A blogging pal Lisa Reiter has commenced blogging about memoir on Monday. Uninvited I have decided to join her but Monday is a busy day for me so instead I will do Memoir Monday on Tuesday and perhaps, to be entirely correct, it will be memoir Monday on Tuesdays that suit me. As for you – you can read them anytime you like or not at all.
When I started my research masters I did not come from a literary background. This worked well for me, I think, as those with a literary background have fairly set ideas on what is done. Me, I had no idea about anything – memoir, research, literature. I read but I consumed for pleasure, not with analysis in mind. The closest I’d gone down that path was with the book club we belonged to which forced me to read genres I normally would not touch. So with no knowledge I set out to gain knowledge before I could make knowledge and to do this I went to all disciplines in my quest to examine memoir. My interdisciplinary approach gave me knowledge I could not have gained had I approached it from just one area.
It also made me look at what memoir was and is today and the constituent parts of memoir. This is what I plan to share with you on these Memoir Mondays on Tuesdays. Do you need to know this before writing a memoir – NO you do not. So why bother? Hopefully, like me, you will find some snippets fascinating to ponder further, perhaps give you a greater understanding of yourself , the memoirists and the different purposes for writing memoir. Also it will make you consider who is written about in memoir, truth in memoir and when memoir becomes fiction.
One factor that I do think it is crucial to know in order to write a compelling memoir is what is your purpose for writing the narrative. What is the message you want the reader to take home? Having written the first draft of your memoir if you then examine it from this angle anything that does not further this purpose can usually be considered unnecessary to the narrative and removed from it.
In my first memoir “Nightmare in Paradise” I did this. When I first started writing it was for the purpose of recording the events for my mother. As I widened my proposed audience the purpose for writing also altered. The wider audience would not be interested in minute detail that family and close friends would find interest in and these details were removed in the first edit.
One way of looking at purpose is deciding on the effect the narrative has on the self, the “I” in the narrative.
A bildungsroman is a coming of age narrative where the narrated “I” is seen as it goes from the state of a child into that of an adult. Conversion narratives will see the initial “I” as one character but see it undergo a transformation and become a different “I” character with different values. This originally referred to religious conversions but now also include narratives overcoming addictions. The apology narrative, which is not an apology as we know the word, is used where the initial “I” and the now “I” hold the same viewpoint and the narrator is giving an explanation as to why they did what they did.They are justifying their actions. This type of narrative is often seen in politicians memoirs as they justify and continue to believe that what they did was the right course of action. My first memoir is a testimony narrative as it looks at myself and my relationship with the world in which I found myself. Testimony narratives are recording events and looking at injustices that happened to the narrator. Surviving trauma narratives are often testimony narratives.
In the next memoir post the “I’s” of memoir will be examined in a little more detail.