Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Persona In Memoir - A Writing Prompt

Have you ever wondered how different your life would be if one of its most defining moments had never happened?  Or if you stepped aside and tried to look dispassionately at a situation from another person's perspective?  These are strategies to create persona.  Persona is the voice of the narrator in the story; in memoir it is you, the author.

As Vivian Gornick writes in The Art of Personal Narrative, "self-centeredness doesn't work."  Rather, what works is "transforming detached empathy and making it something of value to the disinterested reader."

How might one accomplish that in memoir?  One way is to play around with provocative questions and then write. For example,  "Who was she to her mother?"  and "Who was the mother to her?" lead to very different versions of the story.

The narrator in memoir is the guide not just to story, but to the inward journey that takes the reader on a voyage of discovery.  This cannot be accomplished simply by "lying down on the couch in public," as Gornick says, and writing in a "whining and accusatory voice."  Rather, it requires stepping back and giving structure, shapeliness and expression to that story. 

A persona allows freedom to explore humor, irony and other emotions.  It can be fun and satisfying for the writer.Our prompt is to experiment with persona.  Create a voice that is emotionally expressive, but detached. 

  • If  this had not happened (you fill in the blank), how different my life would have been. 
  • If I had not stepped inside (the store, the house, the school) that day . . .
  • Write a scene from another character's point of view.  Have a conversation with your mother when she was the age you are now.  Let her talk about how she sees her life.
As always, if these prompts do not suit, please bring to our Circle what your muse inspires.  I will see everyone on November 19 at Wellington Square.  This is the third Saturday of the month because I am traveling the second Saturday of the month. 

Your blank page is waiting  . . .

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