Creative nonfiction is a fascinating genre to me.
I envision it as a tree. The visual base, its trunk, is standing firm in the truth. Facts, honesty, and accuracy make up such a strong base. Yet, just beneath the ground, its roots are made of finicky memories, creative adjustment, flourishing descriptors. What you end up with are tall branches with beautiful leaves that entwine the two, creativity and truth, together.
The subsections of creative nonfiction makeup an entire forest.
A large portion of creative nonfiction is comprised of memoir. Memoir is simply the telling of memories. When you throw in creativity you get not only the wonderful stories that people hold within from their past but you also get to see their unique perspective of those stories not only as their own memories but as how they view and compare them to other instances in their life.
Creative memoir walks a fine line. Some writers argue such writing should be considered fiction as by taking creative freedom they are making up something entirely new. Other writers, like me, adore the genre for its acceptance of how memories can fade and become something new. We don’t just get the truth with creative memoir, we get the truth as each individual views it. We get the truth as it is remembered which ma or may not be the same as the truth when it was experienced. We get to the very core of why often it can be hard to communicate as we each see everything through our own set of eyes.
Join me for a live virtual writing meet-up on giving the gift of creative memoir. On December 1st at 5:30 p.m. EST, I and hopefully you will be writing your very own piece of creative memoir.
RSVP and see how many others you will be writing with or just find the details on A Writers Earth Facebook Page here.
How it Works
In the spirit of the holiday season, I want you to pick someone you want to make a gift for and think of one special or important memory you have with them.
People you may choose to gift a creative memoir to can include a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife, a mother or father, a sister or brother, a best friend or a cousin, or anyone really.
Memories you may choose from could be a first date, a wedding day, the first time you went to the playground as a child, one valentines day, one birthday, one hanukkah, one silly time at a restaurant, one school dance, or any memory really.
There are two ways to go about these directions. The first one is to follow along and add in as you go. Editing your work after creating a base piece. The second way is to read the following and then write knowing evrything you will need to include. Either way, it will be best to edit and make a rewrite in the end. Make your decision and then get writing! The rest you need is right here.
Start by just writing. Remember everything you can about the memory you chose. Once you have the basic memory down on paper or typed up we will get to the next step.
Okay, so you have down what you can remember about what happened but let’s make sure you have all the basic details in there. If you can remember it, include the specific date and place of the memory. Who were you with? What season was it? Was it cold out? Were you inside a very hot house on a cold day? Getting the setting in helps put your reader there with you.
This is important when it comes to giving this as a gift. The receiver of the gift may find it interesting to see how differently you remember the moment or how similarly you both saw it happen! They may not remember it as well as you and be touched by how much the moment meant to you.
After getting the memory down and making sure the setting is there, let’s really get the reader into the story by adding some sensory details. Do you remember any smells? Was there a pumpkin candle burning at the time or maybe some delivery pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms on the table you sat at in the memory? If you don’t remember any smells, do not make it up. It’s important that what we write is true to our memories not what we wanted the moment to be.
After adding scents, focus on texture. How did the wind feel on your skin? Were you eating, if so, what and how did it feel on your tongue? Did you have on soft leggings or have a scratchy beard at the time? Think of anything you may have grabbed with your hands, brushed on accident with your shoulder, or felt in the air. By having the senses of touching and feeling your reader gets to experience the event the way you did, or at least as close as they can ever get.
Continue with the senses and make sure not to just get smell, touch and feel but also taste, sounds, and sight. While most of your memory probably comes from sight remember to get those details of what you saw such as how many of something were around you or what color the walls were. This type of detail and language helps enhance a story.
Some more questions to ask yourself about the memory include, was there any music? How did your friend have their hair that day? If you change scenes did you get there by walking or driving? Did you ever feel different in your memory such a nauseated or happy?
Make Connections and Comparisons
By this point you should have the basic memory and setting mostly complete. I say mostly because as you write, more may come to you. Remember we aren’t just writing a memoir. We are writing a creative memoir which means certain points of the memory might bring up connections to other memories or ideas in our minds. A sunset may remind you of a breaking egg or your reflection in a pond could remind you of the time you fell out of your canoe fishing with your father when you were younger. Allow these connections to come to you and write them down no matter how random or disconnected they may seem.
Put the Puzzle Together
By now you have all the pieces. Now you just need to connect them and let the story flow. Memories are often blurry or choppy so it is okay to let your creative memoir be that way too. As long as by the end we can make all the connections as the reader by ourselves it will be great.
Edit, Edit, Edit… Rewrite.
Congratulations! You have written a creative memoir. Now is the time to check for grammar and spelling errors. Go beyond spellcheck and reread your own work. Go take a nap and come back to it with a fresh look at the page. Read it out loud. All of these are ways to find errors in your work. Remember, this is a gift, we want it to be nice. Even if you decide to keep it for yourself, it should be its best for you.
Feel free to rewrite it one, two, three, however many times you like. It may never look perfect to you but it isn’t supposed to be perfect, it’s supposed to reflect a happy time in your life truthfully but as you saw it.
If you decide to write with us on December 1st there are a few ways to join in. Come back to this post and just follow along. Just having a specific date and time can be helpful to get you writing even if you don’t join the social aspect.
Another way is to check the event on Facebook for other links such as a live video on Facebook or Instagram and possibly a live Google Doc. Keep up on social media for the latest updates and to get the most out of the meet-up. Remember you do not have to be experienced to join in. Happy writing!