Looking for more info about a specific approach to find the memoir's main story.

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creativitytogo

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Hello,

I will be very thankful and happy for any thought about a subject, that I struggle to understand, and search for any advice that may help-

My curiosity is not only about writing a specific memoir, but also a general interest in learning and understanding the subject as profoundly as possible.

I have read many books about Memoir writing(about 100!), yet, there is one issue that is still not clear enough to me.

The issue is finding a strong, main, story to use, as the base for the entire narrative's arc.

I have already tried the "known" methods, that may help identifying that main story, such as: life's turning-points, significant events, random stories that eventually suggest a theme/narrative, and more. Also, there is always the search for the incident that creates the conflict, etc.
I look at it a bit differently- What if there isn't any incident that "forces" the conflict, which just "falls from the sky", but something that the protagonist creates deliberately?

One of the best examples is writing about a certain goal, that one is willing to reach- job-related, in private life etc.

Naturally, most people strive for something at any single moment, so I assume that it can be used as the base story for the memoir, yet for some reason that I don't understand, I wasn't able to find anyone mentioning that approach.

Let's say that I am looking to write a narrative-based memoir about the current time period. If I try to find a significant moment or turning-point one, it will be hard to find one(I have tried), yet, if I could ask myself what are some current important goals of mine, those goals may naturally suggest a journey that inherently has obstacles, suspense and narrative.

The approach above also allows a wide range of options, concerning the emotional depth revealed, as the story itself contains "built-in" drama.

I am extremely curious to know more about that specific approach, that I detailed above, not only by reading many relevant memoirs, but also via memoir writing guide books that mention that approach.

I will very happy and thankful for any guide book suggestion, that also includes that approach to identify good personal journey to write about, as well as generally, writing about a goal that one wants to reach and writes about the progress.



Many thanks.
 
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cornflake

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Are there even 100 books about how to write a memoir?

How many actual memoirs have you read?

I suspect you'll be more helped by reading actual books,not books telling you how to write, and by just... writing something.
 

Voodoo Chicken

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What if there isn't any incident that "forces" the conflict, which just "falls from the sky", but something that the protagonist creates deliberately?

Warning: Highly opinionated, extremely uninformed and only slightly relevant rant to follow. Read at your own risk.

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I like to think of the inciting incident as the moment the protagonist is forced to pursue a goal in a three act Hero's Journey narrative. IMO this usually happens within the first 10% of the first act.

First, the protagonist is introduced in his/her world. The reader is provided with a glimpse into the protagonist's past and given reason to empathize with him/her. Often times, the protagonist is comfortable in his/her world and feels no need to change even though a personal conflict may be apparent to the reader.

This is where the inciting incident comes in. Something happens that forces the protagonist to seek change. He/she can no longer pretend the status quo is sufficient and they must embark on the narrative journey.

Example:

If a child in Nigeria dreams of moving to America because it sounds like a nice place to live, that's fine.

If a child in Nigeria loves his country and never wants to leave, but is forced to flee when terrorists murder his family -that's a story. In this case, the inciting incident is the death of his family and the narrative is born from tension and conflict.

In the first example, the narrative is born from the protagonist just wanting to do stuff. As a reader, I want to do stuff too -so why should I care about what you want to do? But when you are forced to do something and there are consequences to not acting on that goal, it gets a little more interesting from a literary perspective.

Having said that, I don't think there is anything wrong with a protagonist unwittingly creating their own inciting incident as opposed to it "falling from the sky" as long as that incident fits the above criteria. But if this is a deliberate act, it might diminish the reader's ability to empathize with the protagonist.

Example:

If you sell your car to buy a flat screen TV and then complain you have no way to get to work, I'm not going to care.

I will very happy and thankful for any guide book suggestion, that also includes that approach to identify good personal journey to write about, as well as generally, writing about a goal that one wants to reach and writes about the progress.

I'm a big fan of The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. It's written largely with fiction in mind but all the same principles can be applied to memoir if you're willing to put in the effort.

Of course, some people say this stuff is formulaic or too derivative but there is the intellectual side of art and then the creative side. Perhaps, the ideal form lies somewhere in between.

Also, memoir is one of those weird genre's where people say you should do whatever you want and "write your story". That's fine, but you should define your audience before you begin. If you want something to share with family and friends or if you are working on a vanity project, then stop reading here and have fun with it. But if you want to share your story with a large group of people from all walks of life, you would be well served by looking at the same narrative techniques fiction authors employ to keep their readers hooked.

Lastly, as usual -cornflake is correct. These self-help books, forums, etc. can only go so far when it comes to improving your writing. Reading good books and writing crappy drafts is the best literary education.

Hope this helps.
 

sandree

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Marion Roach has the following approach. She says that you need to formulate an argument and illustrate that argument with scenes from your life. This interested me because it gives an immediate structure to what you are writing and helps to cut out anything that doesn’t move that argument forward and narrow your focus.

Here is a blog article on her approach. https://marionroach.com/2017/03/what-is-memoir-2/
 

Mroachsmith

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Dear Sandree,
Many thanks for referencing me here on this lovely forum. I am delighted for the mention and glad to help as I can on my blog.
Hoping to hear more from the group.
Best,
Marion
 

Mfraser

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A writing teacher of mine likes to refer to "the origin of the telling." (full disclosure, she probably got it from a writing book, maybe Story by McKee.) In the case of memoir, that refers to the moment when the story crystalizes into a narrative, the moment when you know you have to tell the story. Then you back into what led to the story and the story itself. So, if you're writing about a specific goal that changed/directed your life, the origin of the telling is the moment when your life couldn't continue as it was without pursuing that goal. Start by telling the story of (for example) the day in your boring-ass office job when you quit to climb the Andes. Then you reach back to how the job was soul-destroying and forward to the experience of following that dream and how it changed you. Or maybe, for the same story, the origin of the telling is a spouse dying and the realization that the office job is nothing and the Andes have been calling. The origin of the telling informs why you sat down to write the book.

Hope I'm not making a hash of that. Writing teacher I am not.
 

Lone Wolf

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Naturally, most people strive for something at any single moment, so I assume that it can be used as the base story for the memoir, yet for some reason that I don't understand, I wasn't able to find anyone mentioning that approach.

Perhaps because as you say everyone is striving for something in their lives. That doesn't make it worth writing about.

It seems to me that if you're struggling to think of what in your life to write about then you don't have anything really worth writing about. And I read once that, since writing is hard - actually getting it fully finished and polished - if you don't have a strong belief in what you are writing about and a real need to tell that story (whether fiction or memoir) then there's little chance you will succeed.

But perhaps I don't really understand what you're asking. If you're writing just for fun or practice, just write.
 

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