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In fiction, the people who appear on the pages and play a role in the story are called characters. Your role as a memoirist is to take character development seriously.

As with fiction so too with memoir

The same is true of the people who appear in our memoirs and play a role in our stories: our family, friends and colleagues are our characters. How you handle character development, not how flamboyant or dramatic your people were in  life, is the basis  for making your story “interesting.” Without well developed character, your memoir will be said to be “flat.”

Vivid character development is as crucial in memoir writing as in fiction writing. As in fiction, memoir characters must be developed into rounded figures that the reader will sympathize with and relate to. (No stick figures allowed!) This calls for details and exactitude in depiction as well as for consistency in presentation.

No license to fictionalize

But, this call to take character development seriously is not to provide you with a license for fictionalizing in your story telling.

The need to respect the distinction between what is allowed in fiction and what is allowed in a memoir arises in many instance. For instance, take dialog. A fiction writer can write a detailed dialog but a memoir writer cannot “remember” in too exact a detail. Really: who can remember a conversation that occurred 40 years ago? The tone and the gist of the dialog, yes, but exact working adding up to a 75 word quote? No.

Memoirs that take liberties in character development are not memoirs but are autobiographical fiction. Calling autobiographical fiction “memoir” is like calling lobbing the ball over a lowered net “playing tennis.”

In conclusion

The posts below will help you to develop more vivid characters out of the people in your life.

For anyone interested in more than the character development posts below provide, we offer a distance-learning tutorial Develop Vivid Characters. It is an extract from our Write Your First Memoir Draft Program.

writing your first draft

5 Better Ways to Describe The People in Your Memoir 

Without other people, our lives and our memoirs risk becoming dull. Although ideas are pivotal for many individuals, relationships are even more commanding. We are intrigued with who other people are and how they function. “Who’s that? What are they doing? Where did they come from?” These are question we want answered. To write a strong story, capitalize on this interest. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Show, don't tell about your characters

Show Don’t Tell, or Don’t Describe Your Characters–Show Them!

The old adage “Show, don’t tell!” is as true as ever. It is one technique that will always improve your writing. I admit that there is some great writing that makes a precedent for “tell,” but as a rule, “show” is more effective.

1. Your pen is your movie camera.

In a film, a director ( that’s you!) doesn’t have an actor go on screen to tell the audience that someone is angry. Instead, he shows the character in a scene where anger is in action. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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create vivid characters

What everyone ought to do to create vivid characters

Five easy, proven tips for adding feelings to a memoir and creating vivid characters

As a memoirist, do you accept that your family, your friends and your acquaintances are characters in your story? This is a first step in creating vivid characters.

“But, I’m writing about my mother, not about a character,” you say.

Yes, you are writing about your mother and she is a character in your story. If you can’t incorporate that notion into your approach to writing, your memoir will not soar and you wil not create vivid characters—not of your mother or of anyone else.

Without the interactions of and with other people, our lives and memoirs risk becoming dull. Although ideas are pivotal for many individuals, relationships are even more commanding.

We are intrigued with who other people are and how they function. “Who’s that? What are they doing? Where did they come from?” These are questions we want answered.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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destiny and fate

Destiny and Fate: Have You Placed These Concepts at the Center of Your Memoir?

If understanding the interplay between destiny and fate worked for the Greeks, why not for us memoir writers?

Over the years, I have found that the concepts of destiny and fate, which explained so many things for Greeks in the centuries before the Christian era, also explain so much about the characters of a memoir. Sometimes the concept has proven to be the key to unraveling the meaning of a life.

A refresher on Destiny and Fate

Let me take just a moment to refresh your understanding of destiny and fate.

Destiny can be described as “what you are meant to be.” It is what the Christians label as “What God wants me to be” or “What I was placed on earth to be and do.” It is often called your potential.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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vivid characters

Vivid Characters Are Essential in a Memoir

Why Creating Vivid Characters is Essential

The people in your story are your characters. It is your task as memoir writer to bring vivid characters to the attention of your readers. You must use descriptive writing to present believable characters. Without other people, our lives and memoirs risk becoming dull. Although ideas are pivotal for many individuals, relationships are even more commanding. We are intrigued with who other people are and how they function. “Who’s that? What are they doing? Where did they come from?” These are the questions we want answered. To write a strong story, capitalize on this interest.
[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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money story

Three Points Not to Forget When You Write Your Money Story

This post originally appeared in That Money Girl blog on November 26, 2013 as Your Money Story…Pack It With Power

There is power in writing your money story. Your money story can transform you as it leads to understanding the money energy in your life and ultimately making that energy work for you.

In this post, I write about three features you must utilize in the writing of a money story. These are character, action, and setting. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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going deeper in a memoir

Going Deeper in a Memoir: Look at “Life’s Failed Contracts”

This post is about going deeper in a memoir, deeper even than you thought you could go when you started. This may be hard, but take a look at the contracts with life we make and the terrible disappointment that inevitably comes from making them. All of us at some time or other have made such a contract with life–in fact, we make them over and over again until we finally grow up and become present to the unfolding reality. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Writing Feelings into Your Memoir

Writing Feelings into Your Memoir

Recently on the Forum, David wrote about not accessing the feeling side of his memories, of writing a memoir that, if I am understanding him right, was all details and facts.

Below is my response which can serve as a stand alone article, but I hope you will go to the Forum and read the thread and even write a note to David about what your take is on his situation.

Or if you prefer, leave a comment below about your thoughts about writing feelings into your memoir.

Here are some of my suggestions for writing feelings into your memoir:

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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