The Magical Realism of Life of Pi

The Magical Realism of Life of Pi
Review by Margie Taylor

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on Writing Memoir

Some thoughts on Writing Memoir
 
In order to write memoir, just sit down at the computer and open a vein. Writing memoir that is straight and true is tough work.  If you shy away, you are in blurble land, talking about the wonderful time you had on that trip to Silver Islet. You bore yourself with yourself.
When you write memoir, you find out things about your family that your never thought of before. Too many questions and no way to answer them since more of the players are dead. And yet it is the most strengthening thing you can do.  

Most people leave it too late. I remember asking my dear aunt about her wedding.  She could not remember it. That was when I knew that her dementia had taken over. I had the tape recorder and the computer and the plan but the memories had disappeared. Forever.
The past is another country. They did things differently there. ( said by one, Leslie Poles Hartly). It is hard to explain the 50’s to a person of today. Why did we do so damn much housework?  Why did we long to settle down?  What evil miasma held us in thrall?  And why was that dreary folk music such a big deal? Unless you can explain the times, your reader can’t understand your motivation.  But what if you do not understand it yourself?  Then what?

Writing memoir is a great journey to the heart of oneself. Real craft is needed. Below are some ideas to consider if you want to start on this trek. Be warned.  Joan M. Baril

 
Christin Geall
 
Christin Geall says, "Using only one voice in a personal essay or memoir is like kneading dough with one hand — it makes the job tougher than it needs to be. Consider developing two voices on the page: one voice for now, and one for then.

 Think of it this way: you’ve got a protagonist and a narrator—both you. But there’s a difference between them, if you consider that the protagonist is engaged in the action of your story—making choices and mistakes, bumbling through life—while the narrator stands aside, watches and comments. Such a narrator might sound savvy, sophisticated or snarky. Or the voice may be more essayistic—self-questioning, skeptical, smart. In either case, using a retrospective narrator can help you to be honest with yourself.

 We all know what it’s like to listen to a friend who hasn’t learned from experience—boring at best, frustrating at worst. The same applies to nonfiction: readers want to see you make sense of your life, and witness your struggle towards truth. 

 Try it. First think of a scene you’ve been struggling to write, one that lacks luster. Is there a moment when you can step out of the action and your thoughts? Flag it. Then begin a paragraph with the phrase “Looking back now…” What do you see? Push yourself further by asking: Why do you remember this scene? And what does your remembering say about you?"

 Danielle Metcalf-Chenail
 Danielle Metcalf Chenail adds the following. "When we read personal stories, it’s because we want to inhabit that writer’s life for awhile in all its complexity - all its messy humanity. This includes wrestling with the big ideas and “isms” like racism, sexism, and colonialism that unfortunately often come with being human. With memoirs, biographies, and other forms of creative nonfiction, we get the opportunity to artfully explore these things through dialogue and details. We can give life to theories and philosophical questions by attaching a name, face and story. We can express the universal through the personal."
Quotes from Danielle Metcalf-Chenail and Christin Geall originally published on CBC Writing Tips.

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
Summoned I to tourney
Ten leagues beyond
The wild world's end
Methinks it is no journey.
(Anon)

 

 

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