Lisa Dale Norton
Your Life As Story: Writing Narrative Nonfiction
BRINGING CHARACTERS TO LIFE: Details that Count
by Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton will be providing a one-hour interactive teleconference in the Authorlink Virtual Classroom January 23, 2008. Find details here.
". . .once we have those readers engaged in the quality of our voice, we need to develop characters who come to life. "|
Last month I wrote about building characters with compassion. That is the place we must start as writers of memoir so that we do justice to the people we represent in our tales. It is also the place out of which a gripping narrating voice rises. Readers listen to narrators who treat their characters (including themselves) with big-hearted compassion.
But once we have those readers engaged in the quality of our voice, we need to develop characters who come to life.
How do we do this?
This is not fiction. We do not make up details and patch them on to a person who appears in a scene. As memoirists we need to study the people in our lives. If those people exist now only in memory, then we study the pictures we have in our minds of these people. We watch them. We pay attention. We notice their mannerisms and speech patterns, their habits. What kind of clothes do they wear? What do they eat? What do they value? What would they die for?
". . . look for details from the lives of those people that are vivid and sensual . . . "|
". . . They crack open the essence
"In a longer memoir you just keep extracting from the memories
In a longer memoir you just keep extracting from the memories in your mind these kinds of key details that speak for the essence of the person, and you do that with each person who appears in the story. You name the objects and behaviors that capture the core values of who that person is, and you do it, or course, with loving compassion, even when you feel hurt or angry, or just plain sad.
Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR, will be released by St. Martin 's Press in Spring '08. She is the author of Hawk Flies Above: Journey to the Heart of the Sandhills (Picador USA/St. Martin 's Press), a work combining memoir and nature writing. Lisa teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the power of story and the process of writing your own. She lives in Santa Fe. www.lisadalenorton.com|