Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reality and Invention in Writing

The "what might have been" as much as "what was" should interest the memoir writer. We recreate, we craft, we embellish, we dramatize.The main character in memoir is the narrator.  The reader must understand what drives and motivates her.  The how or why of her life story is more interesting and important than details of where and when it took place. 

Memories exist in that place between reality and invention.  This should not detract from the truth of our story, rather compel the reader to live it with us; to enjoy and be enriched by its emotional scope.  Scenes act as the catalyst to move the story along, but a book is only as good as the human experience and journey it conveys to the reader.

The same holds true for the people we write about. They, too, exist in that place between reality and invention - or, if you will, imagination.

“Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.”
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

As an editor of fiction and memoir, I tell clients of both genres - keep the story moving. Make it a page turner. How? Story arc, characterization, voice, drama and conflict. These techniques, among others, bring the reader into our story.  Please keep in mind our upcoming Sept. 8 writing workshop  The Art of Life Writing.  It will explore and instruct in these concepts.  Schedule by August 1 for the early bird special.

This week I am traveling to New Haven, Connecticut for the IWWG summer conference, "Live the Magic" at Yale University.   This is where women work to mine their memories and find their voices . . .  resist the internal censor and the inner critic.

I view this experience - as I did when I attended last year - as professional development as a writer and teacher of writing, as well as editor.  A writer needs to travel outside the cocoon of isolation.  She needs to work on her craft in a workshop setting with other writers from time to time.  This conference also offers opportunities to explore Yale University's libraries and museums . . . for contemplation surrounded by the intellectual and the emotional.

I will return with renewed enthusiasm, energy and - hopefully, ideas -  for our Women's Writing Circle read-arounds and critiques.  Those who have signed on to the WWC book anthology, please remember that our Saturday June 30th critique at Wellington Square Bookshop represents one of three opportunities over the summer to rework your contribution through the feedback and editing of other writers.

Also:  Tuesday June 26, I will read my work with nine other writers at the Brandywine Valley Writer's Group reading at Chester County Book and Music Company Bookstore in West Chester. Readings start at 7 p.m. I hope you can join us and support BVWG.

Many thanks and keep writing . . . keep writing . . . keep writing.


Denise said...

It's so true that the "what might have been" is as important as the "what was." When I finally got over my addiction to the "truth" of my story, I realized that I could interject circumstances that might not have really happened but are so true to the character that it's something she might have done perhaps on a different day.

Susan G. Weidener said...

It sounds as if imagination and invention are leading you down some interesting paths. The "what might have been" versus the reality of "what was" is often the point/counterpoint to a a compelling story.