The Ground Rules of Story: Fit Your Memoir into Classic Story Form
It’s pretty hard to know where you are going without a map. Knock years of time and frustration off your own writing process by learning how to introduce your intuitive and instinctual writing self to the structural format of story telling. Novels and movies use a basic formula to tell a great story and once you discover this for structure for yourself, your writing life will change. We’ll map out the four-part story structure, study two films as well as one memoir in order to deepen your understanding through experience. Writers will also be asked to bring a 20 pg. layout of their entire book idea, prior to arriving, which will be shared and discussed as part of series of workshopping/brainstorming sessions.
This four day workshop is an annual event on the Oregon Coast and is open to a dozen writers. There will be two days of intensive teaching, from 10-4 with a break for lunch and two days of broken teaching, in the AM and the PM, leaving you time for writing/revision and for resting your mind as you stroll the wide, long beach of Manzanita or hike the narrow, steep trails up Neakahnie Mountain.
DATES: August 16, 17, 18, 19
TIMES: Aug. 16 & 18, 10-1 & 5-7:30/Aug. 17 & 19 10-4 p.m.
(Snacks, tea, coffee provided)
COST: $475.00 *
ADDL DETAILS: You are responsible for your travel and your accommodations. Great places can be recommended, just ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inn at Manzanita
Sunset Vacation Rentals
* THERE ARE NO REFUNDS ON DEPOSITS OR WORKSHOP TUITION ONCE PAID.
On Line Master Class
This is an advanced class, as good as taking a teaching with me in person, and it covers detailed explanation of the necessary tools you need to be a fine storyteller. 1) Structure. 2) Scene. 3) Characterization. Over three classes, seven listening & learning hours, you will learn from great books on writing and from published examples from great writing. Students love this class.
“I want to thank you for an amazing class. I took copious notes and could barely settle my brain down to fall asleep. I woke up 5:30 this morning with memories of my early childhood. I jumped out of bed (I usually hit snooze at least three times) and started to write. You have inspired me. Yet again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” ~ Beth
“I went outside after class with you, sat in the sunshine and thought about how thankful I am for you and your teaching. I always feel like I can move mountains after your class. I am starting to understand a little more each time. You are so inspiring.” ~ Anglea
WHERE: Downloadable Virtual Option (OPEN)
1) Tuition for all one-day, retreats, virtual and weekend classes are non-refundable.
2) For cancellations prior to the start, you will get a 66% refund or bank the full amount for a future class.*
3) If you withdraw before the 2nd live scheduled workshop meeting, the refund for your tuition is 50%.
4) There are no refunds after the live class has met twice.
5) You can always bank your refund for a workshop during a future term. Banked refunds must be used within one year of issue.
6) There is a $25 administration fee for transferring your registration.
As a writer of memoir, your primary job is to re-create your lived experience, of a conversation, or a sunset, on the page.
The most effective way to do this? With a scene. From the Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, “scene is the building block of creative non-fiction.” She also goes on to write, “Scene is based on action unreeling before us, as it would in a film and it will draw on the same techniques as fiction—dialogue, description, point of view, specificity, concrete detail. Scene also encompasses the lyricism and imagery of great poetry.”
Now let’s take a look at the different kinds of scene available.
Representative scene: This is scene that doesn’t pretend to happen at one specific time and place but “represents” a “typical” moment. For example, you want to write about the morning routine in your home as a child. You can write about the “typical morning,” in general terms in order to capture the essence of the family routine.
IE: Mornings in our house were always the same, I was up early—before my brothers and sisters and even my mom. In the quiet of the hazy, pre-day light, I’d pad down the stairs with socks on my feet and take extra care to avoid the fifth step which was known for it’s high pitched squeak. Once on the main floor, it felt like the house was mine—a silent kingdom where I could rule over stove, refrigerator, sink and table. I could sit where I wanted and not have to wrestle by brother for the cereal box and beg the milk from my sister. Here, in the freshness of each day, I learned what it might be like when I lived on my own and away from the craziness that began by eight a.m.
