Last week, in Step 1 of memoir writing through the pandemic, we started by creating a timeline, focusing on one event which called to us and recalling our feelings, values, thoughts, et cetera, during the occurrence of that event. How did that go? Did one event pop out at you saying, “Write me?” Okay. Maybe not. But if you have chosen a story to write about, let’s go to Step 2.
First, though, save your timeline for future stories that may also interest you and your reader, adding to it as things come to you.
For Step 2, put a name to the occurrence that you have chosen: “Boy Meets Girl,” “Sputnik in the Night Sky,” “Fear of Geraniums,” whatever speaks to you. Or start by writing a sentence. Sometimes, for me anyway, the title comes after the story.
You may want to find photos around the time of the event. Examine each photo, then ask yourself what is behind and around the photographer that was NOT captured. Also using the photo, imagine what you were feeling with your senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste). Readers relate and engage through their senses.
Now, start writing.
Keep in mind that all human beings, no matter their background, have things in common: the need for shelter, food, love; fear of abandonment, loneliness, and the loss of a loved one. Readers identify and understand the emotions involved in these human concepts. Use them. Also use your personality. Don’t be afraid to let your personality show through—unless you are prone to preaching. By that I mean, using the word “you”—as in “You should…” or “How about you…”—often times feels to the reader like having the proverbial finger of guilt pointed at them, so keep your memoir in first person; i.e., “I,” “me,” “we,” “us,” et cetera, and avoid finger-pointing.
Readers also relate to mistakes, pain, and suffering. Do not use a façade that disguises mistakes. No one is perfect. Let your imperfections show. Your readers will relate and appreciate it.
Next week, we’ll work on step three. Let’s do it!