A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zorro (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       When I was a child one of my favorite programs on television was the Disney produced Zorro series.  I seem to remember it being shown in fifteen minute segments that appeared as part of the Mickey Mouse Club, but according to Wikipedia it was actually a series itself that was associated at times with the Mickey Mouse Club.   Whichever the case, the Zorro story was an exciting one that inspired and intrigued me when I was young.

        One of Zorro's memorable characteristics was the "Z" that he would slash into places he had been.   Zorro would leave the "Z" calling card to let his adversaries know that he was the one who had visited and this became his trademark so to speak.

        For a writer, voice is like Zorro's "Z".    Instead of the sword the writer uses the pen--or their favorite tool of writing--to slash the words that will let the reader know who it was that visited.  The focus of the writer's interests, the subject matter, unique uses of metaphors and phrasing are the calling cards of the writer that essentially says "this was written by me."  

         We may not have a voice that is so dramatically unique that we are indistinguishable from others who write in a way similar to ours, but our voice should be as clear as it can be to give the reader a greater sense of familiarity of who they are reading.

        When you slash your pages with your real or figurative pen, leave a bold "Z" to let the readers know who it is behind the words on the pages that you have created.

      Do you consciously strive to develop your own unique writing voice?   Are there certain authors whose writing you immediately recognize when you read it?    How do you think voice in writing is reflected in the writing style?

This is it for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge letter posts.  However there is one more A to Z event coming up.  Be watching for the A to Z Reflections Linky list which will appear on Monday May 4th at a-to-zchallenge.com.   My reflections post for Wrote By Rote will be posted on Saturday May 2nd as I return to my regular posting schedule.  Join me then!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

You (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       A memoir is a story about you.  The memoir is not your entire life story, but an illumination of some corner of your life that can act as a reflection on who you were and who you are now.   While other people will populate the your personal individual story, you are the focus of that story and your memoir should never lose site of the importance of that story.

       You are unique in many ways and your story needs to extract the unique qualities to put them in the forefront of the reader's mind.   At the same time you as memoirist need to find that common bond that helps the reader better identify with your life and you as another citizen of history.

        When looking at your life as the topic of a memoir, also look at other lives to see what you have in common with them as well as how your life is different.   The story of you should be unique, but not so unfathomable to others that they cannot clearly understand the experiences you've been through.   The goal of the memoir writer is to draw readers into the life experience and not leave them scratching their heads and walking away in disinterest.

       You need to be you, but you also need to be at least a little bit of us.

        Have you ever encountered a story in which there was absolutely nothing to which you could relate and perhaps even stopped reading because of that?    What are some things that you as a memoir writer might focus on to connect with your readers?    Would you prefer reading stories about people who are completely unlike you in every way?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

         The memoir story within you can be like a buried treasure.  The riches are there for you to dig up, but first you have to find them.   You have the treasure map in your mind and X marks the spot where you need to start excavating.   Gather your tools and dig in.

          If only it were so easy.   Sometimes that map is old and faded.  You might even need to piece it back together.  The past can be like a complex mystery that you have to solve before you can write down that story treasure.

           Perhaps if you're lucky you can assemble your crew of treasure hunters from friends and family members.   Your "maps" might include diaries, journals, and assorted reference books.   It's rarely a good idea to just wander without having any idea where to look.  The closer to X that you can begin, the easier your treasure hunt will be.

         Using the life-as-a-journey analogy, we can look back to remember the buried treasures along the route we've traveled.  When it's time to dig those treasures back up to tell the memoir story,  we need to remember where we've marked each "X" on the map of our mind and start excavating for the riches of our memories.   We aren't the pirates of the past, but the adventurer treasure seekers.

          How do you have treasured memories "marked" so you'll remember them?    What "maps" do you use to find the buried treasures of past memories?   How has the journey analogy applied to your own life?


Monday, April 27, 2015

Who (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       The question of "who?" is one of the main parts of the memoir.  We start with who we were and are and who were our influences, who were the ones who were our biggest obstacles, and who were the people who lent helping hands to us along our life journey.   Memoir is a human story and therefore it is important to know all we can about the players in that story to understand the deeper meaning of it all.

