Monday, September 13, 2010

How Frustrating Is This?

I'm working on an essay that was prompted by an experience we had when in France earlier this summer. It moved me a great deal, and I wanted to share it with the world--loosely speaking. I've given it a lot of thought and tried to figure out how best to approach the essay.

Should I set the scene and lead up to the main event, or should I begin with the action and fill in later? It's always a toss-up as to how to write something like this. Grabbing the reader right away is often the preferred method. Too much of setting the scene and moving slowly into the action can lose readers. I decided to write it both ways and then make a decision as to which one to keep. It takes more time and effort, but in the end, it may be worth it.

But more frustrating than the approach is being able to convey the emotion of what occurred. I experienced it first-hand, and even thinking back to the day we visited an American military cemetery and participated in a wreath laying ceremony brings back the lump in the throat and a tear to my eye. I can relate the sequence of what happened, but how can I make the reader feel some of that same emotion?

I find this to be one of the most frustrating parts of writing memoir. Even delving back into childhood and telling a family story presents the same problem. I was there, I experienced the emotion, but I want my readers to feel it, too. If I can do that, chances are, they'll finish reading and feel that it was a good read.

One solution is to show rather than tell. If you only tell a story, the reader steps back and sees it as a list of what happened. But if you show what occurred, chances are the reader will be drawn into the scene and begin to feel the emotion the writer is hoping to convey.

Google some keywords like 'writing with emotion' or 'emotion in writing' and see what you come up with.

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