1. Nina B
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    Nina B New Member

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    Plot too linear

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Nina B, Apr 21, 2014.

    I'm writing a memoir. I have written about 12 k words, and I am getting into the flow. The only trouble is, I keep feeling compelled to write everything in a linear fashion, to stop me getting too confused. I'm worried that this is just going to be a boring, mundane list of 'then I did this, then I did that, oh yes, then that happened'. I started with just writing out pertinent episodes, but like I said, got confused by it jumping about all over the place. Any suggestions?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I have a very good friend who wrote a fabulous memoir 'for her grandchildren, so they'll know what my life used to be like.' When I say 'fabulous,' I mean I was only three or four pages into it when I started to forget my friend had written it, and started reading it as if it were any book picked up off a shelf.

    I have no idea how she actually wrote it, but she ORGANISED it into specific topics. She had one chapter entitled "Christmas," that contained all her memories about Christmas as a child. She had another called "Family Holidays," which detailed all the interesting things she could remember about vacations. She had separate chapters for places she'd lived, schools she'd attended, hobbies she'd enjoyed, and particular events in her life. Also separate chapters about her extended family, and her husband's extended family.

    This story was about memories, not about how her life progressed from A to B.

    Maybe if you started remembering things less as a journey through your life, but rather as high points of what you remember about specific persons, places or events, then you'll find yourself less restricted.

    You can go through later on and edit these memories into chronological order, if you want. But I think they'll be more spontaneous and less stilted to write, if you just approach them at random.
     
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  3. Nina B
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    Nina B New Member

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    Thanks. Yes, a good idea, to categorise memories into certain 'types'. It is very restrictive trying to put everything in order. I'm now writing my WHOLE life story, but what I want to write is the general gist of it, not necessarily in order! I think I will try a few exercises just writing memories of certain events, at random, and see how that goes.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think memoirs work best if they have a theme. What's your life philosophy, or a theme you saw reappear in your life over and over again? Then, list all the important episodes and turning points in your life, including interesting anecdotes and bits and pieces about people that you hold important. For example, if a teacher inspired you amidst bullying, or if you were mugged coming back home from work one night, your wedding day, or the day you didn't show up for your own wedding, weave your life story around these events to reveal your own character, hopes, dreams, fears, hurts, joys etc. If you simply had a book that only chronicles the important stuff, you could tie the different episodes with some reflection and using the theme, you can string it all together. I think the memoirs should be written in a linear fashion, since they chronicle a life which is linear in nature, but they don't need to be boring or list-like. I hope this helps and best of luck!
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My friend discovered that the more she wrote about a specific topic, the more she remembered. One memory seemed to feed another. That's cool. I often thought if I wanted to write a memoir (which I don't) that it would be mighty thin because I have a poor memory for detail. However, she said the same thing ...and then produced an endless fountain of really interesting detail.

    She was born just before WW2, so she remembers more about its ending than she does about the start. However, that's still quite a ways back, and so much has changed. Nice that people like her (and you) are recording changes, because eventually the small things are forgotten. I know I do research all the time, specifically centred around the 1880s in the USA, and there are huge gaps in my knowledge. Most of them revolve around personal things, how people did things. The kinds of things you take for granted and don't write about.

    For example, how many modern people write in detail about what it's like to 'keep house?' What it's like to run a Hoover, empty the bag, where you plug it in, how you turn it on, what the bag looks like, etc. These are the kinds of details that will be gold dust to a novelist 100 years from now, but I bet there won't be many instances where these kinds of things are described, first-hand.

    Me? I'd kill to get hold of a first-hand account of somebody traveling cross country (west to east) by train (preferably on the Northern Pacific) in 1886. I want to know everything, including where and how the tickets were bought, how much they cost, what they looked like, how often they had to be produced, how long the portions of the journey took, were they in daylight or darkness, what happened to people when they had to change trains to continue an onward journey, where the toilets were located and what they were like to use ...and the biggie. How in HECK did people climb up into the top berths of the sleeping cars, and did those beds contain two people or just one? These are the kinds of personal details that are missing from travel accounts, and believe me, I have HUNTED the internet and read every book on the subject I could get my hands on.

    Dang. What I wouldn't give for somebody like you to have written a memoir about it, way back then!
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree that a certain KIND of memoir reads well this way. But if you're not really telling your life story, but rather recalling times gone by to record them for posterity (and lots of memoirs are written for this purpose) then organising by topic seems to make sense.

    I find both kinds fascinating, but confess I'm more drawn to the memoir as social history, rather than somebody's personal story of woe or triumph. That's just me.
     
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  7. Nina B
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    Nina B New Member

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    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014

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