As you can see here, in representative scene, you have the freedom to summarize but are still called to load your sentences with details to convey the mood, setting and voice.
Specific scene: This is your extended scene about a moment in time—one moment—when something happens that moves your story forward in a significant way. Action unfolds before the reader and perhaps even for the narrator. This scene is easily identified by “cue” words like: one day, that day, on Tuesday, that morning, that evening and so on. It’s the “singular” that makes it clear to the reader that it’s time to settle down and read about that one time that one thing happened.
IE: It’s a Monday morning, June, 1973. School is not yet out and another day is ahead. Math, science, English. I cannot wait to finish seventh grade. I roll out of bed and the house ticks with that silence that is the early morning. The radiators have yet to wake up and outside there is the lightest call of the early birds.
I poke my head out my bedroom door, the one with the “do not disturb” which hangs from the knob and look right, left and then right again. Total silence except for the caw, wheeze sound of Mike who always snores. It’s the retainers in his mouth. He sounds like a cave man in there. The door to my mother’s room is closed and there is no light from under the door. I have about an hour before everyone will wake up and the rush to get to school will begin.
Back in my own room, I tug on my pink and white stripped socks, the ones with extra fluff so I won’t make one sound as I sneak down the stairs.
Both forms of scene are needed in your writing and both require you to spend time with vivid images that will stay in the readers mind.
Writers have a tendency not to use scene in their writing. I think it has something to do with the issue of understanding and of craftsmanship. Writers are afraid they might not get it right or that they don’t have the talent to get it right so they fall in clever forms of expository writing and load the pages with one “incident” after another. Volumes and volumes of experiences do not convey essence. This approach pretty much yields a great deal of “stream of consciousness” writing. Or journal writing, which is simply not that interesting for the reader.
The best way to get a sense of scene, both the representative type and the specific type, is to look for these forms in the books you read. Take a sticky note and put it there, next to each format you find and in this way you will begin to “understand” what the writer is doing and how they are doing it.
Take a online class on craft: March 2013. 2 spots left.
My writers win awards and get published! You can too.
NEXT OPENING July, 2013.
Phase I: Contact me at email@example.com, send a note of interest and include the title and overview of your book. Also include some biographical info, like how long you’ve been writing, where you have studied and writers who influence your style.
I’ll let you know how my schedule looks and will draw up a contract which details what I do in my initial read, my fee ($850-00-1250.00) and how long it will take (six weeks). After signing our contract, you send me a check or a payment via PayPal to secure your position and this is non-refundable. So once you’re in, you are in! On the deadline set in our contract, MAIL your manuscript and include a SASE. Alternatively, you can send a PDF or a .doc, which I will print and that cost is $.03 per page.
I will read your work, make notes and then compose a six to eight page report with my advice.
Phase II: If I believe I can help you refocus, re-frame and revise your book, I will propose an expanded consultation that works on an hourly rate. That is $105.00 an hour. Most writers continue on with me for about three hours of consult, where I give homework and then we check in to see how it’s going
Final Thoughts: There are a lot of people out there who offer to read your manuscript and who make a lot of promises. I give you 150% of my attention–my best attention–to help you create the best book possible. Your time and money are important. I am here to take you and your writing seriously and give you a high quality response.
You will leave our time together enlightened and inspired and focused in a publishable direction!
One on one consults available too. Click here.
You have a project and you need some personalized help.
Here’s how it works. You submit pages to me, about ten and I pre-read. We meet in person, on the phone or via skype and talk through what’s going on with your work. My gift is to see what you can’t see and then give you homework, edits and advice. You will grow as a writer and you will see immediate results. One on one work is my most popular and I book up pretty far in advance. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see if we can get you in and help you become a better writer.
CONTACT: Email me to arrange our time together.
COST: $105.00 an hour
Next Article »