Post #6 – Memoir Writing, Journaling – Amber Starfire
Your journal, in addition to being a place to record thoughts, feelings, reflections, and events in your life, is a great place to practice writing memoir using the art of storytelling. When you are journaling about your life you are, in fact, recording stories. And if you have stories that you’d like others to (eventually) read — whether family or a broader audience — why not also use your journal as a place to polish your storytelling skills?
If you have ever watched a skilled storyteller at work, you’ll know that she used vocal inflections, voices, hand gestures, and facial expressions to engage the audience and weave her tale. The same techniques that work for the storyteller on a stage or around a campfire also work on the page. The written word is able to powerfully engage the imagination of the reader so that characters, places, and events seem to leap off the page.
You may be asking, “How do I do this?” Here are the steps I use, and you are welcome to use, modify, expand, or rearrange them:
- Write down the story as it comes to you. Generally, this means writing what happened in chronological order (this happened, then that happened, and so on). The purpose of this first step is to get the basics onto the page.
- Think about the scene and set the stage. For example: “Night had fallen, the full moon’s light glinted off the water, and a quiet hush descended, broken only by the occasional call of an owl.” Describe the surroundings, the atmosphere (was this darkness peaceful or spooky for example?).
- Bring on the characters. Who was there? Think about their physical appearances and personalities and describe them.
- Action. What happened? Include dialog (remember the conversations as best you can and write them down). Who did what? Where was the tension? Were you having an argument? Were you afraid? Who wanted what? Did something good or bad happen? How did it come about? What is the climax (the turning point) of this story?
- Resolution. How does the story resolve and tensions ease? Is there a moral? What did the characters learn?
- Finally, think about how you might tell this story to a group of people, take the various elements you’ve written and put them in an order that makes sense to you. Good storytellers use exaggeration to dramatize; feel free to do the same. However, if you want to keep the story in the nonfiction realm, you’ll want to either temper your use of exaggeration or add a disclaimer, letting your readers know that you’ve embellished the details for the sake of a good story.
Memoirs are essentially collections of stories from our lives, often grouped around a theme. Storytelling techniques can help us create dramatic scenes that tell our stories in ways that invite and engage our audiences. Your journal is a wonderful place to experiment and play as you boost your writing skills.
I invite you to try out storytelling as an approach to memoir, and leave a comment to let us know what you think.
Image credit: pembroke21c.org