Creative and Memoir Writing July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022                      Carol Brennan King

More about this later

Well, I can’t imagine any of you noticed that I did not post last week. If you are like me, you were up to your eyes in preparing for the 4th of July (I made seven different desserts because we had a lot of people following gluten-free or keto eating plans), or just enjoying the holiday. I was, and honestly, like all writers, you still have to make some priorities in life in relation to family, general life, and your writing life. For that week, my family trumped daily writing, editing and research.

I did do some journaling – and creative writing every night, but not anything serious. And I loved celebrating with our family. But now I am playing catch-up.

For the last two weeks in our classes at the library, we have been talking about reading as writers and how to read with intention or attention. The point that I was trying to make is that we can learn a great deal about writing by reading…and noticing what it was that the writer did to make us keep reading.

  1. The first principle I want to leave with you is to Read for pleasure.

Don’t start out later today by getting out your magnifying glass and looking closely to see exactly what the writer did, and how they used punctuation or chose words. SAVE THAT FOR LATER.

2. For the purpose of this exercise, choose a story or book that you love, maybe one that worked so well for you that you want to look at it closer to see how that was done. And more importantly, think about what you enjoyed, what kept you reading, and why you would tell someone else to read it.

3. First reading over, this reading – maybe the second or third time through the work, look closer, and with a pen or pencil in hand. Underline things that strike you as beautifully written. Think about a sentence or paragraph that did a great job of showing, not telling. or find one of those passages where you felt like you were right there – examine how they did it.

Consider how the writer drew you along and made it hard for you to put the book down. Think about how they showed you who was in the story, and what it was that enabled you to see them in your mind.

And you could even underline things that you feel did not work. Remember this is a learning exercise.

4. Now sit back and see if you can identify the following:

*The Inciting Event

*The Plot Points or Twists

*The Rising Action that leads to the turning point or Climax

*Falling action

*Resolution or Denouement – when all other points or problems or clues dropped along the way come together


5. Finally, or you may like to try this exercise early on, take a pencil and mark where every new scene begins. This will allow you to identify the new scenes, and also to see how the author makes the transition between scenes.

6. Now the real finally: How has your protagonist or hero changed since the beginning of the book? Think through who that character was at the beginning of the story, consider the journey and the challenges, and the impact on him or her. This is subtle or may be dramatic, but if there are no changes to the characters, the story is really a linking of scenes in which pretty boring people get up in the morning, do stuff, and go to bed at night, no different.

Think about books or movies that you enjoy. Think now about the characters and their stories. I bet you like the story because the character faces threats and finds something deep inside him or her that shows up, enabling the character to win the final challenge.

I know there is always that story that might not appear to have any of these elements and you still like it. However, my guess is that when you dig deeper to explore the story, you will find all of them there in one way or another.

So take some time to read and see for yourself what the writer did to make it such a great ride!!

On another note: we talked about how some of the students have struggled with personal essays. Go to this site for a succinct definition and discussion of a personal essay:

Essentially it is a personal experience of something you did or a trip you took and how it changed you. Here is a sample – a real-life experience.

       I remember my first days in Chad, Africa. I knew nothing about living in Africa. Reading a book is not real living! I knew by experience Zip! Not a word of the language nor much of anything about the customs. Within a few weeks, I had learned my first words, “Li” meaning Snake and “Lafia” meaning Greetings. I knew how to buy a good egg at the door or in the market. I learned the value of a “moustiquaire” or mosquito net, and how to sift the bugs out of the flour. Since I could not stand the squish of a bug under foot, I learned to put a glass jar over big bugs, like dung beetles, and let someone else do the duty. But I still felt like such a newbie.

Then a new family arrived, and it was my job to orient them. Surprise, surprise, I did OK. I was the veteran, and I had actually learned a lot. I realized then I could have just found a chair and stayed inside my house and be taken care of. And written long whiny letters back home.

(This was pre-internet.) Or, or, I could just grow up and learn how to do what I went to Africa for.

It was an important lesson for me to learn, that every day, I knew more than the day before. And I was forever grateful for those lessons because living in Africa was not the last of my cross-cultural experiences.

About this photo – we did not do a lot of river swimming!

Assignment: Try another personal essay. Or keep working on your current project. Or, if you need a prompt, try one of these: I didn’t want to but… , It startled me, the change…., hot night, It woke me right up

Looking forward to seeing you next week!

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