Lately, I have run into many personal memoirs. One recently that hit the news is by writer Allen Kurzweil. He has written fiction for years and is releasing a memoir about his experiences in boarding school with a bully. It was the ultimate therapy session he reported as he confronted his bully who was now in prison for fraud.
It reminds me of how personal writing can be, even in fiction. Writers often joke that if we don’t like you we will make you a character and kill you off. There is some truth in that. Writers pour their selves into every novel, and that includes our experiences. Good or bad our life molds the stories we tell.
I think a great writer can take those experiences and transfer the emotion into every page of their work. During revision, checking for emotion is near the top of my checklist.
Here is a classic example of the power of emotion from the book, Of Mice and Men:
“There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water.”
The setting is painted with emotion and characters in such a way that strikes us much harder than the color of leaves, or dry grass.
I hope we can all channel those moments that have touched us the most, and turn them into something beautiful. For quoting Steinbeck again, “There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.” (From one of my favorites, East of Eden.)
If anyone needs to be inspired by some memoirs, here are some that I enjoyed.
*Half a Life: A Memoir by Darin Strauss
* Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza
*The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls