Post #237 – Memoir Writing Tiny Tip – Matilda Butler
Don’t Forget You — Perhaps a Surprising Memoir Writing Tip
I went to a performance of Heroes recently. The French play by Gerald Sibleyras and translated by Tom Stoppard turned out to be as characterized in a review. Question: How could three old World War I veterans sitting on a bench be interesting? Answer: By engaging the audience emotionally from the opening line.
The play was a fabulous experience and one I’m glad we drove the hour to see. But that is just the context of this Tiny Tip…not actually the source. The inspiration for today’s tip came from the play’s program. One page was titled: A Word From The Producer. Halfway down the page, I got to the part that read:
“It has been a dream of my partner Chris McVay and me to start our own company where we would be able to produce works that appeal to us as artists.”
That made me curious as to the producer’s name. I quickly glanced down to the bottom of the page, but I just found the name of the composer of the theme music. No producer. So I flipped to the back page where the crew were listed and special thanks were given to certain individuals who helped with the performance. No producer. I looked at the previous page where the cast and director were listed. No producer. This was only a four page program so I finally turned to the front page that gave the name of the play and photos of the three actors. No producer.
The producer wrote the program, but didn’t provide his or her name.
This provides an instant Tiny Tip. You are writing your memoir but you may not fully show yourself to your audience of readers. After all you know everything about yourself so it is easy to leave out important elements. Ask yourself:
1. Have I given a complete visual description of myself so that the audience can see me?
2. Have I revealed my emotions or are they locked inside me?
3. Have I shared my personality traits?
4. Have I spoken (used dialogue) in a way that expresses the way I actually talk?
5. And, finally, ask yourself, “By the end of the memoir will readers understand me as a fully formed individual or will they just know my story?”
You won’t make the mistake of leaving out your name, like the producer of Heroes did. But it is surprisingly easy to create a two-dimensional rather than three-dimensional star of your memoir in your desire to tell what happened.
How This Tiny Tip Series Started
The idea for a series of short writing tips came to me while reading the program notes for a chamber music concert. I realized that many (well, ok, most) of my blog articles get to be long and often require you to do certain things — like write from prompts I’ve provided. And while I will continue with this type of longer article because I think they are of value, I realized that sometimes as writers we just want a little bit of information or a small new idea or a thought stated differently. We don’t have a lot of time.
That’s the concept behind each Tiny Tip. Just a nugget to give you something to think about as you go through your busy day.