Tag Archives: plot

Creating Tension in Fiction and Memoir

A Writer's Path

by Michael Mohr

One of the toughest things to do in fiction or creative nonfiction writing, in my professional opinion, is to create strong, believable tension. Without tension—between the protagonist and a villain, the protagonist and him/herself, the protagonist and the environment, etc—you really don’t have much of a story. And it’s unlikely readers will want to follow you far through the jungle of your narrative.

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How to establish plot points in your memoir

Monica Lee

blogging-bonanza-bugAs we work our way through the month-long blogging bonanza celebrating the launch on March 28 of Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982, we’ll begin each week with Structure Sunday where I’ll share some important elements to consider when writing a memoir. Today, I’m examining how to structure your story.

* * *

Absence doesn’t make the story grow fonder when it comes to writing.

In the middle of writing Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982 (literally, the middle — I had 34,000 words on paper), I got stuck. I didn’t know where I was going, and I was losing track of where I had been.

How does a writer get back into a half-finished work and make sense of it?

For me, it was an outline. Some writers like to free-write without…

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BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

HamletHamlet realizes his story is not “my dad was murdered” but instead, “I will find out who killed my dad and punish them.”

Many of us write a memoir or a personal essay after, around, or during a dramatic event in our lives. Cancer. Death of a loved one. Running a marathon. Climbing Everest. And many memoirs and essays remain unpublished because a dramatic event isn’t enough.

Think about it–any newspaper front page is covered in dramatic situations, worthy of reporting but mostly conveying information. The emotional reaction of the reader is grounded in their own experience meeting the facts, rather than empathy for the protagonist, or a desire to see them “win.”

Car Crash Claims Three

is a dramatic situation. It’s not a dramatic journey unless the reporter goes for a larger picture, and the larger picture has to include a protagonist taking a dramatic action.

Crash Claims Three:…

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Spotlight Saturday #12: Plotting a Memoir

Andrea Lundgren

I give my end-of-week post to other authors and bloggers whose work is worth noting. There are so many excellent articles out there, so many good poems and stories and artwork that I want to use my online space, once a week, to send all of you to see something you might otherwise miss. To see last week’s episode, click here.

This week, I’m honored to feature a post by Terena Scott, memoir/book doctor, playwright, author, publisher, and hardcore book nerd. She writes at terenascott.wordpress.com.

Enjoy!

If you think your memoir doesn’t need a plot, you’re making a big mistake.

Memoir is a story about someone’s life, right? Sure, if you want it to be boring.

A good memoir is not just a series of events shared chronologically. It is a tale with heroes, villains, conflict, subtext, and a great plot to keep the…

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The Writer’s Bag of Tricks (Part One)

The Writer's Bag of Tricks

I was contacted recently by a friend of a friend. You know how that works. Somebody tells somebody else that they are writing a novel, and somebody says, “Oh, I know an editor. You should contact them to help you with…” Fill that in as you like. Now, I don’t at all mind helping writers of all levels. I’ve given countless hours of my personal time helping writers transform stories into better versions of said story. I do this because I want everyone to be successful. I do it because I care. I do it because quality matters. In the situation above, it was clear to me that this particular writer needed to learn some craft elements before they published. Their story had no plot.

As a writer, it is important to make sure that your story is the best possible story it can be before you publish (either self-publish…

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If you think your memoir doesn’t need a plot, you’re making a big mistake.

Terena Scott

Memoir is a story about someone’s life, right? Sure, if you want it to be boring.

A good memoir is not just a series of events shared chronologically. It is a tale with heroes, villains, conflict, subtext, and a great plot to keep the pages turning. Writing events down chronologically might be fine for a history book or genealogy, but if you want to engage your readers, you need to think about action. One event in a life has a direct impact on the next event. Everything you do effects the people around you and how your life develops.

A scene is action. Plot is a series of actions. When you outline your memoir, think about the actions that shaped your life and made you who you are.

Perhaps you were born in Cleveland, then you moved to LA when you were 10. Those are facts, and you might want…

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Character v Plot: A False Dichotomy

Cockburn's Eclectics

20141217_1 Mira John (CC / Flickr)

Spend any time around writers’ groups and there are certain conversations you can’t avoid having. Topping the list are debates over genre definitions, discussion of the comparative merits of traditional and self-publishing, and mystification about how certain authors have become wildly successful in spite of their poor writing. Up there with them is whether characters or plot are more important. In writing, as in life, it’s always worth being a little sceptical when something is presented as a dichotomy. It begs the question of whether it’s really a choice between one or the other. I’ve previously described characters and plot as two of the three legs of the tripod a story stands on, and I’m going to argue that the tripod needs both unless it wants to fall on its face.

Characters must shine

I’ll start by quoting Lee Child’s foreword to his debut…

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