Fiction and Memoir – Early Decisions
Here are points to consider before you start writing a narrative that involves characters and events. These are early decisions that will affect every phase of the writing.
Whose story is it? The main character is not necessary the—
- Voice (first- or third-person narrator)
- A person or an omniscient historian?
- Point of view (POV):
- Opinionated or objective/reportorial?
- Educated or not? Grade level? Reading level?
- Identifiable ethnicity, regionalisms, vocabulary, dialect?
- Expert on topic or curious ingénue?
Memoir implies first-person point of view (POV). How will you deal with—?
- You can’t describe events you haven’t witnessed except by hearsay.
- You can’t describe parallel events you didn’t know about at the time.
- You can’t tell us what other people are thinking, although you can guess.
- You can’t possess supernatural knowledge and stay credible.
- You can’t die or become incapacitated at the end (!)
Must you stick to the facts?
- Fictionalization makes a better story (hence movie disclaimer “inspired by a true story”)
- Conflict is drama
- Exposition can be boring unless embedded in an argument
- Scene begins with disagreement about action: Where do you want to go to dinner?
- Scene ends with argument about values: I knew you never loved me!
- Powerful tool if you can do it: Consolidate characters
- Character consolidation can help avoid life-story rights issues
- Also consider changing sex, race, or other identifying characteristics
The emotion is in the subplot!
- And carries the theme
- Interweave theme and subplot with main story
Tools and work methods
- File cards
- Color-coded for plot and subplot(s)!
- Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle
- Helps you know when flashbacks or digressions get in the way
- Character sketches as background
- Research aids
- Maps of locations
- Postcards/online imagery
- Google Maps street-level views. (You can describe places you’ve never been or don’t remember well.)
- Ephemera – Research libraries (universities and foundations) may have collections of the subject person’s correspondence and memorabilia.
- Wikipedia and other online resources
- Be careful—fact-check like a reporter
- Enforce consistency like a script supervisor
- Include character and scene consistency notes in your editorial style sheet
- Watch for time and seasonal progression in the story