• Memoirs

    How Do I Write My Memoirs?

      Are you stuck trying to write your life story? By the time we become seniors, most of us have come to the realization that we’ve left it too late. We think we’d like to write our memoirs, but we never got around to asking our parents the important questions: How did they meet? Who was their first love? How did they become the people they ended up being?   How Did I Get Here? Then there are the questions about our own history: What was I like as a toddler? Who was my best friend in kindergarten? Where did my first pet come from? What was my first word,…

  • Productivity,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions,  Writers and Writing

    Perfectionism and Writer’s Block — It’s All About the Baby Steps, Baby!

    This week, I’ve been trying to come up with a riveting blog post idea and I’ve spent nearly two hours dithering, avoiding the problem. Rather than picking one of the hundreds of topics I’ve collected for times like this, I logged onto Joseph Michaels’  UnChained Writers, my favourite online chat group for writers, where I knew I would find others who’d understand and commiserate when I whined and complained about how stuck I was feeling.   “Why do we do that to ourselves?” I said, and gave myself a little pep talk…“Okay, goofball! Just pick one and run with it. Something will come out of it, even if it’s not…

  • Creative Writing,  Point of View and Character Development

    Emotional Significance

    or — How to Manipulate Your Reader’s Feelings Over many decades of reading, I’ve come to realize that one of the most powerful things a writer can do to keep a reader glued to the page is to create a deep yearning to be in the story and experience the emotions that the story’s characters feel.    Running like an underground river beneath the needs and desires of the characters we create is the reader’s need for something only the character’s experience can provide. We read in order to become a part of the story world, to escape the everyday and immerse ourselves in an environment that satisfies something we…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Coincidence

    Deus Ex Machina Last week’s post pointed out that little coincidental changes can alter the entire trajectory of a story. But at what point does coincidence become “deus ex machina” — defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel”?   The key here is the word “contrived”. Last week, I said, “Our lives hinge on these coincidences.”   But herein lies a problem for writers. We can’t use them. We can’t dump a convenient coincidence into our story whenever we need something to change. We can’t simply insert a character or…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Change It Up!

    This article comes out of a conversation I had with a writer who couldn’t decide what should go into two related scenes:   Dor: I’ve got two scenes fighting with each other. So not nice! Bev: What’s the key point in each scene? How can you differentiate the scenes to accentuate the point? Dor: It’s a sequence of two scenes as a big storm is about to hit. So I’m mostly combing for timeline consistency. Two characters, one makes a suggestion and the other resists. Then in the second scene (a few beats later in the time line) the other character takes the bait and goes overboard with the suggestion.…

  • Theme, Purpose and Outcome,  Training, Lessons

    Theme Rules Everything

    Figuring out the theme of your memoir can feel like catching a greased piglet, partly because of the confusing variety of terminology that refers to themes in storytelling. It might help to explain the difference between several different terms that are used to describe this notoriously difficult-to-grasp subject:  •  Thematic Premise — Your plot. Some human quality, activity or character trait leads (or does not lead) to a particular inevitable conclusion. Based on core values and beliefs, the premise can be expressed as an “elevator pitch” that includes character, the basic story idea and what’s at stake.  •  Thematic Statement — Your message. A thematic statement is a simple, powerful…

  • Creative Writing,  Organization and Research,  Point of View and Character Development,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Cause and Effect

    One of the most effective ways to create a compelling plotline with a strong narrative drive is to make sure your cause and effect chain remains unbroken.   What do I mean by the cause and effect chain?   In stories, as in life, things happen because other things happen. If you fall down, you skin your knee. Your knee would not be injured if you hadn’t fallen down. That’s cause and effect.   In stories, cause and effect are a kind of glue that holds your story together. Without it, your story is merely a collection of random incidents and your reader eventually becomes bored because things happen for…

  • Creative Writing,  Memoirs,  Training, Lessons

    Repeat After Me…

    The Power of Focus in Writing Too much repetition is bad, except when it’s not. Too much detail is bad, except when it’s not.   So, what do I mean by that?   Often, we weaken our writing by repeating words and phrases without being consciously aware that we’re doing so, but the proper use of repetition can help strengthen our writing, give it more impact and make it more memorable.    The same is true for unnecessarily detailed descriptions. There’s a time and place for both of these techniques when we use them to focus our readers’ attention on something in the narrative.   In our brain, we have…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Theme, Purpose and Outcome,  Training, Lessons

    Think Big, But Write Small

    There’s an overall shape to a book-length story that we’ve come to expect — certain elements fall into certain places at certain times during the course of the story, and we’ve learned, even if subconsciously, to anticipate this underlying structure.     Everything in a story is connected. Think of your book as a fractal. This may help you stay on track with the multitude of ideas and abstract concepts that go into a book that’s as introspective as a memoir.   Six Elements 1. Story — A memoir is a story built around one main idea, theme or point.    2. Chapters — Within a story, there may be…

  • Creative Writing,  Organization and Research,  Structure and Plotting

    Fish-heads and Hooks

    What’s a fish-head and what does it have to do with writing?   I heard this term from an author friend who heard it from her first writing teacher, forty years ago. This teacher used the metaphor of a fish-head to warn her students about a common situation that happens when a writer’s in the earliest stages of creating a story.    She said writers often begin writing a scene, thinking it’s the start, but it’s not in fact, the true beginning of the story. Instead, the fish-head is the scene or scenes that the writer needs to write first, to begin bringing the story into focus. You have to…

  • Point of View and Character Development,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions

    Lying to Yourself — Self-Integrity 101

    “This above all: to thine own self be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” Self-integrity What does it mean?    Is it the meaning of the Shakespeare quote above, or does it mean something more, something deeper?   Perhaps it’s our conscience, speaking to us in the “still, small voice” about right and wrong. Perhaps it’s our core values telling us about our most profound self-identity. Or perhaps it’s a limiting belief, attempting to keep us safe in trying times or confusing circumstances.   Or maybe it’s a lot simpler than any of those. Maybe…