Last week I was able to attend a one-hour live event hosted by The Stories Between Us writing community (which operates in a Mighty Networks space). In it, they interviewed author and editor Lisa-Jo Baker, who took us through many aspects of memoir writing. (There is also a podcast by the same name, and they did record the interview, if you want to listen when it's released.)
I was fascinated to hear her take on elements of memoir, including:
- How memoir helps you not only tell, but figure out your origin story.
- How you have to love people—truly love them—to write about them, even if they hurt you. That there is an opportunity for forgiveness (not absolution) in the act of loving them enough to write about them.
- How a memoir offers the reader a "visceral immediacy"—they're on the path right next to you as you journey through the experience you're relating.
- How memoir should read like fiction. It shouldn't be an A to B to C narrative of things that happened but rather should be composed of scenes with characters, setting, and dialogue.
- How the opening of a memoir will make or break the book (and she discussed her top 5 examples of opening paragraphs).
This session really lit a fire under me to take a critical look at my book so far. I realize now that I will have to rework several parts of my book that are done, because I’ve learned from this one-hour class that my story can be told so much better than I’m currently telling it.
It’ll be for the best. It’ll be for the best. It’ll be for the best.
(And since I was inspired, I just wrote an opening scene as prologue that drops the reader right into it. At least I hope it does!)
Have you written a memoir? Any advice for me or others hoping to do so?
Below are links to several books that were discussed in this class—held up as examples of how to start a memoir or memoirs that touched the speaker as being incredible examples of the genre. I plan on reading at least a few of these, myself.