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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Theme Fiction

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

As I mentioned earlier one approach that Michael J Bugeja suggests through vignettes is over-arching threads for perspective and voice and theme. For the next three categories of memoir I’m sharing a few of his examples using the theme of protest as theme joins perspective and voice in memoir delivery.

Bugeja notes that “protest poetry, songs, stories came, I think, in greater quantity and public awareness during the sixties when anti-war, anti human rights, anti discrimination became a more public voice. Not that these issues or advocates had not existed before but the ability or resolve to act upon protest spread. Some of the protests came in unaccustomed ways, and in fresh voices not seeking personal gain.”

Whatever theme we discover in our journals and memories we are looking to share a fresh voice from one heart to another. Each delivery has its own special strengths and weaknesses. So first we prepare our musings and then choose which format best expresses our insights. Fiction—non-fiction—poetry each captures theme in a different way.

“Fiction often allows a glimpse into hidden motives or perhaps silent protest. In Invisible Cities, by Italo Cavino, Marco Polo shares stories of cities with Kublai Khan.”

Here’s a sound bite from the city Valdrada that speaks volumes.

            “At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point. The two Valdradas live for each other, their eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them.”

And a more personal example from Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street in the chapter My Name.

            “And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.”

Sometimes when gathering together your experiences, emotions, and expectations to choose through which lens you want to present, it is helpful to look at it through a fictional stance. This way you can view your story as if a reader to gain a neutral opinion. Then when you have chosen your focus and voice you can return to nonfiction.

Or another reason some authors choose a fiction format for their story is if there are too many missing parts, if for example, you are including family history before your time and have large gaping holes. Fiction enables you to do research into the era and events current then. And still be completely engaged emotionally as the example My Name captures the atmosphere and circumstances.

Action Steps:

1. If you have discovered a theme of protest in your perspective maps and voices then use the following action steps to develop them further. Or choose another theme that has become more relevant and substitute it for protest and show it through a “glimpse into hidden motives.”

2. Make a list of times you have protested in different categories: personal issues, spiritual prayers, anti-……  for community or worldwide issues.

3. Which ones did you protest silently and which out loud?

4. Choose one that had the most positive outcome and one the most negative and write each of them as a vignette in either fiction or non-fiction or both.

 Share: Which example on your list touched your heart with the strongest desire to change?

Read deep, marcy

Note: You can approach these questions for a real person as well, especially if you are looking back to a specific time period. Think of them as character development set in a narrative scene.

What If Questions For Fictional Characters

Who is the main Character?
Who or what is the antagonist?
Who are the other people in the story?
What does the main character want?
How important is it for him to get it?
What does the antagonist want?
How does he/it prevent the protagonist?
Results-initial action
Struggles lead to (crisis)

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