A memoir examines a period of time or a lynchpin event in the life of a writer. Events are important, but memoir depends on the writer’s voice, and the story comes to life through the development of character. Thomas Hardy wrote “It is not the improbabilities of incident but improbabilities of character that matter.” A memoir should emerge from a place of struggle or unrest; its first-person voice should have authority and elegance, but can be raw and vulnerable—like an unreliable narrator. A narrator at risk, a narrator in chaos is someone we can trust! The writer is discovering the subject of her story. She doesn’t have all the answers, at first. Deceptions, perversions, inventions, intuitions, and arguments of the psyche should surface in our characterizations.
In this workshop, we will examine the important building blocks of events, setting, and characterization in memoir. Our focus will be samples of your own work-in-progress, along with hand-outs that the instructor will provide.
Students should bring ten copies of a memoir excerpt to our first orientation meeting Sunday night (twenty-five pages or less, double-spaced, single-sided, twelve-point font). We will make out workshop schedule at our orientation meeting.
Maria Flook, a Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of the nonfiction books, First Person Female, My Sister Life: The Story of My Sister’s Disappearance, and New York Times Best Seller Invisible Eden: A Story of Love and Murder on Cape Cod. Her fiction includes the novels Divorce, Dog Style (forthcoming), Mothers and Lovers, Lux, Open Water and Family Night, which received a PEN American/Ernest Hemingway Citation, and a story collection You Have the Wrong Man. She teaches at Emerson College.