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by Martha Alderson ( http://www.blockbusterplots.com/ )

When I teach memoir writers, I try to integrate several things at once—to honor the stories, often very emotional and raw, that they want to tell. And in a group setting, we strive to respectfully witness each person’s story and to allow emotions to come through. We also struggle with the form of a “true” story. If it “happened this way,” it can seem disrespectful to the story or to what happened to consider changing anything around. However, I know that my job is to help to translate “what really happened” into a story that works.

Sometimes the memoir writers’ eyes begin to glaze over when I start talking about story structure and the narrative arc. ‘‘What do you mean by narrative arc? I want to use my diary and journals for my memoir. Do I have to learn all this technical stuff?’’

The answer is YES!

Developing the craft of writing a story and learning about classical narrative forms, presents more choices to create the best memoir you can write, one that invites your reader into your story world, and keeps them there. It’s also true that when you use dramatic form, you see yourself differently in your story. You can be changed by delving deep into the person you once were through experiencing those moments in scene, being in the body of the person you were in the past.

Because we live and experience life chronologically, often through moments that don’t appear to have a clear understandable meaning, memoirists tend to write in an episodic way—‘‘this happened, then that happened, and after that . . . ’’ When we are deluged by details and feelings, it’s difficult to sort out how much to include, and how to see friends and family as ‘‘characters.’’

But the transition from ‘‘all these things happened to me’’ to choosing and shaping your narrative using the tools of fiction must take place in order to transition from episodic ramblings into a story with a clear narrative arc.

Unlike journaling, a story has a form—a beginning, middle, and an end. Another way to think about this is that your story, your book, needs to have a dramatic structure: Act One, Act Two, and Act Three.

Something significant happens in each scene of the story—this is the point of the scene.

A story has a reason for being told—this is your theme. [ Click here to read the rest of this article from the source ]

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