Blah, Blah, Blah and Your Memoir Writing

by Matilda Butler on April 21, 2015

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #210 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler

Music Inspired These Memoir Writing Tips and Writing Prompts

memoir writing promptGeorge and Ira Gershwin are one of the famous musical duos. You probably have your favorites written by the Gershwin brothers. Mine include: “Fascinating Rhythm” (from the musical Lady Be Good), “I Got Rhythm” (from the musical Girl Crazy), “Someone to Watch Over Me” (from the musical Oh, Kay!), and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (from the opera Porgy and Bess).

Recently, I learned of another song composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother Ira. It’s called (trust me, this really is the name) …Blah, Blah, Blah.

A friend was learning the lyrics and music and I couldn’t believe that was the title of a song by such a well-known musical team. I certainly had never heard of it. So I did a little checking and found that the Gershwins wrote the song in 1931 for a play called East is West that never came to fruition. They tucked the song away but soon were able to pull it out of the hat and use it in the first film that they were hired to compose an entire score rather than an individual song. The film? It was the 1931 Fox Film called Delicious. (Nope. I’ve never heard of it either.)

Here are the lyrics:

I’ve written you a song
A beautiful routine
I hope you like it.

My technique can’t be wrong
I learned it from the screen
I hope you like it.

I studied all that rhymes that all the lovers sing
And just for you I wrote this little thing…

Blah blah blah blah moon
Blah blah blah above
Blah blah blah blah croon
Blah blah blah above.

Tra la la la, tra la la la, la, merry month of May
Tra la la la, tra la la la, la, ‘neath a cloud of grey.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah your hair
Blah blah blah your eyes
Blah blah blah blah care
Blah blah blah blah skies.

Tra la la la, tra la la la, la, cottage for two
Blah blah blah blah blah blah darling with you.

Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…

Memoir Writing Tips and Writing Prompts Courtesy of the Gershwin Brothers

Memoir Writing Tip #1. Stay away from trite phrases. It is easy to fall into completing a sentence with a cliche because that is what pops into the mind. Instead of saying a “cottage for two,” consider a unique description of your first home. How about a “miniature two-room mansion”? Step outside the expected, dull, and ordinary box. Give your readers something to grab hold of and to remember.

Memoir Writing Prompt #1. Read several pages of the memoir you are writing. Look at some of your phrases that are cliches. Then rewrite them putting an interesting twist on what you say.

Here are a few to avoid. If you aren’t currently working on your memoir, take five of these cliches and rewrite them in an imaginative way.

Always look on the bright side
Another day, another dollar
At wits’ end
A bad hair day
Beat around the bush
Blind as a bat
Easy as pie
Handwriting is on the wall
Heart of stone
Take the plunge
Wait for the other shoe to fall

Memoir Writing Tip #2. Create a strong opening. You can do much better than “I’ve written you a song.” A song is over quickly so it doesn’t have to be powerful. It has a melody that helps hold the listener’s attention. But you need to engage your reader from the first sentence or she will swipe her finger across her tablet’s screen and move on to another book. Today a reader doesn’t even have to put down a book, find another one, and open it. It’s easy for your story to end up in the cyber-trash.

Fortunately, you can work on your opening until you have a way to keep the attention of your reader, making her want more.

Memoir Writing Prompt #2. Read and re-read the first sentence of your memoir or memoir vignette. Have you pulled the reader into your story? As editors, we often find a better opening sentence may be buried in the middle of a paragraph somewhere in the first five pages. Rewrite your opening. See if you have a better opening already written after you got through your first sentence “warm up.”

If you aren’t currently working on your memoir, take a memoir from your bookshelf and read the opening paragraph. Then rewrite it in a stronger way. This is a great exercise because you aren’t as bound up in someone else’s story as you are your own memoir. That makes it easier to see a new way to open the first chapter.

Memoir Writing Tip #3. Avoid a “blah” memoir. Let the personality of the people in your memoir be sharply etched. You want your readers to identify with you and understand why other people in your memoir behave the way that they do. That means showing emotions.

Memoir Writing Prompt #3. Take a look at the first scene in your memoir. What emotion were you feeling when the scene took place? How have your shown the emotion in the scene? Perhaps you went through several emotions. Be sure your reader can feel your emotions because you have shown them in your actions. Dig deeply. Don’t just say, “That made me happy.” Let the reader see your happiness and draw her own conclusions. That way, she becomes emotionally connected with you.

Thanks George and Ira Gershwin. Hope you don’t mind that I’ve had a bit of fun drawing memoir writing lessons from your song. Meanwhile, I’ll keep enjoying your many classics.

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