Monday, November 28, 2011

Add Sensory Details to Memoir Stories

Lots of people write memoir stories or full books. They've been In for quite some time and show no signs of leaving the literary world. A memoir story is a report of what happened in the past. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

If all you do is report what happened, your story may end up being passed around your family but it's doubtful that it will see publication. People don't watn to read a list of what your childhood was like. They want to live it with you.They waant to see it, feel it, smell, hear and taste the time you are writing about. They want the sensory details.

When you write about visiting Grandma and Grandpa on their Minnesota farm, you remember what the barn smelled like when you trotted alongside Grandpa when he did the milking. You know what the old wooden table in Grandma's kitchen felt like when you rubbed a small hand across it. You still delight in the memory of the guinea hens that woke you each morning from outside the bedroom window.

But your reader doesn't experience those things unless you add them to your story. If you say that the guinea hens woke you each morning, you're reporting. If you say, "Each morning, guinea hens screeched outside my bedroom window until I pulled the covers over my head and clapped my hands over my ears to muffle the annoying wake-up call." Now, the reader can hear the guinea hens and see you reacting.

When bringing old memories to mind, pay attention to the five senses. Think back to what you saw, heard, felt, tasted and smelled--whether it was at the farm, in your classroom, or on a picnic at the beach. Show those details in your writing. Note that I said show. Telling isn't enough.

If necessary, write your memoir story as it happened, then go back and add the sensory details. Do this until you start writing them into your story automatically. Your readers will thank you.

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