In memoir we don’t have to create our “characters” from scratch, they are living or have lived in all their complexity and vulnerability and with all their mannerisms and habits and ways of being in relationship with others. So in one sense we have an easier job than fiction writers. However, our challenge in another sense is exactly the same as that for writers of fiction: to bring these people, these “characters”, to life on the page so that readers come to care about them. James Wood, staff writer at The New Yorker calls it, “getting these people out of the aspic of arrest and mobilised in a scene”.
In memoir, you are the main character. Write a scene that is a conversation between yourself and another character. Initially, the dialogue can be exactly as you remember it or have recorded it. Focus on how else you can give the scene its energy: how it looks, feels, smells, sounds, how you understand the other character (or not), how you understand yourself (or not). Later you might like to sharpen up the dialogue by removing extraneous words or sentences, adjectives and adverbs.
About Kate Richards
Kate Richards is an award-winning writer of narrative non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Her memoir, Madness, was published by Penguin Books in 2013. Kate has a Medical Degree with Honours from Monash University, a Diploma of Writing and Editing from RMIT University and is an advocate for living well with disability and long-term illness.