond? Did you or others come up with a plan? The Resolution: What did you decide to do? Were you successful in resolving the complication, or partially successful? If so, how did you handle it? If you weren’t successful, how did you make changes to adjust to the new situation? How did other people make adjustments?

10 CONCLUDING WITH A POINT Your conclusion describes, directly or indirectly, not only what your learned but also what your reader should have learned from your experiences. You should avoid writing a “and the moral of the story is…” or a “they lived happily ever after” ending, but you should strive for something that feels like the events or people reached some kind of closure. If you think your point is obvious to readers, you can leave the conclusion unstated. In these situations, you can give readers a glimpse into the future. Or you can provide a final sentence or passage that hints at your memoir’s meaning. Whether your main point/conclusion is stated directly or unstated, your readers should come away from your memoir with a clear sense of what you wanted them to learn from your experience.

11 CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE STYLE The style and tone depends on how you want to portray yourself as the narrator of the story. Choose a style that works for you, your story, and your reader. If you want your narrator (you) to have a casual attitude, that’s the style and tone you want to strive for. Think of a key word that describes the tone you want to set. Put that word in the middle of your screen/paper. Now create a concept map around that key word. Write down any words that you tend to associate with this tone. As you put words on these screen, try to come up with more words that are associated with these new words. Eventually you will fill the screen. In the draft look for places where you can use these words. If you use them strategically throughout your piece, your readers will sense the tone or attitude. This will help you develop your central “theme.” Don’t overdue the words or your tone will be too strong.

12 USING DIALOGUE Allow the characters to reveal key details about themselves through dialogue rather than your constant narration. Use dialogue occasionally to reveal themes and ideas that are key to understanding your piece. Use dialogue to further the story: Anytime you use dialogue, the story should move forward. Dialogues between characters are key moments that should change the flow of the story in an important way. Write the way your characters speak: People often don’t speak in proper English, or in full thoughts. Trim the extra words: In real dialogue, people often say more than they need to say. You can trim out the unnecessary details. Identify who is talking: The readers should know who is talking, so make sure your use dialogue tags. Be careful not to overuse dialogue.

13 REVISING Cut out anything that does not advance the story or help you develop your characters or message. Make it lean, with little or no fat. Make your title enticing. Craft the perfect lead: A compelling lead casts your readers into the drama of your memoir and makes them lean forward with questions they hope your memoir will answer. – Does it introduce some idea or question that is important to the memoir’s point? – Does it focus down to an important image, idea, or point? – Does it set the right tone for the rest of the memoir?

14 REVISING Reevaluate the details and cut the fat. – Look at every aspect of your piece: the narrative, the dialogue, the setting…take out what is not absolutely necessary. – Long stories are boring. – When it comes to storytelling, less if more. Provide your readers with just enough detail and character development to make them want to keep reading.

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