Is writing a chronology of a life enough?
Dates and facts are necessary to life writing in the same way route numbers are necessary to maps. It’s not only that dates and facts provide interesting information but that they keep your readers on the right path as they make their way through your life story. So…
Writing a chronology is already a great contribution to your family story, but you can do so much more than just include the dates and facts.
1) You can try writing a chronology and call it a memoir.
A simple chronology is a narrative of dates and facts. As entry level life writing, a chronology is important in conserving family history because it records data for your readers.”Grandma and Grandpa bought a farm in Washington, Missouri, in the spring of 1932. They planted a large market garden; in June of the same year, they added three cows and two pigs to their venture.”
But, writing a chronology—a basic chronology—leaves out big pieces of the information puzzle that are neither dates nor facts. It does not tell your readers why your grandparents moved to the farm and how they felt about being there. Your readers will wonder whether your grandparents had an easy or a difficult time of farming. Did the experience help them to grow personally? Was it a good decision on their part?
Remember: guidance and reassurance are important functions of storytelling. To provide answers to these questions, you must write more than a chronology. You must also write the why and the how.
2) You can add action to your basic chronology.
Action will make your stories easier to understand and more interesting to read. You are introducing action when you place events (and the dates and facts that surround them) into a cause-and-effect relationship. “Because the drought grew worse week by week that summer (cause), Grandpa and Grandma hauled water every evening to the gardens (effect).” Another word for the action of a story is plot. Action keeps people reading a story.
3) You can heighten the impact of your action-enhanced chronology with suspense.
Suspense emphasizes the effects which the causes you write about are likely to have on your characters. It suggests the consequences they do not yet foresee but which will, as you know, play a role in their lives.
With the addition of action, especially of suspenseful action, what might have started out as a chronology is now fleshed out and your readers are more likely to be intrigued and concerned as they read your story. “Day after day, the sky was clear without any clouds. The gardens were very dry. Grandpa and Grandma wondered about what they would do if the crops failed. All over the United States, jobs were being eliminated as the Depression deepened. Would there be any job for Grandpa away from the farm to help tide them over-or would they simply have to forfeit their land and join the ranks of the urban poor?”
Generally speaking, the action, or plot, of a story will provide the interest to keep your audience reading—especially if it contains suspense. Action is the framework on which characterization, setting, and theme are built.
4) Many More Elements Are Necessary For a Successful Memoir
Enhanced by action and suspense, your story is now far more entertaining than if it was as a simple chronology. That is better, but to write a very good memoir, you will need to scrutinize the entire Memoir Writer’s Blog for its numerous tips.
Good luck applying the suggestions of this article into your writing. You can start with a piece you wrote recently and see it it passes “the test.”
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