Though this Blogtalk isn’t strictly about journaling, it is about life-writing, which I hope is of interest to you my dear readers. This week I came across a couple of articles on the Neiman Foundation Storyboard about memoir that I thought would interest those of you who are writing your life stories (whether in short, narrative essay, or book-length form).
The first, “It’s Not Just About You,” discusses the question of what makes memoir relevant to readers. If you’re writing for others, you need to think about what will engage them and keep them turning the page. Here’s a short excerpt:
“In memoir, ego is too often a key element of the process. The impulse to write memoir is the impulse to resist death, to leave some trace of ourselves on earth. These impulses are entirely understandable, but risky motivations for a piece of writing. They make it too easy to forget the most important person, the reader. The reader wants to be delighted, enlightened, entertained – to have his or her attention held throughout the act of reading.”
“ … people read memoirs because they want to compare the author’s life with their own lives.”
Another article on the same site, “Death, Truth, and Memoir: the debate over Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story,” asks the same question from the reader’s, rather than the writer’s, perspective. “What is it that we really want from memoir?” Again, though this article is a lot about Oates’ new memoir (not necessarily favorable), there is a great deal of good information, as well as thought-provoking insights in the article.
“The best memoirs recount loss and change in a way that offers more than thrills based on peeking into someone else’s suffering. Instead, the most powerful stories say something unknown about the person’s life, touching on universal experiences while giving us a glimpse of the ultimately unknowable aspects of another’s existence.”
What do you think about the ideas presented in these articles? Do you agree or disagree, and why?