Post #44 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
Memoir Writers Need to Listen
There’s a new book, Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All, that just may provide insights for memoir writers, helping them improve the dialogue they write. If Bernard Ferrari were providing tips to memoir writers rather than to business leaders, I think these are five tips he might give:
Memoir Tip #1: Be attentive to your daily conversations. Show respect to the other person by listening carefully. Consider the flow, the pace, the range of topics. Keep a notebook handy and make notes afterwards.
Memoir Tip #2: Conversations with family, friends, co-workers become routine. But what about people you don’t know as well? Be sure to talk with those outside your closest inner circle. Then follow the advice in Memoir Tip #1. Think about how these conversations contrast with those where you have an ongoing relationship with the person. This may help highlight how to interact with others. Bring these insights to the dialogue you write for your memoir.
Memoir Tip #3: Do you usually talk most of the time? If so, engage in several conversations when you listen the majority of the time. If you usually are the listener in conversations, then try just the opposite. Think about several topics ahead of time and be prepared to actively engage in the conversation. Then get out your notebook and write about your experience. What role is different when you change your usual conversation mode?
Memoir Tip #4: Strong emotions get in the way of conversations — especially anger and fear although even joy may cause you to dominate a conversation and not learn about the other person. Try to observe how a conversation flows when one person is emotional. Haul out that notebook again. You are beginning to delve into factors that influence our conversations and hence the way we write dialogue in our memoirs.
Memoir Tip #5: Do you often interrupt the other person with your own thoughts and opinions? Try a couple of conversations where you ask questions instead. Or, if you are a question asker already, experiment with stating your opinions when you would normally ask questions. How does this change in your behavior modify the conversation?
In our soon to be released book, Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep, Kendra devotes an entire chapter to Dialogue. She takes you deep into Dialogue Country and shows you have to put conversations to work in your writing.
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