The truth is out there. Try this writing exercise from WV tutor Marie Alafaci to help you find it.
Writing your memoir is a pleasurable thing, but something you may not be prepared for is that what you remember may not be the whole story, or even close to the truth.
We all intuitively know that if you have ten witnesses to an event that there will be ten different responses to what took place. Nanna will be certain what was said and by whom, Aunty Dulcie will contradict that and claim Nanna didn’t have her hearing aid in. Uncle Gustavs will say that he stepped in and defused the tension, while Cousin Joe will laugh and say Gustavs made it worse. There’s no way they can all be right, is there? Well, yes and no.
The only thing you can be sure of when writing a memoir is that what you are writing is your version of the truth. So, to make some effort to be sure you are writing something that reflects reality, you need to take into consideration other people’s points of view. Try the following exercise.
Find a photograph, or a diary entry, or some other physical representation of an event in your life that involved other people. It’s important that it’s not just a remembered event – it needs to be something physical. Look at the photo / object closely and write down everything you can remember about the event: what you were wearing, what the weather was like, how you felt, what you thought, etc. Write for ten minutes, don’t edit; don’t check details, just write.
Now take a moment to think about the same event from the point of view someone else who was involved. Write for another ten minutes, without editing – just let the writing flow. Think about how the other person felt, what were they thinking, what their recollection of the same event might be.
Were these two stories different? What sort of things did you notice in the second version? What elements were downplayed and what were highlighted?
About Marie Alafaci
Marie Alafaci has two decades’ experience as an author, writing teacher and manuscript assessor. She writes for children and adults across both fiction and non-fiction, and has had work on ‘The Age’ best sellers list as well as shortlisted for a number of awards. Marie has been a book reviewer, competition judge and feature writer, and was recently the Victorian development officer for the Australian Society of Authors.
Marie will be running a webinar on Pitch Tips for Writers Victoria in May 2017.