Have you ever felt a push/pull tension when you think about a story you want to write? Maybe you feel called to write about an experience but you aren’t sure about how many details to reveal. Or maybe you want to tell the truth about your life but that means implicating another person. Today, I want to talk about two must-try techniques for memoir writers that deal with this common worry.
Listen in as I share 2 techniques that will help you honour your story in a way that protects privacy and preserves anonymity.
Stop losing sleep over what might happen if you tell your story
and finally, start getting those stories you’re burning to tell on the page.
Watch the video here.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- A way to tell your story without the fear of repercussions.
- 2 techniques that will help you honour your story in a way that protects privacy and preserves anonymity.
- A detailed explanation of each technique with examples.
- How not to let fear suck the life out of your story.
Resources Featured In This Episode On 2 Must Try Techniques For Memoir Writers Wishing To Protect Privacy:
Your key takeaways from ‘What Will My Mom Think? 2 Must Try Techniques For Memoir Writers Wishing To Protect Privacy’
Is fear of a fallout holding you back? Personal and legal repercussions are a common worry for writers of memoir and creative nonfiction. Today I’m sharing 2 techniques for memoir writers that will help you honour your story in a way that protects privacy and preserves anonymity.
Tell me in the comments: have you ever tried to fix this problem by writing your story as fiction – but tweaking the details seemed to suck the life out of your story?
I Call The First Technique I Want To Share “Suggest, Don’t Tell”.
Let’s look at an example of this technique in a poem called “Charlie” by Laisha Rosnau from her book Notes on Leaving. It’s a poem about the transition from girlhood to womanhood from the perspective of the woman reflecting on her mother’s fears and her own awareness of danger and desire as a teen.
There’s a recurring image of Charlie perfume and cigarettes in the poem. The poet really creates an immersive world here with the details and description she includes to evoke mood and atmosphere. By the end of the piece we know something has happened that the entire piece is leading up to – but it is never spelled out.
The entire poem evokes tension around the idea of the possibility of being lured. But the focus isn’t on an instance when the narrator may have been preyed on. The possibility is only suggested. This relieves the writer of revisiting a difficult experience and the implications of naming.
A line at the very end of the poem implies an event the narrator intends to keep as a secret:
You were right, of course, about so many things, but I could sure use a cigarette now.
Suggest, Don’t Tell exercise:
Is there an event in your life you could write about by focusing on theme + atmosphere – only offering a hint to what actually happened?
I Like To Call The Second Technique “Before And After”
The example I’ve chosen is a work of creative nonfiction by Monet Patrice Thomas called “The Unfaithful Triptych”.
Written in three parts, this essay is about an act of betrayal the narrator committed.
In section one we are shown the narrator living with the decision; in the second section we see the events that lead up to the betrayal – a tipping point; and in the third section we are shown the morning after.
Although an affair is implied the details of what transpired are never shared. We only see the emotional repercussions for the narrator and the before/after details she chooses to include.
Before and After exercise:
Is there an event in your life you could write about by focusing on the before and after – letting the reader in only as much as you are comfortable sharing?
I hope these two techniques I’ve shared with you today have you feeling excited to dive into your next project!
One last thought…
Some writers have told me they worry about “avoiding” when they write about their lives. They feel that somehow they are shortchanging the reader if they don’t give them all the gritty details.
It is always your choice what to share with your readers. You need to feel comfortable with the work you put out in the world. I think it’s healthy to have boundaries about your privacy when writing creative nonfiction and memoir.
Were these techniques helpful to you? I’d love to know which you’re most excited to try. Type SUGGEST, DON’T TELL, or BEFORE AND AFTER in the comments to let me know!