Monday, February 10, 2014

Memoir Writing Writing Prompt: Organizational Activity

Don't those shoes appear super small next to Daddy's?

How do you tell your story in your memoir? Should you order your sections based on chronology, themes, location, or something else? 

This writing prompt is based on one that I offer to my memoir writing students at Politics & Prose bookstore

Write a list of 8-10 major components of your story on index cards. You might list chapter titles, main themes, main characters, main events, central research or other related ideas from your project. 

Place your index cards out on a table or on the floor. Put them in one order and then see what happens when they are in another order. 

Ideas, like objects, change based on their relationship to other like or different objects. For example, if I place an espresso cup next to a super sized to-go cup, the espresso cup will look much smaller than it might next to a tea cup. If you look at your index cards, what happens if you don't follow the chronology and instead organize events based on common themes, for example? 

Once you've settled on a possible order (which might change as you work on your project), write the following: 

First, what did you list on the cards? (Names of characters, places, etc.)
How does each item fit together in this particular order and why?
And then, the hardest question: What's the thesis statement or "so what" of your piece? (How do these 8-10 items fit together to result in a final argument or world view?)

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