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Writing tip

Memoir Writing Prompt: What’s Your Gift?

by Matilda Butler on July 19, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #191 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

Recognizing the Gift of Writing

Today I want to share with you an insight I had while attending the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival in Corvallis. It was a fascinating program — a little Mozart (Serenata Notturna), a little Bach (Concerto in D minor), a little Copland (Hoedown, from Rodeo), and then a second half of the evening devoted to Scottish and Appalachian fiddle music performed by two talented young artists who had our hearts singing and our feet tapping.

Before the concert began, I did what all writers do. I carefully poured over the program notes. A couple of sentences struck me as vitally important for a writer to consider.

“Attending a chamber music performance is experiencing a musical dialogue amongst musicians and with the audience. There is an energy and real time reaction from the audience… This relationship between musicians and audience is often referred to as a gift of music.

Although the relationship mentioned in this quote takes place in real time, I think as writers we need to consider the delayed time relationship with our readers. As we write, we should consider the reaction of our readers. One of the easiest ways to do this is to imagine we are telling a scene to someone. Does the person seem engaged? Does the person nod her or his head? Does the person look puzzled? Does the person look happy, joyful, disgusted, worried at the appropriate time?

To make this practical, consider this set of steps:

Memoir Writing Prompts

1. Choose a scene you have just written. A scene is usually two to three pages and contains its own story, or substory, within it. While you were writing, you were thinking primarily about you and your story. Now you will change your focus.

2. If you have a friend, family member, or writing group, ask if she/he/they will listen to your story. Then as you read watch the behavior of the person. Consider the relationship between the writer and the reader — between the words and the reaction. Do you stop once or twice to offer an aside or to clarify? Maybe more needs to be written. Does the person’s eyes seem to glaze over? Maybe you have said too much and not made your words interesting enough.

3. Don’t rely on just what the person says to you at the end. Many friends will say “That’s great.” “I really like what you have written.” “Keep up the good work.” But what did their facial expression or body language tell you when you read? Did the person engage emotionally? Do you think the person would want to read the next scene or chapter?

Consider all of these points. When writing the emphasis must be on the story and the words. But before your work is finished, you need to think about the relationship with the reader. You don’t want that clever metaphor to leave the reader wondering what you meant.

Rewriting the Quote for Memoir Writers

Sharing a life story is enriched when the teller anticipates the experience of the relationship between the writer and the reader — between the producer and the consumer. Try to incorporate the energy that comes from the reader in reaction to the story. It can help to propel your story forward. It will enhance what is written and ensure the engagement of the reader. Considering this relationship becomes a gift of writing.

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Writing and Healing: 5 Outstanding – and Surprising – Self-Help Books for Memoir Writers

by Pamela JaneMay 6, 2014
Writing and Healing: 5 Outstanding – and Surprising – Self-Help Books  for Memoir Writers

Pamela Jane Bell offers 5 books to get your writing and keep you writing your memoir. Her choices just may surprise you.

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Memoir is About the Little Things Too

by Kendra BonnettMarch 17, 2014
Memoir is About the Little Things Too

What do you think belongs in a memoir? It’s not only about earth shattering drama. The elements of everyday life, when well written are also engaging.

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Writing and Healing: One Day of Panic and Three Days of Work — 5 Tips for Honoring Your Writing Process

by Pamela JaneMay 6, 2012
Writing and Healing:  One Day of Panic and Three Days of Work — 5 Tips for Honoring Your Writing Process

Pamela Jane Bell is back with more of her great tips for memoir writing. Be sure to check out these.

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Words for Women Writing Memoir, #21

by Matilda ButlerJanuary 21, 2012
Words for Women Writing Memoir, #21

Many new words were introduced during World War II. Perhaps you can work this one into your conversation or your memoir writing. It certainly is colorful.

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Writing Tips: Perspective on Family Storytelling

by Matilda ButlerJanuary 16, 2012
Writing Tips: Perspective on Family Storytelling

In this short video, Women’s Memoirs shares five reasons why siblings often don’t see eye to eye on family history. Soon we’ll announce a new ebook on Family Storytelling: Sibling v. Sibling.

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Writing Tip and Prompt: In How Many Words?

by Matilda ButlerDecember 19, 2011
Writing Tip and Prompt: In How Many Words?

A Women’s Memoirs writing prompt about the variety of words you use. Try this writing exercise and see how it affects your writing.

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