A New Beginning: The ABC’s of Writing

Matilda Butler, The ABC's of Writing, Post #1

Welcome to the first of my ABC’s of Writing blogs on Telling HerStories. If you’re expecting a Sue Grafton style series starring a writer version of Kinsey Millhone, you are going to be disappointed. I hope instead you’re adventuresome and willing to join me on a journey into the art and craft of writing as I examine advice by authors who share their insights and thoughts.

Kendra Bonnett and I have begun a series of videos that we call Writing in Five: Quick Tips. I’ll try to have a new one for you each time I post here. In the past few months, Kendra and I have shared wisdom from Stephen King, Elizabeth Berg, Brenda Ueland, William Zinsser, Anne Lamott, Rita Mae Brown, Ernest Hemingway and others in our brief videos. This week, I was exploring the book Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway  and turned one of the contributed chapters into a quick tip video for you.

Why bother to read a book about the craft of fiction writing when you’re working in the memoir genre? What can you learn that might enhance the writing of your life story? Well, you probably already know the answer. Good writing is simply good writing whether it is fiction or nonfiction.

I was particularly interested in Alyce Miller’s chapter entitled “A Container of Multitudes, or When ‘I’ Isn’t ‘Me’: The Art of First Person.” When you’re writing about your life, you’re obviously thinking about yourself. (That was four variations on the word you in the same sentence.) So it is natural to put your voice into the way you write dialogue, even dialogue of others in the story. But there are many times when the “I” isn’t “me.” at least not me right now. For example, assume you are writing about your childhood. You need to forget how you think and talk now. You need to become a different “I.” You need to become again that small child. Or, assume you are writing about someone else in your life. When that person speaks, try to imagine yourself as that person. This becomes easier, as you’ll see in this week’s video, if you think of yourself as an actor, assuming the role of the other person.

Here’s the link to Writing in Five: Quick Tip #10 Your Writer’s Persona. Be sure to leave your thoughts about this subject in the Comments field below the video.

Alyce Miller, by the way, is the author of two award-winning volumes of short stories. You’ll learn more about her in the video.

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