Friday, September 16, 2011

Putting yourself in the Memoir

Why is this so hard? Telling my story through my brother or my mother or my stepfather or my teachers is so much easier than the "I" who insists on staying hidden. I, about who this story is, works up hill to erase berself from the tale, or worse, to believe her ever-present mother is the protagonist. While Mother looms large, and while she is the author of my shaping, the story is mine. My feelings, my miseries, my Triumphs. My growth. It helps to participate un more than one class. It is great input to be gained from more than one editor, more than one instructor and to recognize that each of them has her own ideas about memoir and how it should be written. The truth is that memories appear unburden and without chronology, and that while structure is necessary, like making some orderly sense of your story for the sake of the story and the reader, in fact, the story does not necessarily occur as all of a piece.

Locating myself in every memory and defining the meaning of the memory is not always a possibility. Sometimes the antagonist overrides the importance of the protagonist, thus mother becomes the story when hers is the driving role. If somehow that tampers with structure, I don't see it. Eudora Pelty implies the whole idea is a bunch of Huey, but the fact is, if a memoir is to be a movie (to which I don't aspire), then it must, like all movies, have a structure, which could include flashback, an effective means of saying to the reader, back then, this or that happened.

Looking at the thing as it now stands, I am inordinately pleased with the plan I'm following, but see that the
memoir mandate of first person, past tense, is quite restrictive. For instance, it is difficult to put my stepfather on a foreign beach, wounded and trying not to die, and put
myself in his head as a conduit for his thoughts out of the mouth of Six year old child. I am already finding that every editor, and I am dealing with three, as his or her idea of not how it should read, necessarily but what they like to read and how they are satisfied. Yes, yes, know that in general there should be a format, but it seems that could be more loose. What we can agree upon is that the story is dynamic, important, and is necessary to tell.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating. First person can be very restrictive, and I don't see why it has to be the only voice in memoir, if you have evidence of someone else's voice why not use it?

    Barbarann, I apologize for not visiting more often. I often lose track of my blogger friends not on Wordpress, because I have yet to figure out how to find them easily.