In the Stream of Consciousness Series above, I dribble house paint randomly on a five-foot canvas and then see what kind of image speaks to me and paint it in. Boy on Bike (left) and Will No One Listen (right). www.carolineallen.com
I’m coaching several clients on memoir. One of the single most difficult aspects of writing memoir is writing about childhood events in scene rather than summary.
It can be painful to relate incidents from our lives that we would rather summarize. Explaining them in visceral detail brings back the moment so intensely that we have to feel it all over again. What did your mother look like at that time? What did she smell like? What was the texture of her skin?
This can be true in novel writing too. Many fictionalized scenes connect to stories from our lives — how could they not?
We smell, we touch and we enter a place of depth. It’s difficult to stay in the scene and write it til its end, to include all the senses, to relate it fully. It’s difficult, but it’s essential — for the sake of good writing, for the sake of engaging the reader fully, for the sake of the healing that can happen for you the writer.
If you find a section of your memoir less than compelling, revisit it. Stay in the moment. Write it word for word, sense for sense. Cry or laugh or scream or glory with that moment. Don’t project ahead to the next event or scene. Just stay with that one scene. Breathe. Write.