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action in memoir

Monday Focus: What’s happening in your memoir?

Today is Monday, and it’s a great day to write a bit on your memoir!

Keep the reader interested by using plotting whenever you can, but you don’t need to go gaga about plot—just include enough. Remember: you are not writing a thriller.

Exactly what makes an action interesting is evidently subjective. What might interest an older, retired woman dedicated to promoting social action is likely to be utterly boring to the teenage boy who spends all his free time—and some time when he should be studying and doing his homework—playing basketball. Yet, both would insist that a story needs to be interesting if they are to continue to read. It’s just that they don’t agree on what “interesting” is.

The key take-away here is: a memoir needs to be interesting to its natural audience. What action/plot do the people who would most appreciate your memoir need to keep reading? Your action can be entirely and extremely external (e.g., a flight through a city in a get-away car) or internal (doubts and hesitations). 

The Stephen King fan who is focused on action would find a Virginia Woolf novel which is focused on characterization extremely boring while a Virginia Woolf reader would find a King novel a bit gaga in its too-much action and excitement. Either group would find the books of their author interesting and those of the other writer boring.

Many people confuse dramatic action with dramatic development. The distinction is crucial and it will help you to write a much more interesting memoir. Even laden with inherent dramatic action, a story without dramatic development can prove to be quite uninteresting.

Your memoir will most likely not have one action. There will probably be many.

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