The elements of memoir

I love Judith Barrington’s book, Writing the Memoir. In it, she observes that the basic building blocks of memoir are scene, summary, and musing. That is, there are detailed scenes we write to give the reader a vivid sense of being there. Sometimes, we give shorthand passages or summaries, like “That winter, I spent a lot of time hiking and thinking.” Both of these elements are very similar to those in fiction.

But the third element, musing, is different from what usually appears in fiction. In reading memoir, Barrington says, people expect the narrator to get somewhere psychically—there is a journey, there are realizations. People read memoirs in order to see life patterns and to understand them. Therefore, the writer of memoir is not only allowed to muse, she is encouraged to do so. The trick is not to overburden the story with insights that the reader can get directly from the story.




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petersteel said...
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