Saturday, October 02, 2010

Memoir Writing Compared to Novels and Autobiography

I've spent the day in an intense memoir writing workshop with Lisa Dale Norton. It started last night, and will finish Sunday afternoon.

Today began with a discussion about the difference between novel and memoir. One of the obvious ones is that in a novel the first person narrator doesn't know the outcome. In memoir they do, and the reader is aware of it. This means we have a different expectation.

Then the difference between autobiography and memoir was discussed. Autobiography is a chronological exploration of your entiere life. It doesn't have to have a dramatic arc. By contrast, a memoir is a slice of life, maybe with some backstory, but it's not your whole life. You could write more than one memoir.

Lisa Dale Norton said, "Memoir is not therapy. It's a work of art." She said the process of writing can affect how you view the events, but "you really need to just tell your truth." And you need to tell the truth with as little damage as possible to other people you interacted with. She referred to it as a place of "supreme compassion."

She reminded people, "You have the right to your reality." Of course it's common for people who are experiencing the same event to have different perspectives on it.

We did some writing exercises from her book, "Shimmering Images." Our homework is to prepare something to share tomorrow. I'd best get started on that.

It has been a really wonderful, inspiring day. I've met a couple of people I hope I stay in touch with for a long time.

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