        When starting into memoir planning we should look closely at ourselves in order to decide who it is we want to portray in our life story.  We might be a victim, a victor, or both.  Our persona might be a mighty hero or the unassuming next door neighbor.   The story we tell can include struggle, pain, and sadness alongside uplifting times of extreme joy.  We have lived our experiences, but what do we understand about who exactly we are?

        Your memoir is a sharing experience that to be truthful will require opening up your true self to others.  If you don't do that then you are writing fiction and not an honest account of your life.   Know thyself and tell the story the you yourself can truly believe in.

        Do you sometimes feel like a stranger to yourself?  Are you hesitant to open up to others when telling stories about your life?    Have you ever read a memoir account that seemed insincere to the point where you could not trust it?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Value (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       So often I hear people say, "No one would be interested in hearing about my life."   My response to that is all lives have value--if you tell the story well, people will listen.   Don't think in terms of how boring you might find your own life in comparison to the lives of others, but instead start by remembering some of the things in your life that were important, interesting, or funny to you.  There is value in your life story.

         You might think of it in terms of sprucing up a house that you're getting ready to sell.  A touch of paint here, fixing a hole in the wall there, and generally just cleaning up the property can start making a tired old house a bit more valuable looking to those who come by to take a look.  Curb appeal is the term used as a means of creating a better first impression of the house you want to put on the market.

         Think of your "tired boring life" as just needing a shot of curb appeal to make the story more attractive.  Add spice to the stories being told and dress them up with interesting language.   As you start writing, put in healthy dashes of love and fun that will pep up your life story and make it more interesting.   There's always some other angle you can add to a lifeless seeming story to make it the life of the party.

         We have all been valuable in some ways to those in our lives and we have our function in this society.   Turn that story that no one would be interested in hearing into a tale that will leave readers wanting more.   Think it can't be done?   Well think differently.  Build the mindset that you have a story worth telling and add value to your story.   We all have stories with value.

         Do you think you've lived a boring life?    Are you ever curious about neighbors or other people you know?   Have you ever told a story about yourself that others found funny or interesting?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Unique (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       Even though your story may be similar to the stories of a million others, you are nevertheless unique in who you are.   What will make your memoir stand out from the rest is to create an aura of uniqueness for yourself.  Think about your habits and hobbies, your strengths and weaknesses, or any of the other attributes that set you apart from others who are somewhat like you.

        Whether it be success or failure, how you've handled the life situations you've encountered might be part of a special story that only you can tell.   In some ways it might help to think of memoir in the same way you would approach a resume.  What is it that makes you stand out among the crowd that makes you particularly suited for the job?

       With a memoir you are applying for the reader's time.  Why should they pick up your book to read about your life?   The difference between the memoir and the resume is that the memoir may not be all braggadocio, but you might have shortcomings and less than good outcomes at times.  Don't sell yourself short in the end though.  Your story needs to move the reader in some way to be a memorable experience for them.    Your memoir needs to have that uniqueness that makes it a special reading event.

         Do you currently have a resume?   When you tell a story about yourself do you sometimes embellish it to make it more interesting?   What are some unique attributes or talents that you have?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Travel (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      Travel captures everyone's imagination.  Whether it be stories about wandering off to far-off exotic places or something as commonplace as the typical family vacation, there are fun and fascinating stories to be told about traveling.  Most readers like to dream about the places where they are unlikely to ever go or compare notes about travel to places they've been.  Travel makes for good stories.

       If we look at the wide range of literature we see that the travel story is a common one that depicts metaphors of life as well as real situations that keep a story interesting.  Thinking about your own experiences with going places you probably have a few stories to tell about what happened to you in your adventures.

       The stories about traveling can be funny, frightening, or romantic.  Anything can happen when you're away from home and it usually does.   Isn't that why we travel in the first place.  The unexpected, the unusual, and the entertaining are some of the elements that can be injected into your travel stories.   Don't forget to include the people you meet along the way as well as the places you see.   Be sure to describe the details of the smells, sounds, and everything in the surrounding environment.   And definitely don't forget the food!   Make your reader's mouth water or even cringe if the food was not so good.

