Assignment #1 Memoir
Goals of a Memoir • To capture an important moment • To convey something about its significance
Key Features • A good story • Vivid language • Characters • Dialogue • Reflection / Significance
A Good Story • Your narrative need not be about an earth-shattering event, but your topic—and how you write about it—should interest your potential readers. • At the center of most good stories stands a conflict or question that needs resolution.
Vivid Language • Details bring a memoir to life by giving readers mental images of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world in which your story takes place. • SHOW over tell. A narrative is more than simply a report of what happened; vivid details and dialogue bring the events of the past to life, thereby immersing readers in your experience.
Clear Significance • Memories of the past are filtered through our view from the present. • Avoid coming right out and saying why the incident is so important to you. • What and how you tell your story should implicitly convey this significance.
Purpose • What is the importance of the memory you are trying to convey? • How will this story help your readers (and yourself) understand you, as you were then and as you are now? • Beyond yourself, how will this story help your readers understand something about the human condition?
Audience • Who are your readers? • What do you want them to learn from reading your memoir? • How can you help them understand your experience, but also apply it / relate it to other similar experiences that they might encounter in their own lives?
Presentation • What impression do you want to give, and how can your words contribute to that impression? • What tone do you want to project? Sincere? Serious? Humorous? Detached? Self-critical? • How will your tone reflect your purpose and affect your audience?
Thesis • Your story is a vehicle for making some sort of argument • Don’t lose sense of your overall purpose and focus in writing a literacy narrative • Like any other form of writing, every element of your narrative should contribute to validating the thesis.
Structure of a Literacy Narrative • Introduction • Body • Conclusion
Introduction • Hooks readers by dropping them in the middle of an interesting situation or by presenting them with an especially vivid description. • Introduces focal point of your narrative • Introduces tension/conflict • Gets readers emotionally invested in your topic
Body • Develop conflict introduced in the opening paragraph(s). • Here is where the plot or major sequence of events leading up to the climax takes place. • Only include events that are the most meaningful to you and that best illustrate the point you want to make
Develop characters through 1) vivid description and 2) dialogue aimed at revealing a character’s personality and his or her relationship to others. • Use dialogue purposefully to help readers attain deeper insight into the thoughts and emotions of your characters.
Reflection and Analysis • Encourage readers to notice particular details or help them understand the significance of a particular experience for a character’s self-development. • As you narrate events, look for places where you can briefly pause the action and provide a few sentences of reflection and/or analysis.
Conclusion • Reinforces the message of the story. • Be sure the elements of your narrative work together to deliver one clear, coherent message. • You might choose to end your narrative with a scene that perfectly captures the mood you want readers to experience or with an image you want them to remember.
Writing Tips • Specific sensory details and vivid descriptions help deliver a specific message. • Invite readers to emotionally connect with and invest in the lives and activities of the major characters in your narrative.
Show, Don’t Tell • Dramatize, dramatize! • Writing in a manner that allows the reader to experience the story through a character’s action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the narrator’s exposition, summarization, and description.
Instead of stating a situation flat out, let the reader discover what you’re trying to say by watching a character in action and by listening to his or her dialogue. • SHOWING brings your characters to life. • SHOWING makes scenes vivid and immerses your audience in the experience. • Of course telling is sometimes necessary, but scenes that are important to the story should be dramatized.
Description CONCRETE VS. ABSTRACT
Concrete vs Abstract • Concrete language makes the story clearer and more real to the reader because it offers information that we can easily grasp and perhaps empathize with. • Abstract language makes the story difficult to visualize and leaves your reader feeling empty, disconnected and confused.
Examples It was a nice day vs. The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face. Prof. Bubash is a great teacher vs. Prof. Bubash knows how to help students turn their thoughts into good stories and essays.
Practice • The old barbershop smelled. • Simpson sat down on a dirty bench and hunched over.
Sensory details • It’s not necessary to introduce details with “I could feel” or “I could hear” • Doing this detaches the reader from the experience by reminding him that it is being broadcast through another speaker.
Practice • As I walked into the room, I could feel my heart pounding. • I could feel butterflies in my stomach as I began to talk. • It was a very pleasant day, and as I walked down the road I could see a lot of action was going on.