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memoir or autobiographical fiction

Which Voice Will Write Your Memoir?

Choose A Voice To Write From

Choosing a voice is imperative. This may sound like a joke, but it’s not. In fact, it is a very serious question that will determine-or at least greatly influence-the tone and the theme of your narrative.

“But, I’m writing my memoirs!” you might answer. Yes, of course. It’s you! But, which you?

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We’ve all had the experience of the various parts of ourselves in internal debate. For instance, a friend asks you to go to the movies. One part of you thinks, “Sure!” Another part responds, “Wait a minute. You still have yard work to do. Shouldn’t you get it done?” Still another part insists, “Oh, don’t be such a pill. You only live once.” To which another part answers, “Yeah, and do you want to live with a messy yard!”

The Voice of The Saint, The Martyr or The Hero

The same internal debate occurs as you writing your memoirs. You have many parts vying for authorship of your memoir, each insisting on setting the tone and theme of your story. Which part is going to prevail-are you going to let prevail? Will it be the hero? (“I survived against great odds!”) Or, the martyr? (“Life was really hard, and I just did my best!”) Or, perhaps it’s the saint? (“I just did the whole thing because I loved my family so much!”) Or, the slugger, the fighter of city hall? (“Nobody was going to tell me I couldn’t get my way!”)

Obviously, the martyr part will give a different voice (and feel) to your story than will the hero part and perhaps the martyr might even choose completely different stories to write about than the hero. Which part you allow to be the narrative voice of your story will shape the message (theme) you ultimately make—and it’s completely up to you to decide! What is important is that you be conscious of choosing the narrative voice (the “who is telling this story”) that will most contribute to your story. It will make all the difference.

Think of your inner sphere of parts as a kingdom with warring knights. It’s the king or queen in the end who must make decisions and not the parts. When you decide on the appropriate narrative voice you are acting as the sovereign of your writing experience.

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