Ten points to remember in the art of story telling
and narrative, in memoir writing.
good plot and well-defined characters, brought to life by dialogue.
Structuring a narrative is the most important thing you’ll do. There’s
the narrative thread, unfolding story, for the whole book. Then
chapter by chapter, building to climactic moments, creating dialogue and
content Think about the emotional impact of what happened to you. You
really want the reader to ‘get’ that, to be involved from the start. The
emotional content for all the other characters involved comes next and how they
interact with you and each other.
point. Begin at a really interesting point in your story – a pivotal
moment.The story should grip the reader from the opening sentence.
Then work back, showing how the story got to that point..
the narrator/protagonist – in memoir, that’s you. This is vital to
keep up reader interest in carrying on reading so they really want to know what
happens to you.
– that’s not your mood, it’s the mood changes of the story. If
you have something dramatic happen, which carries on for a few chapters until
it’s resolved, maybe you need a chapter where everyone calms down, here and
6.How to end a
chapter? Each chapter should end in such a way that the reader
HAS to turn to the next page to find out what happened next. The links
between chapters should flow smoothly.
I wrote my first memoir, my editor told me. ‘It’s like a series of anecdotes’.
So I went back and re-wrote beginnings and endings of chapters so it flowed
is unique, whatever the genre. Build the reader's involvement slowly, take
them down a few tangents. Don’t reveal it all straightway, so it's not
clear where the story’s going. Keep some surprises for the end.
Build the reader's anticipation.
8.Setting is important, culture, country,
rural,urban. Your story will start/end in a specific
place. Think about the place and how the characters move around the
objects – it’s like writing a scene for a play.
sound smell. Make your references to these unusual and un-clichéd.
Don’t for example refer to the sparkling turquoise sea, or the white
glare of the sun. Try and think of unusual ways to say these things.
10.Endings: If you set
up a puzzle or conundrum or mystery about what’s happening in your story,
keep teasing the reader about how it’s going to end. The story should move
towards some kind of resolution, some kind of satisfaction of the plot that
ties together the whole story. You can do this just as well with memoir as with
I wrote a long poem called The Spriggan for Halloween and I'll be performing live as a witch with two other witches Rosie Canning and Lyndsay Bamfield - they'll be reading haunting tales ... woooo woooo! ... and other story tellers at
The Little Green DragonAle House
928 Green Lanes
London N21 2AD
Buses 329 (from Enfield and Palmers Green) and 125 (from Southgate, Whetstone and Finchley) stop right outside the Little Green Dragon. The nearest train stations are Winchmore Hill or Grange Park (5 to 10 min walk). The nearest underground station is Southgate (Piccadilly Line), then catch 125 bus.
Tuesday Night 31st October 2017 - 7 pm
Here's an extract.... The Spriggan is a faerie/Green Man figure from Cornish folklore - who guards ancient sites and ruins...
The Parkland Walk is an old railway track that closed down in the 1950s when Mr Beecham decided that many small railway stations were no longer economic. There was a huge outcry but they closed anyway - stations that closed along The Parkland Walk were such as Crouch End and Muswell Hill. Many years later it was rescued from brambles and oblivion by a conservation/ permaculture group, who commissioned a statue of a 'spriggan' to be made by a sculptress. She built it into the side of one of the arches beside a short tunnel, made of brick.
Dusk is falling on the
the last remnants of walkers
quicken their step
they’ve heard the rumours, and
the rumours are right.
The goat man’s eyelids open a
The woman pushing her pram
hurries past. A low growl
starts deep in the throat of
the black dog tied to her pram …
the dog knows, oh yes he
he keeps his head low, stiff-legged
as they scurry past,
down the path and out onto
The last train chuffed its
way down this track in 1954.
Nature took over and time
stood still. Until in 1984,
the Parkland Walk was born. Banks of weeds and brambles
were cleared, now Nature was
to be conserved but controlled.
High up, where the walk
crosses a wide bridge
near Muswell Hill, the lights
of London are flickering on,
in a sea of twinkles across
to the Thames and beyond.
It’s a clear cold crispy
night and a full moon is rising.
The goat man lifts his grey
green head, stretches out
cold stiff limbs and looks to
the rising moon. He cocks his head,
listening …‘Can you hear it?
Can you hear it? His croaking voice,
rusty as old iron, speaks in
a hoarse whisper, to himself.
This is an extract from a chapter in my soon to be published book
Memoir Writing - How to Tell A Story From Your Life.
Facing Your Dragons - writing trauma and abuse.
I’ve so often been told,
'writing trauma is therapeutic isn't it?’.My answer is ‘ Hmmmm… maybe…’I’ve always found trauma difficult to write about, like some kind of
self-torture, re-traumatising yourself by reliving the event. And looking back I see, not just my sadness but how it affected those around me. I also see that so many people
(out of unconsciousness, ignorance) were insensitive to whatever trauma was being experienced. I end up feeling the sadness and grief again. The isolation of not being understood. So you don’t
always want to dwell on the traumatised past, you usually want to turn your back on it.Look to the future. However
sometimes in order to heal the past you MUST revisit it, examine it from
different angles, realise you were a victim, through no fault of your own, but you survived, you’re a
survivor. Then you might be able to move forward and let go.When you’ve come to a certain point where
that’s possible. And that point is different for everyone. Your ‘moving on’
point is unique to you. Accept that. Respect your own self-knowledge.
Some rules for writing about trauma or
1.Tell the story simply without being
mawkish, over-sentimental.Don’t go into
gory and over-dramatic detail.Keep the
writing spare and factual – showing what happened, not telling, don't wallow. Think of your reader standing beside you, watching the events unfold.
2.Take care of yourself – only write about
it when you are ready (it took me many years, to be ready to talk about losing a baby). You may never be ready to talk about some stuff. Stop when it
becomes overwhelming.You can push
yourself sometimes if you need to (only you know). Remember writing about the
trauma or abuse can often feel like being ‘re-traumatised/victimised’.
3.Be careful who you share or discuss or
show the writing to, the first time.Choose carefully. Some people may feel they should 'handle' you, be kind and sympathetic to you, do Oprah Winfrey pop psychology on you. Avoid these people.
5.Think about the target audience, the
readers of your memoir. Will they be moved, sad, angry when they read of your
experiences? Face it, often we readers buy books because we want to experience the writer's pain/drama/joy vicariously. . Let the
story unfold naturally.
6.Remember inspire yourself to face your dragons. Put some music on you like, pick up your pen(or your laptop}, and just write - see what comes out. Give yourself a surprise. _____________________________________________________________ Link to my memoir A Hippopotamus at The Table set in South Africa 1975-8