         A memoir has an added dimension when travel can be included in the story.   If travel is a big part of the story then you have the big plus of place in addition to people.  Think of some of your own travels and see what stories you can derive from those experiences.

         Have you done much travel in your lifetime?   Do you have any interesting family vacations to tell stories about?    What travel dreams and aspirations do you have right now?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Storytelling (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

       Memoir should never be approached as a history.   Autobiography can tell the history of a life while memoir, while having some value in the sense of historical perspective, should deal with a story or a series of stories within the context of a life.   Memoir can teach, but it should primarily entertain or enthrall the reader.

      The memoir is intended to be an intimate account of a special period, event, or some significant influence within a person's life.  If you are writing your memoir, you should tell the story in much the same way you might present a work of fiction.   You can include dialogue, character development, plot, and descriptions that bring the reader into the story.  This memoir story should not only be about what you did, but also what you thought and how you felt.

       After all the memoir is not normally seen as some sort of scholarly work, but it is a story that occurs within the story of the life being examined.   The story is not that you were born, then you did this and that, and then you died.    The memoir story is the one that delves into part of the big story and brings that story to life for the reader.

        So far, what has been the most interesting part of your life?    Does a memoir usually leave you wanting to know more about the person whose story has been told?    What part of a memoir story do you think might be boring to readers?  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reach (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

      When your memoir is still in the planning stage that is a good time to decide what audience you will be attempting to reach with your effort.  The subject matter of the memoir will make it easier to conclude who will make up your audience.  A story about childhood might be well suited for a younger audience where a story with mature subject matter and difficult issues will be better directed toward an adult audience.   Your intended audience will determine your voice and the depth of the story.

       Once you've decided what audience you are trying to reach then you can start outlining or making notes accordingly.   The audience reach will have a bearing upon the language used as well as the complexity of what you will discuss in the narrative.

       Audience becomes especially important when trying to market your memoir when it is finished.  A memoir dealing with spiritual issues might be of interest to a Christian publisher to be mainly distributed in Christian bookstores.   Highly specific stories catering to a particular niche market might be better to self-publish and self-market.

         Before any marketing begins to happen though you must finish your memoir.  As you write, think about who might be reading your work later on.    If you establish a reasonably clear idea of the reach of your work you need to write with that in mind.  Later you might change your mind and need to rewrite for a different audience, but if you've done your homework and remained consistent in your writing you should have a book that will be marketable to your intended audience.

         Have you ever read a book that you didn't care for because it had been inappropriately marketed?    Do you think an author should generally write most of their work for the same type of audience?     Would it be more difficult for you to attempt to reach a youth market or an adult market?  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quitting (Elements of Memoir) #AtoZChallenge

     Many of us want to read the memoir stories about achievement or success.   Initially "quitting" does not necessarily sound like an encouraging or uplifting story for memoir.   Quitting can have a negative connotation since we are often taught the "Never give up!" mantra of following through no matter how difficult things might be.

       However let's not forget the success stories of quitting a bad habit or quitting something that turns out for the better for us.   If you've quit a destructive behavior there are others who might also like to quit that same behavior and might find your story to be a help to them.  Quitting smoking, overeating, drugs, or any detrimental activity can include humorous moments as well as the roller coaster ride of defeat and triumph that we can experience on the journey to kicking any bad habit.

        Quitting can also involve getting out of situations such as a job, school, or a marriage.  The act of having quit might have been a mistake that leads to regrets or unwanted outcomes.  But quitting one situation always is an open door to a new chapter in life.  Hopefully your story of having given up eventually led to a better situation.

        We can all learn from the experiences of others.  Take a close look at your life and the things that you quit along the way.  Think about how your story can entertain and possibly even help others.

         What bad habits have you struggled with quitting?    Did you ever quit something that you later regretted?   Have you been helped by anyone else's quitting stories?