• 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…

  • Creative Writing,  Memoirs,  Organization and Research,  Productivity,  Structure and Plotting

    Autobiography vs. Memoir

    What’s the Difference? Autobiography?  Biography?  Memoir?  Story?  Creative Non-Fiction? Personal Essay?  All too often, when a writer decides to “write their memoirs”, they are thinking about an autobiography — the story of their entire lifetime. Calling it a memoir is a misnomer.   Autobiographies and Memoirs are not the same. So, what is the difference?   Autobiography “Auto”, from the Latin, means “self”. “Bio” means “life”. So an autobiography is your own life story written by yourself.   A Biography, on the other hand, is a life story written by someone else, like a ghostwriter. “Bi” meaning two or dual.     An Autobiography is an author’s complete life story,…

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

    “Kindness is Never Wasted” — Anonymous

    At this time of year, most people’s focus is on Valentine’s Day, and while romantic love is a valid point of interest, there’s another point I think makes a lot more sense for us to celebrate.   February 17th is “Random Acts of Kindness Day”, and to my mind, is a much more relevant and valuable quality of being, as well as a better focus for our behaviour.  In fact, why limit it to one day a year?  Why not build a habit of doing one kind thing for others every day?   Think about it…when we engage in an act of kindness, either as giver or receiver, we experience…

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

    Writers! Stay On Topic!

    How often have you started off writing a memoir, an article, a blog post, chapter or scene and found yourself wandering off-topic, down a fascinating rabbit hole, or chasing squirrels? Your story gets off-track and lost in a muddle of ideas. You end up frustrated and discouraged because the piece is nowhere near as dynamic and insightful as it appeared when the ideas first occurred to you.   It’s easy to do when you’re in Flow, the ideas spilling out faster than you can keep up with them and you feel like a conduit for an unending outpouring of inspiration.  You don’t want to leave out even one of these…

  • Uncategorized

    Words of Advice to My Younger Self

    One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is to listen to my own inner voice.     We all have that “still, small voice” inside that tells us when something’s not right — whether it be a subconscious distrust of someone but we can’t put our finger on quite why, or a family or personal situation that makes us uncomfortable, or simply a feeling that what we’re about to do is wrong or selfish. Call it a gut feeling, conscience, instinct or bad vibes, it’s important to listen to it. It’s our subconscious doing its best to keep us safe.   Now, there are two sides to this inner monologue…