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Monday, January 18, 2010

Voice in Memoir

Voice is as important in memoir as it is in fiction. It is the tone that comes across when your words are read and helps author and reader connect. Whether your memoir is for family members or for the general public, finding the right voice will help you proceed and make writing your memoir easier.

When writing a memoir, you're looking back on incidents that happened long ago, and your reaction now might be completely different. Do you use the voice of the child or do you use your adult voice and an altered view? This is a choice you must make. If you're writing a series of childhood incidents that are related, you might want to use the child's point of view. Are you writing only about the teenage years? If you recall these years vividly and can transport yourself back, then you might try writing with that voice. If you're writing a life history that spans decades, it's probably best to tell your story from an adult point of view. It's difficult for a reader to jump from a child voice to a teenage voice to a young adult voice and on and on in the same memoir, so decide upon a voice that reflects you. It's a memoir, after all, so your authentic voice should come through. Will you sound serious? Upbeat? Comical? Emotional?

Keep in mind that your work-in-progress might wind up being a hundred or two-hundred pages. You must feel comfortable using the voice you've chosen. If you get stuck, try telling your story to someone or record your words and listen to how you sound. Then capture that voice on paper.

Sometimes you share intimate details or sensitive feelings in a memoir. Therefore, use the voice that makes the writing as well as the disclosures easier.

Whatever you do, keep writing. The further along you are in the process, the easier it will be to find your voice. There will be a moment in the narrative that miraculously sets the tone for the overall piece. It's the great "aha" moment when you know you've discovered your voice.

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